Do you find it hard to see anything good when you look in the mirror? It might not exactly be an active dislike, but do you feel there isn’t much to like?
Are there parts of yourself that given the chance, you would change? More often than not people feel that they are in some way inadequate, with much of this insecurity being directed towards parts of us we prefer to hide- cellulite, hip dips, or bingo wings to name a few. Despite these being natural parts of us, many people see these areas as a way to devalue our bodies- a sign that we are not taking care of ourselves.
In more recent years, there's been a shift towards self-love and we are seeing more variety in the models on our screens, but it’s simply not enough. We are learning to appreciate our differences after years of being told the very opposite- it's going to take some time before these things come naturally to us. The aim of this guide is to give you some methods of making this process a bit smoother, so you can learn how to build a body image that helps you fall in love with how incredible you are, little by little.
Find the right people
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. It can be hard to convince yourself of things you don’t believe, so an option when you are struggling with low self-esteem is to surround yourself with others that can help point out the good parts. They see you far more often than you do, so give them a chance! We can develop a rather distorted view of ourselves the longer we put ourselves down, and it can really affect how we view our bodies. Relying on those around you can give you the encouragement to see things from another point of view. Sometimes that is exactly what we need- hear these views enough and you just might start to believe them.
Make a list of all the things your body can do
If you can’t find parts of yourself to like, then try taking a more practical stance. Our body does so much to keep us happy and healthy without us even realising it.Try focusing on all the little actions that our bodies do for us on the daily, and remind yourself that it’s there for you and you alone, always working hard. As you start to do this, try making a physical list of reasons and facts you notice that you can refer back to. You can keep adding to it as you go — giving you a handy little reminder if you ever find yourself feeling low.
Do something nice for yourself- not just when you think you’ve earned it.
It can be tough to not feel guilty when we take time for ourselves— much of our worth comes from feeling productive, so we tend to hold back on treating ourselves well. Try getting into the habit of taking time for yourself— running a nice hot bath or taking the time to create your favourite meal, or go out to a nice restaurant? The thought of doing these things without a special occasion to commemorate may seem alien because we often see these things as a special treat. At the end of the day, you deserve to feel good regardless of the reasons why-
Because sometimes there doesn't have to be one!
Mindfulness lets you focus on the present moment, and take a step back from the stressors of the day. Try to focus on the situation, but to keep yourself emotionally neutral the best you can. When you feel judgments coming on, try to take a step back and remember that these reactions are often instantaneous, but not necessarily meaningful. Are the comments that your mind makes useful or does it seem to just hurt you without any real reason behind it? We would never speak this way to those we care about, or even strangers, so why do we find it so normal to be cruel to ourselves? Being able to recognise these thoughts as they appear is a fantastic habit, and once you put in the effort it becomes far easier to do in the long term.
Find the good and recognise the bad
Research has found that our levels of self-esteem are not determined by body weight, but more in how such images are stigmatised. If we are taught to look at ourselves in a negative way then how are we supposed to see the good? Society’s rules regarding what is good and bad change with the weather, so it becomes impossible to avoid feeling flawed.
Rather than focusing on the bad (as we often do), try to find little positives about your body — maybe you like the colour of your eyes or the shape of your face? How about the way your hair falls? This process can feel a little uncomfortable at first but it’s worth the effort. If finding positives is too difficult when you start then perhaps try coming up with some more neutral statements instead. Gently reversing the habit of putting ourselves down is a long and difficult journey, but it’s essential that we learn to treat ourselves more kindly. We are judgemental by nature, and evolution has taught us that survival is achieved by making snap decisions quickly.
Somewhere along the line, these behaviours distorted as our internal compasses changed— we judge ourselves according to unrealistic standards with such ease that it feels almost normal. Did we always feel this way? What changed?
We really don’t give ourselves enough credit for the number of changes our bodies have and continue to go through. Through each stage of our life, our appearance changes little by little, and the ways we think and feel change too. For many of us, the default reaction is to see these changes as flaws- something has changed, it can't be anything good right? When we jump to these conclusions we aren't seeing the bigger picture-it's completely natural to change as we age, we celebrate our minds and their growth as having more experience, why should our bodies be any different? Should they simply remain completely unchanged as every other part of us develops?
Part of learning to see ourselves in a more positive light is accepting that we are both entirely unique and in a constant process of change- this is not a bad thing, but is natural and worthy of celebration.