Feeling a bit down on yourself because you don’t fit the current beauty ‘ideal’? These 5 steps to better body positivity can help!
By Diane Small
We could all use some better body positivity, am I right? Our body image can be shaped by a variety of complex factors including how we were raised, our culture, and even genetics. It seems that just about everyone, at some point in their lifetime, experiences a poor perception of themselves, whether it be mental or physical – and you know what? It’s perfectly normal. Problems arise when your negative perception leads to a more serious illness, such as body dysmorphia, extreme anxiety, self-harm, bulimia or anorexia.
In such cases, it’s essential to visit a mental health professional to help you through these issues. It’s important to remember is that you are never alone, and reaching out for help is a critical step in building a healthy self-image.
But if you’re just feeling a bit down on yourself, or a bit embarrassed about hitting the beach in a bikini, well – we can help!
Here are five steps to better positivity for not only yourself, but your friends, too – we all need to realise that how we speak and treat others can affect them, too!
5 Steps To Better Body Positivity
1. Change Your Mindset
It’s a fact that we’re bombarded by the media with many images of ‘idealised’ body types that are not reflective of how most people look. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: no matter what kind of body is presented in the media as being the most ‘desirable.’ there will always be loads of people who vary from that – because we’re all different, right?
They key is to change your mindset.
Six foot models who weight 50 kilos are so rare, they’re kind of freaky. How many people like that do you actually see in real life? And keep in mind that many of those ‘influencers’ you see on Instagram often have surgery (lipo, breast augmentation, fat injections, etc) to get their so-called ‘perfect’ bodies – they also often suffer from eating disorders. Don’t believe me? Check out the case of Alexis Ren. She has over 10m Insta followers, but has admitted to not only having an eating disorder, but also to getting breast implants.
Having a perfect body doesn’t make you happy, as Alexis can testify to. Rather, happiness comes from within.
It’s easy to put yourself down. If you keep telling yourself that your body is not good enough, eventually, it will feel like the truth.
as it is feels like the truth, so it’s easy to find evidence in your day-to-day to confirm what you currently believe. So, when evidence comes along that shows you that you are good enough just as you are, there’s a good chance your brain won’t automatically recognise that information, and certainly won’t take it in as valid. Unless you intentionally open up to the possibility that you’ve been wrong about your body not being good enough as it is, no amount of body positive messages will make an impact.
However, when you change your mindset and consider that your negative perception of yourself could be wrong, you can begin to open up to the possibility that you are in fact good enough as you are. That’s the first – and crucial – step to better body positivity.
2. Watch Your Talk
Words matter, and have the power to lift people up or tear them down – and that’s true whether those words are spoken, or just going around in your head.
Have you ever ‘said’ something to yourself like ‘Jeez, I look huge in these pants!’ or ‘No more brownies! You’re already fat enough!’ If so, stop the inner criticism! This is the kinds of ‘inner dialogue‘ that can cement a negative body image, as mentioned in point 1, above.
Next time you find yourself thinking something negative, consciously think about the opposite, but much more so. Think about it in plenty of detail: how it would look and feel, how it would make you behave and so on. For example,instead of ‘I look huge in these pants,’ instead say: ‘these pants are super stylish. I bought these pants because they’re so fashionable, and I feel confident wearing them.’ Notice how this makes you feel. Even if it makes little difference on your self perception at the time, it will sink in subconsciously over the next weeks and months,
You should also be mindful of what you say around your friends, too.
Continuously talking about beauty standards for bodies with your friends will surely make them feel more self-conscious, too. If you have a comment or a thought, keep it to yourself, and do the work of understanding why you react to certain body types on your own.
On the other hand, whenever you hear anyone talk negatively about their own body or the bodies of others, say something. By being quiet, you’re passively allowing negative body image rhetoric to spread around and possibly hurt your friends.
When someone body shames another person or makes a comment that reinforces beauty standards, gently share with them how their comment can be interpreted as unfair and unloving. The person will likely not know that their comment could be hurtful and this could be a great learning opportunity for everyone. This also shows your friends that you are willing to stand up for them and for body positivity.
3. Be A Compliment Queen
Women commonly dole out compliments to each other that are solely based on appearances. Forget saying ‘Hey, you’re looking good today’ or ‘Wow, you look great! Did you lose weight?’ and instead give your gals comments about the traits they possess that you value the most.
For example? ‘Your laugh always makes me smile’ or ‘You seem to be really happy today’ or even ‘I’m so glad to see you today!’ Of course, keep your compliments sincere because your friend will know if it comes from an inauthentic place.
Once you start this new ‘no physical compliments’ phase, your friends may well subconsciously start to follow the trend and begin to say sweet things to you that aren’t related to your appearance.
But don’t stop at complimenting your pals – do it to yourself, too! Every day, state at least one positive affirmation (out loud or silently) to yourself that makes you feel good about yourself without focusing on your looks. It could be something like:
- I’m a good friend and a good daughter
- My body is strong, healthy, and gets what I need done
- I’m a kind person and will be kind to myself today too
- Everything in my life is going just as it should be
- I love myself just as I am
For a great list of affirmations, click here.
4. Beauty Boosts
Often, we feel like our clothing and beauty routines keep us in a certain identity box and don’t fully reflect how we want to be seen. Even worse, we often don’t treat ourselves to newer, nicer clothes because we have an ‘I’ll do it when’ mentality. You know what I mean: you need new undies, as all your panties have frayed lace and elastics, but you say to yourself ‘I’ll buy more when I have a boyfriend’. Or you’ve had the same winter coat for five years, and you tell yourself ‘I’ll get a new one when I lose ten pounds’.
You always, always deserve the best, so shake up your self-identity by treating yourself to a makeover!
For example, this could focus on your clothes. If you always wear long sleeves to hide your ‘fat’ arms, go shopping for beautifully flattering alternatives, like tops with half-cut or billowy short sleeves – or even try to rock a tank top that’s cut to drape well on your body.
It could also focus on your makeup. If you rarely wear makeup, try giving yourself a dab of statement lipstick, or at least some mascara to open up your eyes. Wider eyes and a direct gaze indicate confidence, and this message will be felt by those you interact with. Once they start treating you like a more confident person, you will feel like a more confident one, too!
Not got a clue about makeup or how to apply it? You can partner up with a company like Amway to get the best products to share with your friends – you can even make some money doing so. How does Amway work? Just check out the company’s site to see how you can become the go-to beauty guru among your friends.
5. Focus on the Marvellous
It’s hard to be grateful to your body when you’re ashamed of it, and you wish it were different. However, there are always things about your body to be very thankful for! Your body keeps you alive. Your body carries you every day. Your body protects you in many ways. Your body has survived a lifetime of events so far. Your body allows you to perceive beauty and feel pleasure. Think about what your body does for you, instead of what you wish it did for you. Practice taking time every day to thank your body for all that it does.
Yoga or meditation classes can help with this: they can take you from the ‘external’ world and turn your attention to inside your body and how it moves, feels and is connected to your mind. Why not take a class with a friend?
Loads of women have built better body positivity by creating blogs and websites to underscore their self love, and to help others do the same. For example, Garner Style is an Instagram account of a curvy woman who loves her plus sized body; Marie Denee is a proudly plus-sized fashionista, and Adios Barbie is the body image website that examines the intersections of race, gender, ability, class, and sexuality that go into our body image identities. And there’s even The Body Positive website that focuses on this issue and nothing else.
Connect with these women on social media, and you’ll never feel alone!
Yes, you can move beyond the insecurities that hold you back from your full potential! Through intentional acts of body positivity, your relationship with yourself and your friends will be nourished and grow to new heights.