If you’ve ever felt self-conscious, or fallen victim to a comparison trap, you are definitely not alone. But carving out a healthier relationship with our bodies is possible...
Body image: it’s something we all struggle with, whether occasionally, or if our time is consumed by it. It can be a niggle in the back of our minds, or a full-blown mental health issue. With pressure coming from all sides – in the media, online, from the products to make us look ‘better’, diet culture, and, unfortunately, sometimes from each other – it can be hard to feel OK, let alone amazing, about your own body.
But feeling good about the body you live in is a really big aspect of mental health and wellbeing, so it’s important we do all we can to stand up and fight against poor body image, and reject the ideals that society might try to force on us. Here are five ways to improve your body image, starting today...
Recognise that society’s beauty standards are unrealistic
The idea of what the ‘perfect’ person looks like was created in order for that idea to become profitable. By pushing that idea, companies and individuals can sell us a huge range of products under the guise of helping us to achieve ‘perfection’. These beauty standards are created to be unattainable, so that we become life-long consumers of diet, weight loss, and beauty products. The reality is that beauty is subjective, and looking a certain way won’t bring you happiness – that comes from inside. You are worthy and enough, regardless of what you look like. We are meant to all look different; variety is the spice of life!
Follow social media accounts that make you feel good about yourself
Many of us spend a large proportion of our time scrolling through social media, and often compare ourselves to those we follow, with a tendency to unconsciously gravitate towards accounts of people with ‘perfect’ lives and bodies. But I challenge you to unfollow those who make you feel worse about yourself, and instead follow people who make you want to celebrate your body. There are loads of people battling against the idea that we should look a certain way, and who unashamedly bare all in order to give representation to regular bodies. Follow those who genuinely uplift you, and make you feel more at peace with yourself and your body.
Challenge your negative thoughts
How many times a day do you criticise your appearance? If it’s multiple times a day, you aren’t alone, but you deserve to feel great about yourself and your body. The next time a negative thought pops into your head, challenge it! Out loud if possible, but if not, you can just think it. It might sound silly, but it’s not just about being kind to yourself; it’s about rewiring your brain so that it stops jumping straight to negative tropes that you have repeated to yourself over time. The more you stop your negative thoughts in their tracks, and challenge them, the less your brain is going to automatically zap into critical mode.
Who you are – who you really are – is inside you. In your heart and your soul
Think about what your body can do for you
Your body is an amazing thing. It’s a vessel that carries you through your life, and it’s true value is in what it can do, not what it looks like. Whether you are going through life using just your body, a wheelchair, or a mobility aid, your body has the ability to do a ton of fantastic, unmissable things. At its most basic function, it allows you to be alive every day. It gives you the ability to experience being. Your body allows you to engage in a variety of different physical activities – running, walking, swimming, lifting weights, or dancing. It allows you to hug and to hold. It allows you to touch. It allows you to experience pleasure in all its forms. When you are injured, your body does its utmost to heal you. Your body is incredible!
Realise that you are more than your body
Your body is pretty awesome, but it’s not the most important thing about you, and your worth doesn’t come from what your body looks like or what it can do for you. Who you are – who you really are – is inside you. In your heart and your soul. Maybe you are always there for your friends when they need it. Maybe you work in a job helping others. Maybe you volunteer looking after animals. Maybe you are an extra caring and compassionate parent, sibling, or child. Maybe you’re a particularly thoughtful partner. Maybe you are doing all you can to be the best version of yourself. Whatever they are, the really amazing parts of you are on the inside.