Back during Thanksgiving, we were in Texas and took family photos in my parent’s backyard. They turned out lovely, my best friend was our photographer and took them. I loved my outfit from my vintage wool skirt, to my statement tassel earrings that I kept far from Sailer’s tiny fingers. And everyone else looked amazing too! When I finally got to see the photos, which were gorgeous, I immediatly picked out things I didn’t like about myself. I didn’t like my round face, wishing I’d relaxed and put my shoulders down and so on.
As I nit-picked myself in these pictures, I realized I am the only one who sees me like this. I don’t ever want to look at these photos with my sister, my husband, my niece, and my parents and hate how I see myself. Especially when I remember how happy and how much fun we had that week.
I try to be positive about my body, it is capable of many things but the perception of accepted beauty in the fashion industry is very unhealthy. While it has made incredible strides over the years I still hold on to certain perceptions. I’d list them but we all hold on to different things all unique to each of us.
What is body image? Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It encompasses:
- What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
- How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
- How you sense and control your body as you move. How you physically experience or feel in your body.
Many of us internalize messages starting at a young age that can lead to either positive or negative body image. Having a healthy body image is an important part of mental wellbeing and eating disorders prevention. (from NEDA) National Eating Disorder Association
So what is a positive body image?
When a person has a positive body image, they understand that their sense of self-worth does not depend on their appearance. Having a positive body image includes: accepting and appreciating the whole of one’s body, including how it looks and what it can do.
This is a list of 10 ways to cultivate a more positive body image from NEDA, with some additions from yours truly:
- Appreciate all that your body can accomplish. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself. Post your top-ten list on your mirror or at your desk.
- Remind yourself that “real beauty” is more than skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you — as a whole person.
- Surround yourself with people who love and speak kindly to you. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
- Overcome negative internal thoughts about your body. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you. I use affirmation cards from Abundant Affirmations, my favorite one to use on days I am struggling with my body image is “I love myself”.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it. You are more than a number or a size, wear what feels good for you. You may wear a smaller size in some brands or styles and a larger in others. We all go through different periods with different sizes.
- Be a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message. Follow others with body positive messages & different body types.
- Be kind to yourself — something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, or find a peaceful place outside to relax.
- Use your time and energy that you might have spent worrying about your body to do something for. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
Cultivating a positive body is an on-going journey for me and while I’d like to say I’ve shifted my perspective and I now love every aspect of my body, that simply is not true. Some days are easier than others, but for today I will remember how much I loved being with my family on that day, getting to snuggle my niece for the first time during that trip, seeing my best friend, eating all my mom’s yummy food, and of course I loved that outfit.