If you’re like most of us, you struggle with your body image. It’s hard to avoid when most of us have a mean inner critic whispering to us the years and years of societal messages that we’re not good enough. But I have good news! It IS possible to retrain your inner critic into an inner coach and learn how to improve your body image. Read on for practical details on how to heal your relationship with your body.
STOPP The Inner Critic
“I hate my chubby legs.” “Why does my nose have to be so big?” The next time you think something like that…STOPP. And yes, I mean that both literally and figuratively.
One way to improve your body image is to take yourself through the steps to STOPP:
S: Stop. Take a moment to breathe, come back to reality, adjust your posture, and close your eyes.
T: Take a few deep breaths. Inhale, exhale, and sigh it out.
O: Observe! You can observe whatever it is around you or try an internal observation, scanning your body and its varied sensations. What are you aware of?
P: Pull back and gain perspective. Recognize that the thoughts racing through your mind are merely thoughts and thoughts are not facts. Invite in self-compassion, by trying a few body neutrality statements in your mind such as, “My legs let me run around my favorite city,” or “I can smell my favorite flowers with my nose.”
P: Proceed with self-care that works for you. Everyone’s behaviours here will vary but ensure that whatever you do next incorporates self-care, self-love, and appreciation for your body. Go for a walk, get changed into something comfortable, spend time with animals or someone you love, read a book, bake, laugh, dance – whatever your healthy copy mechanism is, do that! I invite you to read my blog, 15 Practical Self-Care Ideas for When You Don’t Have Much Time for some extra inspiration.
Why Do We Need to Improve Our Body Image?
It’s (sadly) no secret that the world is obsessed with white, able-bodied, thin, young, healthy folks. Women and girls hear and see messages about how they look from the very first moments of life, which only continues throughout their childhood, and well into adulthood.
It is typical for women to be praised and appreciated based solely on their looks over their thoughts, actions, and ideas. The media, social media, and the internet place crushing pressure on what women need to look like, a look that’s not attainable for the majority of women. There’s too much variation & diversity in the human body for that!
If you don’t fit into this “ideal” it becomes baggage in your invisible backpack that weighs you down – growing heavier with every negative comment, thought, suggestion, and lack of representation. It restrains your ability to breathe, feel seen, be heard and even move forward.
It goes even deeper– researchers believe that one reason women are more likely than men to develop depression is because of widespread body dissatisfaction & poor body image. This can lead to that backpack feeling unbearably heavy, increased isolation, and a complete lack of interest in things you once loved.
Why Is Positive Body Image Important?
Working on our body image is a worthwhile endeavour. It’s SO worth it to be able to take that heavy backpack off and enjoy the view. Women that have a positive body image are more likely to have good physical and mental health, too.
Days go by…quickly. Seasons change, and moments slip away. And it can become way too easy to hide away and not live your life to the fullest.
When we focus on the bad, the bad gets worse. The opposite is true, so choose your thoughts carefully!
When our minds play the same song repeating our low self-worth and negative self-talk – it literally steals our energy away from us and stops us from fulfilling our destiny and finding joy. That inner critic is stealing from us!
It stops us from contributing to the community, trying a new hobby, being with family, enjoying rest, asking for a promotion, starting a business, building deeper relationships with others, investing in education & learning, and so much more.
Our inner critic steals not only these big moments but the little ones too: not going on that date, not going swimming with friends, not wearing that exciting outfit, not going dancing, not stepping onto the stage for that open mic to share your words. It steals away life.
Why Is It Important To Use Positive Body Language?
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words;
watch your words, they become your actions;
watch your actions, they become your habits;
watch your habits, they become your character;
watch your character, it becomes your destiny,”
It takes practice to shut up the inner critic.
The more that you practice using positive body language about yourself and those around you, the fewer negative thoughts you have about your body, and the less impact your body image can have on your mind.
By using STOPP and reframing your negative thoughts to more affirming thoughts, including body neutral ones, you are quite literally re-training your subconscious into appreciating your body.
You can retrain your inner critic into an inner coach! I can attest to that. I won’t lie, it takes time, but it does work and makes such a massive difference!
Positive Body Language Doesn’t Just Affect Us
Are you a parent, teacher, coach, or mentor? This isn’t to shame parents, but language matters a lot around little ones. Research highlights that young women/girls are 2x more likely to go on a diet if they see their mothers dieting, too. This is not to point fingers & blame, but to highlight the great opportunity to have a positive impact on future generations.
Around children, ensure that they understand food choices are for health/nutrition and not for weight loss. Cook together, get active together and educate that weight gain and growth are completely healthy when developing.
Avoid making negative comments about their bodily changes and their food choices. Focus instead on complimenting them on other achievements like their piano lessons, schoolwork, fashion, how good of a friend they are, etc. Always be open to discussion about their struggles without judgment.
How To Practice Positive Body Image & How To Improve Your Body Image
There are several ways to practise positive body language:
- Check yourself and never say something to yourself that you wouldn’t dare say to a friend or child.
- Next time you hear yourself thinking “ugh how disgusting,” check yourself and replace it with something positive.
- Use the STOPP method to check yourself when getting negative body thoughts.
- Practice gratitude for your body through a massage, bath, or positive affirmations.
- Move your body and praise it for what it can do.
- Be mindful at the moment to recognize what your body does for you daily – that has nothing to do with how it looks.
Have you had success in reframing your mind around body image? What has worked for you?