“The most alluring thing a woman can have is confidence.”
Body confidence and cultivating a positive body image have [thankfully] been growing topics in the health and wellness arenas. Because, as it turns out, how we view ourselves and our bodies plays a big role in general wellbeing and purpose. Who knew?!?!
Well, you probably do. We all do. We all know how toxic and emotionally debilitating it is to be constantly bombarded with unrealistic, perfectionistic expectations. And they may be derived from our external environments, but over time they form the basis of the criteria in which we rate and grade ourselves. Which is some kind of bullshit. IMHO. Especially since the definition of beauty is constantly changing.
Time to Shut Off the Autopilot
Over time, our mental pathways and mindsets around our bodies get forged by these standards that we ourselves did not create. I am sure you have heard the phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together.” When we think the same thoughts over and over again, our internal critics are eventually given free reign and our negative responses or views become autopilot.
So its no wonder “you just have to start loving yourself” really isn’t the golden ticket to better body image. We have to PRACTICE new thoughts and this takes time – pushing up against comfort zones, questioning your thoughts, and formulating new thought pathways through repetition.
While this may sound complicated, like anything, it simply takes a little day in and day out effort. Here are some of my favorite, tried and true strategies for loving the shit out of your body.
Body Confidence Boosting Strategies
- Be critical of your triggers, especially on social media. There’s lots of new research showing that social media can compromise confidence and body image. Be super critical of who you follow. If they make you feel “less than” or question your self-worth in any way, shape, or form…politely and swiftly UNFOLLOW. We are bombarded daily with these images and unless we are intentional about what we expose ourselves to, this constant exposure can drain our self-confidence bucket. So I challenge you…scroll through the people you follow and be ruthless. You deserve to surround yourself ONLY with people who empower you and make you feel like a BOSS in your skin.
- Give your inner critic a persona. Internal body shaming, and the negative dialogue that surrounds it, is spurred by the [read: vulnerable, usually inaccurate, highly exaggerated, ill-advised, etc.] voice of insecurity. To disable it and remind yourself of who is running the show, allow this voice to be separate from your own. Give her a name. My inner critic is my 10-year-old self so I call her “Lil’ A.” She can be v v annoying but I know she thinks she is protecting me. So in my kindest voice, I tell her to “Sit down and please be quiet. I am driving this bus, young lady.” A few of the other names my clients have come up with include Vivian, Agnes, and Betty…what name does your inner critic have? Start to talk back to her. And be kind but don’t be afraid to give her a little (or a lot) of sass.
- Do a little immersion therapy. If you shy away from looking at yourself naked…STAP. Spend a little time in front of the mirror, drop the towel and admire away! I challenge my clients to take 60 seconds each day to stare at their bodies. This can be hella uncomfortable at first but, over time, you will get more comfortable and your imperfections will no longer be glaring but rather a beautiful part of the bigger picture.
- See an actual therapist. Nothing beats working with a professional when it comes to rewiring new thought pathways and making mindset shifts. Working with a therapist can be an objective, 3rd party way to learn new strategies. I personally have a therapist and we have navigated this topic from time to time and it is incredibly helpful. To find a therapist near you, check out Psychology Today’s Therapist Finder.
- Replace negative body talk with positive statements or affirmations. As humans, we have an innate negativity bias. This means it can take anywhere from 5-9 positive thoughts to replace or undo a single negative one. So start laying it on thick with the positive affirmations and be specific…”I have luscious, muscular thighs that drop it like a squat and allow me to dance for hours on command”…or something along those lines 🙂 I highly recommend pairing this practice with the naked immersion strategy above.
- Come up with your own definition of “beautiful.” It’s clear that throughout history, the concept of beauty is constantly changing and evolving. Why not get ahead of the curve and redefine it for yourself? Set new expectations, YOUR OWN expectations, for what it means to be beautiful.
- Teach people how to treat you. This one can be challenging but is especially important given that some of our first thoughts about our bodies are driven by friends and family. Your body is no one’s business and people do not have any right or responsibility to talk about it or comment on it. You may have some friends and family that you need to be direct with…”I appreciate that we have a relationship where we can talk about anything but I would like to not have my body be an open forum for discussion. I will let you know when I want to talk about it.” For individuals that make comments…”I am choosing not to acknowledge that comment. My body is my business. No one else’s.”
- Stop comparing yourself to others. In a world where we are face to face with people’s “best day” photos and posts all the time, its important to bring yourself back to reality. Call out when you are playing the comparison game, pause, and disengage. Remind yourself that your story and journey is all your own. Focus inward instead of out.
- Make a “what I also have” list. Sure you may have dimples in your thighs or a squishy belly but what do you also have?? View my “what I also have” list for ideas to help get you started.
- Write a letter. Who needs your forgiveness and compassion? Is it your younger self who was made fun of for her weight? Is it your adolescent self who felt like she never fit in? Is it your mom who dumped her own insecurities on to you? Whoever is needing love from your wiser self, write them a letter (that will not be mailed) to offer up some compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and grace. These places are often where the root of body image issues live. When we open them up a bit, allow ourselves to be vulnerable and explore, that is when healing can begin.
Check out Part 2 for more body confidence building strategies!