A positive body image is something that we all know we should strive for. But having a positive body image, in our modern world, actually takes some work. After you put in the work, however, you'll feel empowered, and you'll help others with their own positive body image.
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Having a positive body image means knowing yourself and who you are. Your perception of your size, shape and weight is TRUE (because REAL isn't necessarily TRUE.) You see yourself as you are to everyone else, right now, not in the past or in the future.
You accept yourself, even though you might be overweight.
You believe in yourself and love yourself while still striving for better health (not a better weight).
When you have a positive body image, you don't waste time obsessing about food, weight, calories, exercise, etc., because that takes time away from living your best life. You are proud of who you are and you feel comfortable in your own body.
We All Struggle
Many people that suffer from an eating disorder do not have positive body images. Instead, they have a very distorted picture of how they see themselves. (But you don't have to have an eating disorder to feel bad about the way you look.)
Like I said, having and owning a positive body image takes some work. You have to battle the pictures and videos and TV shows and movies of all the thin people we see everywhere. You have to battle stereotypes and misconceptions. But YOU CAN DO IT.
For most of my life, I wanted to be thinner, look better, have different hair, have a different nose, different hips, different legs. It wasn't until I had my first child that I realized I was so much more than just my appearance. I've learned to tell myself that my body is a vehicle, a life-giver, not an ornament. My body is so much more important that just looking good. And I am so much more than how I look.
Here are six steps you can take to create and own a positive body image for yourself.
1. Create a list of people that you admire.
Next to each name, write down why you admire each person (and I don't mean someone's [gag] thigh gap). As you are writing the characteristics you like, pay attention to what you're writing down.
For example, let’s say that you have a high regard for Oprah. (I mean, who doesn't?) Your list might include her generosity towards people, her willingness to support what she believes in, and her incredible strength that helped her become an enormous success, no matter what her background was. In this example, you don't admire Oprah because of her looks; you admire her for the difference that she has made in the world, for her contribution to society, and how she has touched and changed so many lives.
2. Remember a time in your life when you felt awesome.
Think back on your life to a time when you were killing it. Maybe it was high school or college. Maybe it was at a job or a while you were volunteering. Maybe it was while playing a sport or tutoring someone. Maybe you're artistic and you were amazed with something you made. Whatever the time, just close your eyes and remember how you felt. Let those good feelings radiate within you.
3. Write down what you like about yourself now.
Take out a piece of paper and write down everything that you like about yourself, physical and not physical. For instance, I like my eyes, my smile, my breasts and my ankles (seriously, my ankles are smokin' hot). But I also like that I'm funny (in my mind, anyway), that I like funny things, that I'm a good mother and (I hope) a good wife, and that I'm a good leader to my Girl Scout troop.
Maybe you like your legs, your eyebrows, your smile, your hair, etc. Maybe you like your laugh, your singing voice, how you make friends easily, that you're a good student, that people at work depend on you, or your green thumb.
The key here is to focus on the what you like about yourself, and to shut down any self talk about what you don't like. Start appreciating what you like about yourself. This will make you feel better overall.
4. Notice how you carry yourself when you walk.
Remember that scene from Legally Blonde? The bend and snap?
I've never met you, but I gair-awn-tee that you have all the equipment and you just need to read the manual. Do you walk with your head down looking at the ground? Don't! Look up at the world around you. Do you slump your shoulders? Snap 'em back! Start walking with your head held high and making eye contact with people.
Confidence is incredibly attractive. And when you act confident, you feel confident, and people will notice.
Do you have trouble feeling confident around other people? Let me tell you a secret: We're all the center of our own worlds. While you're worried about what everyone else is thinking about you, they're worried about what everyone else is thinking about them. So, chances are, people aren't judging you like they think you are. They're too busy judging themselves!
So, shoulders back, head up, make eye contact. Bend and snap, baby!
5. Start exercising.
Occasionally, I post a video in my Instagram story about my workout journey. I didn't go to the gym for more than three years. I just started back a couple of months ago, but I'm already seeing a difference in how I feel. (My husband noticed my waist is smaller, but I'm not focused on that. I'm doing it for my health and so I can keep moving. Use it or lose it!)
Yesterday, I said in my video, that even if you don't take anything else away from working out, take the win. Every time I finish a workout or a Zumba class, I feel like I accomplished something that day. I can check something off a big list of to-dos. When you finish a workout — or a walk, or a dance, or a bike ride — take the win! Even the little wins deserve to be celebrated.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start off slow. Go for a walk outside on a nice day. If you are used to exercising, keep it up and change up your routine so that you don’t get bored. When you exercise you begin to feel good about yourself, even if it is for 15 minutes at a time. Start off slow and work your way up. Keep at it and you'll never want to quit because it makes you feel so good.
6. Hang out with positive people.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ― Jim Rohn
Think about the people you hang out with the most. Do they gossip? Are they judgmental of other people? Are they focused on “things” and ‘Gramming every second? Or are they focused on their friends, their souls, and the world around them?
If you're trying to feel better about yourself, you need to be with people who foster that attitude, not defeat it. Think about your five closest friends. Is your “average” helping or hurting you?
Try to limit your time with any negative peeps, as this will only make you feel bad about yourself. You will focus on the things that you do not like about yourself. Hang with people who are supportive, who cheer you on. Spend time with people who share a positive perspective on the world, and you'll have the same positive view too.
You Are Enough
You are enough. That bears repeating. Say it to yourself over and over, and believe it.
I recently said this to my daughter because I felt like she was getting a lot of criticism from us, her parents. Sure, part of our jobs is to push our kids to do the right thing, finish their homework, don't eat too much junk food, etc. But there's a fine line between tough love and being too critical. So I sat her down and told her “you are enough.” It made a difference; I could tell.
Start telling yourself the same thing. You will start feeling good about yourself and you'll learn to accept yourself, flaws and all. Little by little you will notice changes that have occurred. Learn to be your own cheerleader instead of your worst critic.
Put your shoulders back and and be proud of who you are. Love the person you are and the person that you are becoming. Mr. Rogers said it best:
“You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you. There's only one person in this whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are.”
Maybe you're the kind of person who likes to be reminded, every day, how awesome you are. (I mean, who wouldn't like that?) I found a book on Amazon that gives a positive body image message every day. You can get it on Kindle or in paperback, however you like to get your content. It was written by Rosie Molinary, who is an author, teacher, and activist. As a public speaker, she talks about body image, diversity, self-awareness, social justice and writing. Check it out on Amazon. [Disclosure: This is an affiliate link, which means I earn a small commission.]
Be sure to leave your own tip for loving your body in the comments below. I'd love to hear it!