Navigating Negative Body Image
Written by Carly Compton, MSW Intern
Society, diet culture, and popular media do not make it easy for us to see our bodies in a positive light, especially if we do not meet their often unrealistic beauty standards. Whether you consider yourself too big, too small, too curvy, not curvy enough, too short, or too tall, it can seem virtually impossible to ever meet standards that are non-consensually imposed into our psyche. I have good news, though--there is, in fact, no need to even try to meet those beauty standards. Instead, we can collectively dismantle such standards by deciding how we want to look and what we want to feel in our bodies. While this is definitely easier said than done, I want to share some tips on how to mentally navigate encroaching negative body image thoughts and, in the process, work toward a more positive and healthy relationship with your body. Because you deserve that!
Here are four tips you can start incorporating into your life today that will get you closer to finding a place of self-love, self-acceptance, and overall positive body image:
Tip #1: Follow people on social media who make you feel good about yourself!
Social media can be an extremely toxic space for many people, but it can also be very therapeutic and refreshing, especially when you are following accounts that encourage you to accept your body as it is. Unfollow those accounts that leave you feeling down about yourself, have you comparing your body to others, and encourage you to change your body in any way before being able to see your worth. Remember, your worth is not defined by your weight or your appearance! Some of my favorite accounts to follow are Kenzie Brenna, Megan Boggs, Jaimmy Koroma, and Brynta Ponn.
Tip #2: Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable & confident!
Why is it that we feel the need to squeeze into clothes that are either too small or uncomfortable? For many, we fear having to go up in size when buying new clothes. We have been led to believe that we must always remain in the smallest size possible, even though our bodies go through natural changes and might shrink or grow many times over the course of our lives. The numbering demarcating the size of your clothes does not in any way come with attached value judgements. On the contrary, it is once you start wearing clothes that properly fit and make you comfortable that you will begin to notice a shift in confidence. Remember, we aren’t meant to change our bodies to fit certain clothes, but clothes are meant to be created to fit our bodies--no matter the size.
Tip #3: Create a list of things that you love about yourself!
Taking time to reflect on all the things you love and appreciate about your body is a great step in healing your relationship with your body. Acknowledging any negative cognitions and then working toward creating opposing positive cognitions is an effective cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skill that will guide you to a more confident space regarding your body. This list is one you should keep and repeatedly reference in the future. You can add to it each week, each month, or however frequently you want--find what works for you! A great guidebook I highly recommend is Megan Logan’s Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, and Embrace Who You Are.
Tip #4: Understand that your worth is not defined by your weight!
It can be extremely difficult to see our worth as residing outside of or not being defined by our weight or physical appearance. For so long, we have been told we are more worthy or more attractive the smaller we are, among others. While dangerously prevalent, such ideas could not be further from the truth. Our worth does not stem from our weight or our appearance in any way. In fact, our appearance is actually one of the least interesting things about us. Instead of this view which will always tend toward the pessimistic, try focusing on all the amazing things your body has done for you and continues to do for you on a daily basis, surround yourself with people who won’t comment on your body, and remember that your self-worth is defined by YOU--it is rooted within the ability to understand who you are and the potential that you posses.
I hope that these four tips are helpful in getting you started toward healing your relationship with your body and navigating negative body image. We all truly deserve a life of bodily happiness and freedom from unrealistic beauty standards.
Written by: Carly Compton, intern clinician