The Three Keys to Healing a Negative Body Image
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” asked Snow White’s stepmother and countless women as they gaze anxiously at their faces and their bodies. Rare is the woman who responds, “Me! I’m the fairest in the land (or at least one of the contenders)!”
Too often the feedback we get from the mirror is warped, critical, fragmented, and negative. There is a saying that you can never be too rich or too thin. And it is this wish – to get thin or thinner, to look younger or more muscular – that often causes people to develop body image problems in the first place.
Body image refers to thoughts and feelings we have about our appearance or how we imagine other people feel about our appearance. Most people have some body image distortion. But some people become so preoccupied and so self-conscious about how they look that they may begin to cut themselves off from socializing with other people.
A person with a healthy body image, on the other hand, maintains a flexible attitude about the normal variations of his or her body. A healthy body image also means that your physical appearance is NOT the only measure of your happiness and worth.
Your sense of self is predicated not just on your looks but on the loving relationships in your life, your productive work, your spiritual sense of the Universe, and the ability to be playful.
Let’s talk about the ways we can make peace with our body image and enhance our self acceptance.
We first need to become alert to the triggers that make us feel bad about our appearance. Who are the people, and what are the places and situations that most cause you unhappiness about how you look? Is it going to the gym and comparing yourself to other people?
We then need to take our awareness of these personal trigger points and respond with a plan of action. There are three categories of responses mentioned:
a. Education: We learn about the negative effects of invasive ways of trying to manipulate our bodies such as bulimia or diet pills. We learn that diets do not work as a long term solution. We commit to eating when we’re hungry and stopping when we’re full which will lead us to our natural weight and enhanced body acceptance.
b. Self Talk: We need to pay attention to our “private self talk” and correct our distortions. When we stop, look and listen to our self-defeating thoughts, we can begin to change the negative ways we feel about our appearance.
c. Emotional issues: People sometimes pick on their outward appearance because they cannot face the inner cause of their bad feelings.
You don’t have to be perfect to accept the body you have. The key is to call a truce from the adversarial relationship you had in the past and work on appreciating the ways your body DOES take care of you, and the wondrous ways it shows up for you every day.
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