Body Image: Change Your Narrative
If you are not feeling good about your body know that you are not alone.
Body dissatisfaction is so common that the research literature even refers to it as normative discontent, meaning it is normal not to feel good about your body.
We are bombarded with messages that our body is not good enough. Think about a trip to your local CVS or Walgreens and how many products they sell to improve or change your body (Read about CVS Beauty Mark). We also live in a diet culture where we are told that our body should be thin. If it is not, then there is something wrong with us and we must do something to change this. If we then go on a diet and fail to keep the weight off, like most people do, we are blamed that this is our fault and our lack of willpower. Companies profit from us not liking our bodies, wanting to change them, and blaming our own efforts when we can’t change them.
Throughout our lives we will get messages about our bodies that can leave a lasting impact. For example, one I have heard countless times is the story of a client going to their doctor who points to the height and weight chart and tells them they are at 75%, overweight, and need to change. The message that is received is there is something wrong with my body.
The good news is we can change the narrative we have about our bodies. We can learn to accept and care for our bodies. Before going into some ways to improve how you feel about your body I want to highlight the impacts of body image dissatisfaction.
Low body satisfaction is associated with:
- Disordered eating
- Unhealthy weight control behaviors
- Lower levels of physical activity
- Low self esteem
- Social anxiety
So, how do we feel better about our bodies? Here are three things you can try:
Mindful mirror exercise:
This exercise helps you look at your body objectively and without judgement.
- Stand in front of a full-length mirror fully dressed for several minutes and look at your reflection from head to toe
- Describe each part out loud to someone who doesn’t know what you look like
- Objectively describe, no evaluations
- E.g., color, texture (My hair is brown and curly)
- If evaluations come up (ugly hair) just notice it and then shift to a more objective description
- Then, look at your body as a total reflection for a couple of minutes – not as parts
- Write down all the ways your body serves you and what you are thankful for
- Think about all the things your body allows you to do (e.g., sitting at a desk all day, hugging a loved one).
- Read over the list and say thank you to the only body that you have
*You can put this list on your mirror as well as a way to remember all the ways your body serves you. You can also read this every morning as a way to start your day with gratitude
Giving yourself what you needed:
- Think of a time you were made to feel ashamed of your body (e.g., peer laugh at you for being too skinny, or too fat)
- Close your eyes and recall the incident (what did you see, hear, feel)
- What did you need at that time to insulate you from the shame and hurt
- Say the words to your past self that you needed at that time
- Be compassionate, loving, comforting
- Give yourself a new message that you need to hear now
- I am…( for example worthy, acceptable, etc.,)
These are just a couple of things you can try. If you notice you are spending time in the mirror critiquing your body, making a lot of negative body comments, or feeling bad about your physical appearance please reach out and ask for help. Therapists are here to help you improve the way you feel about your body.