If you live in today’s world, there is a good chance that you feel insecure about your body. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of digitally-enhanced images of unattainably perfect bodies. Without realizing it, we compare ourselves to these images, and take in the message that our bodies are not good enough. However, it is possible to respect and appreciate your unique body. The secret is to protect yourself from society’s damaging messages by building a Body Image Shield. Here’s how…
1. Flex your critical awareness muscles.
Every time you see a person on a billboard or in a magazine with a ‘perfect body,’ remind yourself that it’s not real. It’s a photoshopped image, and even the models don’t resemble that picture in real life. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:
Also remind yourself that images like this are designed to make you feel badly about your body, so that you will buy their product in order to ‘improve’ your looks. And get angry about it, because that’s not playing nice.
Finally, remind yourself: To compare is to despair. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else (real or fake), because you are beautiful exactly as you are.
2. Learn to appreciate body diversity.
When you see hundreds of images each day that represent such a narrow image of beauty, it’s no wonder that you may start to think there is something wrong with your own body. The solution? Look at a greater variety of bodies.
Here are some suggestions:
- Go to the park, or another public place. Give a compliment to each person that walks by – either in your head or out loud. (Here are seven tips for giving body-positive compliments.)
- Follow a body positive tumblr blog.
- Peruse fat fashion websites.
More on this idea from Lillian Bustle:
3. Ban ‘bad body’ talk from your vocabulary.
Bad body talk. You know what it is…
“I hate my <insert body part>.”
How do you feel when you speak to your body this way? Awful? Yeah, me too. It’s time to chase away that negative voice in your head that says mean things about your body. When you catch yourself thinking this way, practice mindfulness:
- Notice that it’s happening.
- Gently remind yourself that speaking to yourself in this way isn’t helpful and it makes you feel badly.
- Replace the negative thought with one that is positive (or at least neutral) and appreciative.
4. Practice gratitude and self-compassion.
“Every body is a physical miracle… and gratitude a healing force.” – Connie Sobczak, author of Embody
Your lungs breathe 30,000 times each day. Your heart beats 100,000 times each day. Your immune system works 24/7 to fight off germs that could make you sick.
Your body is truly extraordinary.
When you start to appreciate all the things your body does for you, it becomes easier to treat it with love and kindness.
“Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” – Dr. Kristin Neff
Practicing self-compassion can also help cultivate a healthy body image.
5. Join a body positive community.
Surround yourself with people who respect and appreciate their bodies, and you just might start to like your body, too.
Here are some ideas:
- Seek out friends who are comfortable and confident in their bodies, and don’t speak badly about other bodies.
- Search MeetUp.com for a body positive group.
- Subscribe to a body positive blog, such as Dare to Not Diet, Dances with Fat, The Body is Not an Apology or the Health at Every Size® blog.
- Attend a body positive workshop, like the ones hosted by The Body Positive or Be Nourished.
6. Change the world, not yourself.
Building a body image shield is a radical act that can change the world. When you respect your body, you:
- Negate ads that use body shame to sell products.
- Free up time spent worrying about your body to do meaningful activities.
- Inspire others to love and honor their bodies, too.
If enough people make peace with their bodies, then someday we won’t need body image shields to feel good about ourselves.
Jes Baker explains:
- Embody by Connie Sobczak
- Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
- Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker
- Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby
- Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann
- What is the Body Positive Movement?
- The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women
- Why Thinking You’re Ugly is Bad for You
- An Epidemic of Beauty Sickness
- Plus-Size? More Like My Size
- Fat Talk Free Week
- This is Beauty
- HAES Community
- The Body is Not an Apology
- NEDA: Developing and Maintaining Positive Body Image
- Association for Size Diversity and Health
- National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
- The Body Positive
- Dare To Not Diet
- Dances with Fat
- The Militant Baker
- Change the Message
- Self-Compassion with Dr. Kristin Neff