If you’ve ever glanced at magazine covers, watched entertainment programs, or even browsed the Internet recently, you’ve probably noticed that being thin is prized above all other body types. Media tells us that being skinny is the key to achieving all your goals and making your dreams come true, from landing that perfect job, to snagging your ideal romantic partner, to looking your best in the most stylish clothes. It’s a destructive cycle of illusion which can easily break down those who don’t fit into the impossibly skinny box. What happens when pop culture leads you to believe that you need to be thin in order to have everything you want, yet your body shape stubbornly refuses to conform to this ideal?
For some, being able to stay positive and have a good body image is a near impossible task – yet it can go a long way towards boosting self-esteem and helping one feel good about the body they’ve got, even if it’s not model-perfect (due to Photoshop and other photo altering techniques, most models aren’t even “model perfect”). Let’s examine why you need to start appreciating your body and outline some actionable ways you can go about achieving a better body image.
The Struggle To Stay Positive
Media and culture aren’t very kind to people who tend to fit above and beyond an image of accepted weight. Women especially have it tough (though men also are faced with the ripped physiques of action stars and athletes); although there are a few plus-size celebrities moving into the spotlight, the majority of famous stars and role models are thin. What a lot of people don’t see is the effort it takes for these women to stay tiny: diets, exercise, and personal trainers are the norm. Add in the prevalence of Photoshopping to ensure no flesh rolls or stretch marks are visible in photographs, and it can create a skewed image of what a “healthy” body actually looks like – disregarding the fact that there’s no one-size-fits-all body type for the entire human race.
There’s also the poisonous notion that once we drop those dreaded pounds, we’ll finally be at an “ideal weight” that will let us be happy at last. Greatist explains: “We’re led to believe that once we ‘fix all our problems’ in regards to our physiques, or reach a so-called ‘ideal weight,’ that we’ll be happy, healthy, and totally carefree. In the meantime, we dislike our bodies more than ever.” Not to mention the fact that once we do reach that nebulous goal weight, it can be a painful reality check to realize that the struggle didn’t amount to immediate joy and fulfilling success. It’s a disappointment that can lead to an even more desperate spiral into unhappiness.
Why You Need To Stop Punishing Yourself
The self-perpetuating cycle of “I’ll finally be happy if I lose five pounds, then ten pounds, then twenty pounds” clearly needs to be broken. For many, one’s body image is their only currency of self-worth, and so they make it the center of their everyday lives. Every spare thought goes towards how many calories they need to eliminate, how long they need to exercise, and how much guilt they need to lay on for a spare piece of cake eaten the previous day. It’s exhausting, and depletes energy that could be better spent on other, more productive pursuits. Think about how much brain power you’d save if you were not consumed with thoughts about what you are – or aren’t – consuming!
The Positive Mindset
Of course, for many of us, much of this is easier said than done. However, there are a number of small things you can do to start out that will hopefully lead to a stronger, more renewed sense of self-esteem and an improved body image.
Greatist is a big fan of positive self-talk – that is, making sure you focus on the things you like about yourself when you look in the mirror. “In the beginning, you may have to fake it a bit and pay yourself the best compliments you can, even if you’re not actually feeling that good about yourself,” the article advises. “Stick with it, and be consistent. After a while, you’ll no longer have to fake it.”
This is a tip that’s echoed by the National Eating Disorder Foundation: “Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not ‘right’ or that you are a ‘bad’ person. 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.” The first step really can be as simple as stopping negative internal dialogues before they start. For extra motivation, imagine your internal voice of criticism as being a physical person. Would you let someone speak like that about you to your face?
Next, you’ll want to create your support system – the people who care about you unconditionally and love you no matter what. Surround yourself with positive influences and people that can remind you of the value you have as a person, not just a body. You can find a lot of self-worth in the knowledge that you have friends and family who’ll always have your back, even on days when you feel less than confident about your appearance.
Lastly, list off all the things that make you a good person which aren’t tied to your body. Focus on what talents you have, what small successes you can celebrate every day, what your special skills are, and what you’ve accomplished in your life so far. These are all things that no amount of low self-esteem can take away from you, and will exist no matter what your body looks like. These are the things that truly matter much more than the image your appearance projects.
Love The Skin You’re In
For those who struggle with low self-esteem, it can be a tough road to improving one’s body image. Although exercising regularly and eating right can help physically, it’s harder to crack the mental aspects of feeling unattractive. Yet if you take the time to banish negative thoughts about your appearance and instead focus on what makes you great as a person, you’ll be on the right path towards feeling better and more confident about yourself, regardless of whether you fit society’s idea of “the perfect body.”
How have you improved your body image? What tips do you use to stay positive? Tell us about them in the comments.
Author Bio: Jamé Heskett M.D. fights the aging process both inside and out. As a wife, a mother of three children, Dr. Heskett has spent her 24 year career focused on women’s health and longevity issues. She intimately understands the needs of women in their pursuit of well-being and preservation of youthful vitality. Today’s woman is looking for health and beauty solutions that are gentle, highly effective, have minimal downtime, and natural results. Through the most advanced proven technologies and 20 years of experience, Dr. Heskett is able to provide her clientele a comprehensive strategy or “Path” to suit their individual needs. Follow her on Facebook.
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