SPRING HAS SPRUNG!! The sun is finally out and for most of us that means lazy days by the pool, beach vacations, or family fun day at the lake. Unfortunately, for many of us, that also means increased anxiety and worry about that “beach body” that we still don’t feel like we have achieved yet. Body dissatisfaction and a negative body image seems to be a fact of life for a growing number of people, both men and women; A fact that can lead people to miss out on some of life’s best moments. Approximately 89% of women and 43% of men say they are dissatisfied with their bodies.
When we talk about “body image,” what do we mean? Your body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror. But it also involves how you feel about what you see. It is what you believe about your appearance, how you think others perceive you, as well as your physical sense of your body or how you feel in your own skin. We get messages starting from a very young age that shape our body image into a positive or negative one. Someone struggling with a negative body image often connects their feelings of self-esteem and self-worth with how they look on the outside. They may place a great deal of value on the very narrow beauty ideal what we have in this country and develop negative feelings about themselves if they don’t meet this ideal (which is almost impossible…only about 5% of the population actually looks like this idealized image of beauty that we see most often in popular media).
So, what can we do to combat this? Here are some tips for reaching body ACCEPTANCE and learning to celebrate your individual beauty:
Affirmations: Often we are our own worst critic. Change that inner voice by starting your day with affirmations about things that you like about yourself and the way you look. Every day, take a minute or two to look in the mirror and say something nice to yourself. Changing that inner monologue is the first step to really transforming how you feel about yourself.
Consciously set limits on your media: Now more than ever, we are inundated with images of what we are “supposed” to look like. Constantly seeing these impossible and totally unrealistic standards only serves to make us feel worse about ourselves. What most of us don’t realize is that all of the images we see on TV, online, and in magazines are digitally enhanced. No one actually looks like that! So ditch the fashion magazines, unfollow negative social media influences, and start defining beauty for yourself!
Cease the comparison trap: I once heard that “comparison is the thief of joy” and that could not be more true when it comes to body image. There are so many ways to define beauty and constantly comparing yourself to only one strict standard will lead to negative feelings. Instead of being frustrated because the media says your “beach body” isn’t good enough, celebrate your own individuality by remembering that EVERY body is a beach body!
Enjoy everything in moderation: There is absolutely nothing wrong with making changes to your diet or exercise routine in an effort to look and feel better. But it is important to remember that even healthy habits can turn unhealthy without some balance. Maintain a healthy relationship with food, exercise regularly, but also enjoy a happy hour every now and then. And remember to take some time to rest. Life is short….eat the cupcake!!
Pamper yourself: Self care is an often overlooked but crucial part of living a healthy life. We sometimes fall into the trap of feeling like taking time to recharge is a selfish act, when really it is the best thing we can to do ensure we are our best for others. Honoring your body by getting a massage or pedicure, taking a walk, or doing another activity you love, is a perfect way to help you feel good in the skin you’re in.
Try meditation: Mindfulness is one great way to shift the focus away from negative thoughts about your body. Take some time to slow down, get in touch not only with your body, but with your inner self. Pay attention to the present moment instead of getting lost in negative thoughts. Try this by taking five minutes to do some deep breathing and reconnect with what is really important to you.
Activity: One of the best ways to improve your body image is to focus on all of the things your body can DO instead of just what it looks like. After all, this is the vessel that allows you to pick up your children, dance the night way with your friends on girl’s night, and hit the winning shot in the company basketball game. We forget sometimes that we are more that just what we see on the outside, and we often don’t acknowledge our body’s strength. So get moving and take advantage of all the activities that your body allows you to enjoy!
Nix the scale: So many of us are a slave to the scale, letting it affect our mood and our self-esteem. It’s important to remember that the number on scale does not define how healthy you are or your worth as a person. A smaller number does not mean “better.” We often put so much emphasis on our weight, obsessing over every pound. Get rid of the scale and give yourself permission to just enjoy being you, no matter your weight.
Celebrate own beauty: Make it a habit to look in the mirror and focus on the things you love about the way you look instead of the things you would like to change. And then finds ways to accentuate those! Do and wear the things that make you feel the best about yourself. Buy clothes that make you feel beautiful and confident, and let your inner beauty shine through!
Employ a support system: It is so important to surround yourself with people who are a positive influence on you. Spend time with others who see and celebrate the diversity of beauty that is all around us and who encourage you to see your own beauty as well.