It seems as though negative body image is becoming an issue for more and more people. I have colleagues who work with children as young as seven years’ old who are unhappy with their bodies, which is hugely sad.
Unfortunately, if us adults are preoccupied with how we look and are constantly finding fault in our bodies, this will be what we model to the younger generations.
Aside from wanting to protect children, it’s important to address negative body image as this can have a detrimental impact on our wellbeing.
What is body image?
The definition taken from dictionary.com states that body image is:
“An intellectual or idealized image of what one’s body is or should be like that is sometimes misconceived in such mental disorders as anorexia nervosa”.
The concept of the ideal body, especially when it comes to women, is something which has been happening for hundreds of years. To make it even more confusing, standards of beauty have been ever-changing. Some periods in history have seen more the voluptuous figure as the one to aspire to. More recently it seems that an extremely slim, if not ‘skinny’, figure is the one to pursue.
With all of this chopping and changing, is it any wonder that a lot of women have negative body image? We’re effectively told what our bodies ‘should’ look like and even then this changes!
Why is it not enough to be who we are, and love the body we’re in? (Hint: the fitness industry is worth billions, so they wouldn’t like that).
Why do we need to conform to the latest ‘trend’ in body image? Well, the short answer is we don’t need to conform. However, we often end up thinking something must be wrong with us because we don’t look like the images we see online.
I do personally feel that social media can contribute to negative body image. However, I don’t think the blame can be laid solely there because underlying insecurities about our bodies may also come from past experiences.
6 Ways To Deal With Negative Body Image
The problem is, if we get hooked into the ‘blame game’ we focus too much on the problem rather than looking for a solution.
If you are someone who struggles with negative body image, I have six strategies which might be helpful for you.
1. ‘House-keep’ your social media
I highly recommend going through your social media accounts, and un-following accounts which you think are contributing to your negative body image.
I used to follow a lot of ‘fitspo’ accounts on Instagram. Every time I scrolled through, I’d see photos of women who were very slim, often ‘shredded’ and with their abs showing, and their make-up and hair done perfectly.
Subconsciously over time, I started thinking that I needed to change my body as it wasn’t ‘lean enough’. I lost weight and did become leaner, but this wasn’t sustainable. I came to realise my body could only be that lean if I restricted calories and limited the range of foods I ate.
After having a ‘social media clear out’, I was able to start seeing my body from a more positive perspective. It’s made a huge difference to how I view my body.
2. Write a list of your personal attributes
You are so much more than your body shape/size. Write down a list of 10 things you like about yourself. Not about your body or how you look, but personal qualities.
Are you kind and caring? Perhaps you have a quick sense of humour? What are you good at? What skills do you have?
When I wrote my own list, I realised my value was not tied in with my physical appearance, but in my personality, my skills, and the way I treated others.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
On a rational level, we know we’re all different. The way we look, such as our facial features and our body shape, is determined by our genetics.
It’s often the case that we end up wanting to look like other people and we may do all manner of things to try to achieve this goal, even when it isn’t genetically possible.
It’s like trying to put a square peg in a round whole. Don’t try to be like other people, because you are not like other people. And that’s a wonderful thing; that’s what makes you unique!
4. Practice self-care
We tend to be good at telling other people to look after themselves, but we rarely do the same!
Life can be hectic, but it’s important to carve out time to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing.
Take time out to relax and take care of your body. Have a bubble bath, make sure you get adequate sleep, exercise for the enjoyment and not because you want to drastically change your body size/shape.
5. Revamp your wardrobe
Do you have clothes in your wardrobe that a) don’t fit or; b) don’t complement your body shape? Are you holding onto them with the hope that you just need to do X, Y, or Z to make yourself fit into them?
I’ve done this so many times. I’ve bought clothes because I like them, but that haven’t really suited my body shape. I’ve then tried to make myself “fit” them either by losing weight, or just wearing them and not feeling entirely comfortable!
Why didn’t I just save myself some time, money, and misery by buying clothes which were made for my body shape?
If this sounds like you, buy clothes that enhance your natural body and make you feel good! Don’t buy clothes you feel you ‘should’ be able to wear and then try to mould your body to fit them.
6. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people
It can be hard to shift our perspective if we mix with people who also have a negative mindset around their body image. Try to find people who accept themselves and others for who they are. They are going to be the best people to support you during the times you might be struggling.
I hope these ideas for dealing with negative body image have been useful, and I hope you’re able bring more body acceptance into your life.