Body Image: What can we do about it?
By Margot Radicati| Entrepreneur and Girlboss
Why do so many of us hate our looks?
You’re standing in front of a mirror and you feel like your body is just … not quite right: “Why am I so short?” “Why can’t I get defined abs?” “How do I have a bald spot already?” “Why can’t I be as thin as I was in high school?” “How is my nose so big?”
The list is endless, but the point is that you find yourself obsessing over what you would change and how, and end up feeling inadequate, not good enough and – most times – sad.
You are not alone: around 91% of women and 55% of men are unhappy with their bodies. Furthermore, 2 in 3 adults state that they have dieted in the past year.
So how did we get here? How can everyone around us hate at least some part of their body?
It goes without saying that social media and the internet are the main culprits. We are constantly exposed to images of people with “the perfect body”: everyone seems to have the perfect thigh gap while spending their time partying in Ibiza.
Of course, we know that what we see is not reality, but it’s hard to be rational when the world seems to try so hard to make us believe that there is such a thing as “the perfect body”.
What can you do about it?
Even though it feels like hating your body or looks is something that you can’t change because you can’t change your body, that’s not true! There are a number of techniques that you can use to learn to accept and love your body.
Understand how body image works
It’s easy to forget that you tend to see yourself in a very different way to how others see you. It can seem like your “flaws” are objective rather than subjective, and that something is actually wrong with your body. However, your comparisons and internal dialogue are creating a negative picture of yourself that only you can see – others probably see you completely differently.
Understanding that your mind is creating this distorted picture and sending you into a “worry spiral” is key to putting things into perspective.
Don’t believe everything you see
It is so easy to forget that celebrities are paid to look good on camera. As a result, they have an army of people making them look good: makeup artists, hair stylists, personal trainers, the list is endless… Not only that but there is one key filter between them and what we see: photoshop.
Reminding yourself that this is not what they look like in real life (#wokeuplikethis? probably not…) is key to help you relativise. Also, most of these people make huge sacrifices to look the way they do (investing in plastic surgery, spending their time at the gym, eating barely anything etc.) so ask yourself: is it really worth it?
Limit social media use
We always say this but it’s true: social media does you no favours when it comes to your self-confidence. You are constantly exposed to people with “the perfect body” and comparing yourself to them.
Try to limit checking social media to once or twice a day, and avoid reverting to it automatically every time you’re bored.
Make a list of your qualities
This sounds strange but you’d be surprised at how helpful it is! Make a list of five of qualities (non-appearance related) and repeat it to yourself when you are feeling negative about your body.
This has been scientifically proven to make you feel better by reinforcing positive messages about yourself, but it also helps you realise that there is a lot more to you than your physical appearance (a much needed reminder given the world we live in!!)
Just accept it
Many aspects of your body you just can’t change and that’s what makes you special – what fun would it be if we all looked like Barbie? Realising that trying to fix one part of your body will only lead to dissatisfaction about another is a huge step towards accepting your body.
Accept that this is your body and the best that you can do is to be healthy, treat it with respect and love it. Isn’t that a liberating thought?
Be kind to your body
The worst thing you can do to your body is to put it through punishing diets, eat/drink too much and not exercise. This not only is bad for your physical health but it also does a lot of damage to your mental wellbeing.
Learn to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly: your body will automatically become the best version of itself and your mind will thank you. Eventually, you will realise that you stop obsessing over how you look.
- Sit comfortably with your feet firmly planted on the floor
- Push your feet against the floor as hard as possible and notice the physical feeling of this
- Touch something – a pet, a set of keys, a phone, whatever! – and notice the feeling of the object against your fingertips
- This really helps to distract you from your negative thoughts and focus on the present – try to do this as often as possible
Dig a little deeper
Do this when you are feeling negative about your body
Have you noticed that the way you feel about your body fluctuates? You are more likely to hate your body if your self-confidence is low or if you are having troubles in your personal or work life. This demonstrates that feeling negative about your body is something more connected to your emotional state than to reality.
As yourself the question: How am I feeling? Do you feel like you’re not good enough? Has someone made you feel like you are inadequate? The moment you understand what the issue is, you can start doing something about it.
Tell a friend
Do this when you are feeling negative about your body
Sharing your worries with someone who cares about you has been demonstrated to reduce stress and anxiety
Not only that, but you’d be surprised at how many people dislike their bodies. By telling people how you feel, you might learn that others feel the same, which will demonstrate that it’s a feeling fuelled by you rather than a reality.