Improving our body image

elderly woman in black coat sitting on black metal chair

Learning to appreciate our bodies is a tremendous step to attaining greater self-esteem.

There are several applicable approaches that can be engaged allowing us to relate to our bodies more positively and kindly including:

  • Stop comparing our ENTIRE body with others:

If we compare ourselves with someone else’s whole body, it will inevitably draw self-loathing; the belief that our body just isn’t as ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’ or ‘slim’, etc. as hers.

Conversely, if applied judiciously, envy can be valuable if it motivates us to improve an aspect of our body that we admire on others.

Whilst we can never replicate say, the shape of someone else’s legs, or their nose, or even their walk, it can motivate us to, for example, take up dancing to tone our legs, or learn about make-up techniques that ‘camouflage’ our nose, or learn to walk with our head held higher and our back straighter to gain that much-desired look of elegance.

  • Reframe negative body image thoughts:

What if we altered our thoughts about our bodies from negative to positive? Wouldn’t that produce less stress and anxiety and support focusing on other elements?

So instead of feeling insecure in our bodies, what if we declared repeatedly that we actually felt relaxed and self-assured in our bodies? What a comfort that would be!

What if instead of obsessing about our bodies – and either being preoccupied with plans to improve them or, conversely, neglecting and ignoring their needs – we announced we respect our bodies and care for them intelligently?

Wow! What a change those thoughts would create. We would acknowledge that these repetitious thoughts are improving our self-esteem and our actual physiology; we would subconsciously sit up straighter, walk taller, breathe less rapidly, etc.

  • Focus on what we DO like about our body:

Now to be fair; it’s highly unlikely that we don’t appreciate at least some elements of our bodies; the freckles on our nose; how we sit in a chair; the way our hair curls naturally; the delicacy of our feet etc. Whilst these are private thoughts with no call for sharing with the world, they are nonetheless significant enough for us to recognise within ourselves.

Our brains naturally seek problems to solve and so, to some extent, consistently default to a negative position. It is often easier for us to fixate on what we regard as ‘negative’ aspects of our bodies.

To resist this, we must be vigilant about the meaning we give our thoughts. Are we consistently focusing on elements of our bodies that we don’t like? Or whilst acknowledging these parts, are we choosing to direct our time and energy to acknowledging and enhancing the parts we do like?

  • Enhance features:

People with robust self-esteem and healthy body image don’t claim to be the best-looking people around. Instead, whilst recognising their physical flaws, they focus on the aspects of their bodies they like and promote these to the world.

Indeed, along with grooming and hygiene, the way we dress has a major impact on how we feel about ourselves and the impression we give the world. It is therefore powerful to know our style; the clothes and look we adore and look our best in.

The clothes and colours that best support our features – whether it be our legs, glowing complexion, height, great waistline, etc. – are invaluable sources for producing positive feelings; they’re a tangible display of how we respect, honour and care for ourselves.

  • Live a healthy and happy lifestyle:

Change the meaning around thoughts for our bodies and support these by taking supplementary actions, including;

  • Realise people have varying body shapes and sizes, with ours being unique: no one else can exactly replicate it. Cool! I’m certain there are features of our bodies that others admire – they just haven’t told us.
  • Ensure self-talk is not self-loathing: ensure our conversation with ourselves is in the same vein as that we expect from others – with kindness, patience and compassion.
  • Moderate food intake and portion sizes: we should all understand our appetite and ensure we are eating for physical, not emotional reasons.
  • Find an enjoyable physical activity to do 3 times a week: there’s no point doing exercise we don’t like as we won’t continue; be innovative be investigating different activities, like swimming or dancing, and incorporating them into everyday life.
  • Schedule pamper time: perhaps have nails professionally painted and manicured or have a massage. It’s imperative we think of ourselves as cars that periodically need TLC to continue operating.
  • Be aware of physiology because “physiology creates psychology”: if we slouch, walk with our head held low, avoid eye contact, our thoughts will correspond with the signals we’re giving the world; such signals as “I don’t value myself.” By changing our physiology to the opposite (ie; sitting up straight, walking whilst looking ahead, maintaining eye contact) we can observe the exact opposite occurring with our thoughts.
  • Show we’re worthy: create beautiful surroundings in which to live and work. Surround ourselves with objects that WE value, whether it be favourite colours, vivid flowers, preferred music, artwork, quotes, etc.

Finally, there’s a famous French term; jolie laide, which means ‘beautiful-ugly’. It points out that some people are not conventionally beautiful on the outside but are truly ‘beautiful’ individuals.

Whilst our image is important, the real us encompasses many attributes and we should recall these when contemplating how to choose to feel about ourselves…

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