This post is a continuation of my earlier post Negative body image: Does your child suffer from it?
As adults, women are more susceptible to fall prey to a negative body image. I doubt if there is any woman who doesn’t wish for a magic wand that could transform her body in line with her perception of beauty. Some wish for leaner arms, some for fuller breasts, some for slender legs, some for washboard abs and yet some for fair complexion. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) no such does such wand exists.
I am yet to come across a woman who is completely happy with the way she looks and feels great about her body as it is. Body image has little to do with size or shape. It is more an outcome of our interaction with our peer, cultural, social and family values, that have a profound impact on our self-perception, self-worth, and self-esteem. Not surprisingly, some of the most beautiful and shapely women also struggle with body-image issues.
Is it possible to get rid of negative self-image and learn self-love? Yes, it is. Self-love is an art and like any art form, it takes practice and sincerity to learn and master. Listed are 13 ways by which you can teach yourself to love everything about you and take pride in being you.
Celebrate yourself: You are more than your physical being. Your values are what maketh you. Life is too short to be wasted on worries around the way you look. There are bigger thinks in life and in the world around you that deserve your attention. Don’t be too hard on yourself for something that is beyond your control. Celebrate life, celebrate yourself.
Practice gratitude: Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that triggers deep-rooted positive psychology and strengthens our relationship with our mind, body, and soul. There are so many things we are endowed with and have access to and we just take them for granted. Acknowledge and take a moment to feel grateful for the disease-free body you have, the functional limbs you possess and the thinking brain you have been blessed with.
Redefine and re-evaluate: Redefine standards of beauty and re-evaluate your self-worth in light of your changing life circumstances. Many things undergo change with time and periodic re-evaluation is a nice idea to stay connected to reality. Don’t beat yourself hard for skipping the gym, or gorging on the full pastry, or when the scale doesn’t budge. It’s ok not to be perfect.
Being imperfect is so real. Never be apologetic for being flawed.
Unconditional acceptance: Instead of being apologetic of your body, accept it the way it is. If you fail to cherish your body, how will others accept it? Do not allow the number on the scale or a hurtful jibe from friends put your spirit down. Overtime telling yourself that you are beautiful despite your flaws boosts your self-image and confidence. Self-acceptance is a powerful tool to acknowledge your flaws and initiate outcome oriented actions to change them, not with vengeance but with self-love and respect.
Practice self-compassion: Many a time we are compassionate and empathetic towards others but too harsh on ourselves. Self-compassion is a strong tool to reconnect with yourself. Take a sabbatical from work, take a break from routine housework, ask your spouse to pitch in and share home responsibilities, travel alone, treat yourself to a relaxing day at the spa, go out kid-free once a month, catch up with friends over movie or coffee, have a night out. Look for ways to connect with yourself and do things that make you happy. You owe it to yourself.
As long as you have a kind heart, a fierce mind and a brave spirit, your gorgeousness in unmatched.
Focus on your strength: Over time it’s natural to forget what our strengths are and what we are capable of. We get too comfortable in being someone’s wife and/or mother and lose track of our own being. List down your strengths and remind yourself of times when you were appreciated/rewarded/acknowledged for your strengths. For example, in college, you were the flag bearer of an executive position. This means you have tremendous leadership abilities and given a chance you can still lead. It is a significant strength about which you have just forgotten.
Recognize negative triggers: There could be certain stimuli that trigger negative thoughts about your body. It could be the weighing scale or a particular person who passes sarcastic comments about the way you look, or a certain beauty magazine, that instantly lower your self-worth. Identify such triggers and avoid them till you learn a more appropriate response to deal with them.
Stop using someone else’s lens: Don’t let other’s views and ideas of perfections and beauty overwhelm you. Looking for constant external validation leads you to see yourself through their lens. If someone else thinks you must lose weight to look good or you must grow your hair to look more feminine, let know its a personal choice. How you see yourself in far more important than how others see you.
In our constant bid to seek the approval from others, we slip into a life of misery and self-hate, when the approval stops coming. By seeking external validation and approval you are giving up your right to freedom, freedom to be yourself. Develop appropriate responses to deal with peoples’ opinions instead of letting them direct you.
The greatest prison one can live in, is the fear of what others think of them.
Get active: Incorporate some form of physical activity into your schedule. Join a gym or a spinning class. Commit at least 30 minutes of activity to yourself. When your exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins that give a feeling of euphoria and happiness. Regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety, boosts self-worth and improves sleep, which collectively triggers a positive feeling in the body. Some people may indulge in excessive exercise obsessed with negative body image. Do not see this as a punishment or because you hate your body, rather do it because you love your body. Like any other relationship, your body will reciprocate love and respect.
Get a hobby: I strong believe that having a passion is as important as having a career. A hobby in the least can do wonders to boost your morale and confidence. Pick a hobby, join an activity class or revive an old hobby. Hobby is known to release the same “happy hormones” that are released during exercise. Baking, painting, sculpting, writing etc are bobbies that are an extension of your personality and creates an immense sense of achievement.
Social media: Social media has earned the reputation of being the catalyst in spoiling our personal lives, disrupting the family structure, and distorting our self-image. Our ideas of a perfect life are skewed and often based on the unrealistic comparison we make with the projections made by our friends on social media. Steer clear of social media if you feel it stresses you more than it empowers you.
Handle emotions intelligently: Train your mind to handle strong negative feelings such as worthlessness or depressive thoughts in a constructive manner. For years I have been an emotional eater. When under severe stress, I found solace in food. The more I ate, the better I felt. However, I have developed the intelligence of disassociating food from feelings. I still encounter stress in my professional and personal life, but now I deal with it differently.
I go for a run or maybe even catch up on sleep, when in stress, but I am conscious enough not to find my peace in a chocolate pie! (I will be honest here, I still have my hard days, when the pie wins head on!!)
Role model/mentor: Have a ‘real’ role model, and by real I mean someone you know and can reach out to. Though movie stars, cricketer, and eminent personalities are fine models to emulate, yet I feel someone closer to life and more identifiable with has a deeper and profound impact on shaping our beliefs and actions. Reach out to someone who is willing to listen to your and who you can talk to and share without the fear of being judged.
A mentor need not be a superior figure hold a specific qualification. The only qualities that qualify someone to be a mentor are the willingness to listen, empathy, and a high level of emotional intelligence – someone who can tell you genuinely, you ae awesome and lead you to believe the same. It takes a good mentor, and a real role model to help a woman stop the negative self-talk and see herself as more than the body she carries. With constant mentoring and positive guidance, you can undo the impact of years of the cruelty of others and yourself. A mentor shows you the right way to love and respect yourself.
As long as you have a kind heart, a fierce mind, and a brave spirit, your gorgeousness in unmatched.