You jump in front of the mirror for one last check before your big night out. Your immediate response is… Ugggh! “I look so fat in this outfit!” or you turn your head this way and that and say, “I hate my nose!” Don’t feel bad. We all do it. Even the most beautiful and highly paid fashion models are critical of certain parts of their body. Find out how to improve your body image and self esteem.
Body image is our own subjective concept of our physical appearance. It’s the picture we have of our own body as well as the way we think others see us. Body image is directly related to our self-esteem. It thus makes sense if we can improve our body image, we can build our self-esteem.
Negative results of poor body image
Poor body image can have a negative spiraling effect. It starts with low self-esteem and can lead to emotional distress, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. At worst, a negative body image can lead to self-hate, drug usage and suicidal tendencies. Stop right there! Let’s not go down that road.
It’s not our fault
Let’s face it, society has programmed us to be self-critical of our physical characteristics. Models are always gorgeous, or at least we think so. Ads in the media keeps reminding us that we can’t look fat, look old, or have acne and frizzy hair. Even Barbie dolls are perfect! Our friends and family lovingly remind us of our tiny flaws, with our best interests in mind, of course. With these social and cultural ideals for beauty, what’s a girl to do?
Love your body, Love yourself
Sure! That’s easy to say. Actually making it happen is the hard part. You’ve heard the expression “Attitude is everything.” Well, there’s a certain degree of truth in it. Which means, you need to stop the negative self-talk! Obsessing and continually telling ourselves what we hate about our bodies does a good job of programming our brains into believing it.
What to do:
- Stay positive. While it’s okay to seek help from a counselor in the quest for improving your body image, you can also do it yourself. Try programming your brain from the positive angle, instead. Look for the things about your body that you like and focus in on them. Maybe you have fantastic long wavy hair or a killer smile. Wear clothing that subtly emphasizes your great features. Then, keep telling yourself how good you look.
- Be realistic. Be realistic about the things you can change and those you can’t. If you’re seriously bothered about the extra weight, then commit yourself to doing something about it. A crash diet will frustrate you and make things worse. A positive change in eating habits will be slower, but bring lasting results.
- Focus on the positive. If you hate your hair, find a stylist who can help you discover a way to best show off those locks for a new you. If minor facial flaws concern you, a cosmetologist can show you how to minimize the small flaws and emphasize your positive features.
- Consider the risks. What about a nose job, new boobs, tummy tuck or lipo? Maybe some body characteristics can be changed, but at an expense. Do you really want to spend the money and risk the possible consequences of a surgery gone bad? Would it be easier (and less expensive) to love those parts just the way they are?
- Wear it right. Some characteristics you just can’t change. Too tall? Too short? Big feet? Find ways to wear clothing that best shows your body as it is. It’s amazing how the right clothing can make a world of a difference in how we look and how we feel about ourselves.
Changing our body image has a lot to do with our lifestyle choices. Healthy eating may not only trim us down, but also improve complexion and hair. Rest and plenty of regular exercise can boost self-esteem, self-image, and energy levels. Getting involved in an activity or volunteer organization will help you focus your energy outward in a positive way.
It’s a constant effort
Learn to love the person you are inside and out every single day. Surround yourself with those who see you for the wonderful person you are. Enhance and embrace the person you see in the mirror. Put up a sticky note that says, “I am gorgeous!” and soon you’ll even start believing it.