Learning to Love Me for Me!

Hope everyone’s summer kicked off nicely this year and those summer bunnies among us are still enjoying the heat (while the rest of us desperately cling to the AC).  Ha ha.

The next topic I’d like to bring up for mental strengthening is BODY IMAGE. Our image of ourselves, not just as athletes, but as real people, is important to our overall self confidence and mental toughness. So, how do you feel about your body? If you don’t immediately answer “I love it!” with a smile, then please read on.

Fundamentally, body image is:

  1. How you see your body
  2. How you feel about your body
  3. How you think about your body
  4. The way you behave because of how you see, feel, and think about your body.

Therefore, when your body image is positive, you can accept, appreciate, and respect your body.

There are three ingredients to having a positive body image:

  • Self-esteem: your value in yourself and believing that others appreciate you and enjoy your company.
  • A positive attitude: accepting your strengths and weaknesses, and AVOIDING the following three negative attitudes:
    • Perfectionism, i.e.  the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.
    • Comparing yourself to others.
    • Being highly critical or judgmental – the more critical and judgmental you are of others, the more likely you are to be hypercritical and judgmental of yourselves.
  • Emotional stability: maintaining a healthy connection to your thoughts and feelings while also being able to share your experiences with others.

Improving your own body image ain’t easy, but it’s definitely doable.

Here are some quick suggestions on how to be more body positive if you are feeling a little TL;DR right now with this email:

  • Recognize and appreciate all that your body can do.
  • Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right”
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body.
  • Do something nice for yourself.
  • Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others.
  • Say positive things to yourself every day
  • Remind yourself that most media images are unrealistic and unattainable for the vast majority of people (and even for the actual people in those images, thanks to Photoshop!).

Science Time: Effects of Social Media on Positive Body Image

Turns out that Instagram has a huge impact on how we see ourselves and our bodies according to this study done in 2016; researchers Brown and Tiggemann investigated the relationship between viewing Instagram pictures and mood and body dissatisfaction in women:

Participants were shown one of three sets of images:

(1) images of celebrities on Instagram,

(2) images of unknown, equally attractive peers on Instagram

(3) a set of travel images from Instagram.

Unsurprisingly, those who viewed the celebrity and peer images felt greater dissatisfaction with their bodies than those who viewed the travel images.

But don’t feel like you’ve gotta give up your Instagram account just yet! Later research explored how the ways in which we use social networking sites affect our body satisfaction and body concerns and found that women who mainly engaged in appearance-focused stuff on Facebook and Instagram reported greater unhappiness with their bodies and a more fixed internalization of the ‘ideal body’ than those who engaged in mostly non-appearance-related social media. (Cohen, Newton-John, & Slater, 2017)

This tells us that it isn’t the use of social media that leads to decreased happiness with our own bodies, but specifically appearance-related social media usage.

Bottom line here: when we compare ourselves to the “ideal” bodies we see on social media, we generally experience greater frustration with ourselves.

How to be Happy with Your Body When You’re Not Happy with Your Weight?

While there are certain health risks associated with being overweight and underweight, that’s no reason to avoid working towards a healthy self-esteem at any size. If a person is not happy with their weight, believe it or not, it is actually easier to first improve your body image, then move on to improving your physical health. This is because when we improve our own body image, we stop feeling bad about ourselves which can hinder our motivation to work towards our physical goals.

For example, when we have a negative body image and we gain too much weight, we might think, “I’m so fat. I’m lazy and useless.”

But, when we have a positive body image and we gain too much weight, we are more likely to think something like, “Oops! I’ve gained some weight. I better lay off the nachos and get out more.”

Look, I’m not gonna lie, it is more difficult to cultivate self-love and acceptance when you are not at your ‘happy’ weight. BUT, you can do it if you give yourself a chance.

For some ideas on how to start getting more positive about your body image, please open one or both links (descriptions below).

1.  Building Body Acceptance

  1. This resource is a useful tool for anyone who is working to overcome a very negative body image, especially when a fixation on a specific body part is involved.
  2. The attached PDF will first describe assumptions (helpful vs unhelpful), and then help you identify your own unhelpful appearance assumptions.
  3. Once you have identified your own unhelpful appearance-related assumptions, the workbook moves on to adjusting these assumptions.

2.  Body Positive Image: A Weight Off My Mind

  1. This awesome 38-page workbook offers you an excellent opportunity to work on your body image. It is offered in a journal format to help you personalize, customize, and fully commit to the exercises within.
  2. The author consulted with multiple experts and organizations to put together this effective tool for increasing your body positivity.
  3. You can take a quiz in this workbook to learn how you react to different situations. Your answers are then used to point you in the right direction as you start building up your positive body image.
  4. Depending on where you begin in the workbook, you will then encounter several sections with advice, suggestions, exercises, and information to help you on your way.

No, I don’t want to download PDFs.. gimme something else to do..

Positive, healthy affirmations can help you build a better body image, enhance your self-esteem, and boost your love, compassion, and respect for yourself. The following affirmations are great for anyone who is struggling to feel good about their body:

  • My body deserves love.
  • If I am good, kind, and hold myself with integrity, it doesn’t matter what other people think.
  • When I compare myself to others, I destroy myself. I don’t want to destroy myself, so I’ll just continue on my journey, and not worry about other people’s journeys.
  • Just because someone looks perfect on the outside, doesn’t mean they have a perfect life. No one has a perfect life, we all struggle.
  • I choose health and healing over diets and punishing myself.
  • My body is a vessel for my awesomeness.
  • I deserve to be treated with love and respect and so do you. I choose to do and say kind things for and about myself and for and about others.

If none of these hit the spot for you, make up some of your own, personal affirmations! If they’re positive and rooted in the present, they’ll do just fine.

And finally, if you’re more of a listener than a reader, here are a few great videos on this topic that may inspire you to learn more about cultivating a positive body image (Also, I really like TED talks…).

  1. In her TEDx Maastricht Salon talk, Ira Querelle gives a passionate speech on self-esteem, body image, and the body positivity movement. In this video, you can see her discuss what body image really is, how it affects people, and how to help yourself and others feel better about their bodies.
  2. In this TEDx Adelaide talk, Taryn Brumfitt tells us to “Stop hating your body; start living your life.”
  3. And in this TED talk, Meaghan Ramsey walks us through the impacts of low body and image confidence, and then shares what we can do to disrupt this reality.
  4. And lastly, Caitlyn Roux discusses “Self-Love, be Intentional” at TEDxYouth@CapeTown

I hope I’ve found and shared some useful suggestions on how we can all improve our body image, but most of all I hope that this has reminded you to love yourself exactly as you are.

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