Are my thoughts accurate? The way we think about ourselves can become so automated and engrained in our self-talk that we are not even aware of how many negative thoughts permeate our thinking. Negative “head trash” accumulates over time and can hijack our ability to enjoy life without overscrutinizing every facet of our body. Every time you focus on a body imperfection, it creates more body worry and decreases self-respect. Instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your body, find parts of your body you like or at least tolerate. Replace every negative body image thought with a positive statement. For example, instead of thinking “My thighs are gigantic”, reframe with a positive thought such as, “I like my muscular calves” or “I’m lucky I have legs that can move my body, not everyone does.” Learn to appreciate what your body can do for you!
Are my emotions taking over? It can be easy to reflect uncomfortable feelings back onto your body. For example, when experiencing disappointment, too much stress, or any uncomfortable feeling, it can be easy to turn these negative feelings into “feeling heavy” or dissatisfaction with how you see yourself. On the other hand, you may find yourself feeling better about how you look if you happen to be having a positively uplifting day. Recognize that emotions can powerfully influence body image.
Am I regularly meeting my body’s biological needs? Our bodies are designed to be fed regularly, engage in daily movement and receive sufficient rest. If your body’s basic biological needs are not met, then self-esteem often plummets. However, engaging in restrictive dieting and compulsive overexercising reinforces the lie that you are not good enough. This vicious cycle can become a form of self-punishment, rather than viewing food and exercise as a way to take care of yourself.
The process of improving your body image can often be complex, so working one-on-one with a psychotherapist, counselor, and/or dietitian who specializes in body image can provide valuable insight from a nonjudgmental point of view. Are your thoughts, emotions, or basic self-care needs holding you back from viewing yourself in a positive light?