So you got through Thanksgiving!? Good for you! It was not easy. As much as you want the holiday to be exciting and wonderful, for a lot of people the holidays are very stressful. If you are like my clients and the individuals I work with you are not looking forward to the holidays because of family issues, food issues, and body issues.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but it is possible you started this week feeling ashamed. You looked in the mirror and were not happy with what you saw. Taking pictures is excruciating. You avoid dressing rooms and you feel uncomfortable in your body. Bottom line your body image SUCKS.
Your body image and how you think you look is less about how you look and more about how you feel you look. Let me explain. You think you look bad, but in reality you do not. However it is hard to see what is true. I say it all the time, the brain is an asshole. and if you have an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, your brain is an even bigger asshole. In reality you are experiencing some serious upsetting things. Perhaps you are feeling stressed at work, you are fighting with your significant other, school is totally overwhelming, your parents are super controlling and annoying, and your friends just don’t seem to get you. You feel anxious, worried, lonely, sad, and hurt.
But these feelings (anxiety, fear, sadness, depression, and hurt) are really powerful and it is hard to know what to do with these feelings or how to make them better. This translates into poor body image. It is as if your body portrays all these negative emotions for you. So you look in the mirror and you do not like what you see, or you feel very uncomfortable and unhappy in your body.
Improving your body image isn’t about changing your body, it is about learning to see how you handle your emotions and then find different ways of handling these emotions. When you are having a bad body image day try these things to boost your confidence, body image, and your day.
* Evaluate your emotions. If you look in the mirror and feel unhappy about your body, rather than feel disgusted with yourself, ask yourself, how am I feeling? You are likely experiencing some type of negative and upsetting emotions.
* Journal the situations in your life that are contributing to your upsetting emotions. Take a moment and jot down all the things that are currently making you feel bad. Why might you be feeling anxious? What is making you angry? Why do you feel out of control? You have a reason to feel bad. Something is not right, and you are experiencing upset because of that. Your body is not ugly or disgusting, rather you have been wronged, mistreated, or experienced something bothersome, and you have the right to feel bad about that.
* Give yourself permission to feel upset. All emotions are OK. This is a tough one, but once you can gently give yourself permission to feel negative emotions, you will start to let go of negative body image.
* Practice the following visualization. For just a moment take a deep breath in and out and close your eyes. Imagine your body is covered in dirt and trash. Picture yourself starting a walk in a nice wooded path. This is a beautifully relaxing place with a quiet path in the woods. As you walk pieces of dirt and trash start to fly off, leaving exposed your beautiful and confident body. Take just a few moments to do this and start from your head to your toes, and by the time you finish this visualization all the dirt and trash is gone. You are left with a beautiful and confident you.
* Go back to your journal where you wrote all the situations that are causing you upset. Which ones can you control? Make a plan to do something about it. There may be some that feel uncontrollable and make you feel powerless and hopeless. What would make you feel more in control? Can you express yourself in someway? Is there a conversation you need to have with someone? Perhaps you don’t know what to do to fix the situation, that is OK. Ask your support. Your therapist, your best friend, your mom, or a close and trust colleague, ask them for advice on how to handle the situation.
* Practice positive affirmations. Here are a few of my favorites:
* I am strong and capable.
* Today I am in charge and can manage all that life throws at me today.
* My body takes care of me and houses my soul.
* Today my body is strong and is supporting me throughout the day.
* I am learning to respect and love my body for all it does for me day to day.
* My body does amazing things.
* I offer value and contribute to my community each and every day.
* I am able to listen to my body and give my body the rest, care, and attention it needs.
* I am learning that I can be confident, happy, and successful and my body has nothing to do with that confidence, happiness, or success.
Learning to love, respect, and have confidence in your body can take time. These 5 strategies are a big step in the right direction. The way you feel about your body is related to how you are feeling emotionally and learning to evaluate those emotions and make a plan to manage those emotions, along with practicing respect and gratitude for your body will help you overcome poor body image and improve your self-esteem.