Societal pressure and messages can be really difficult and demanding on our bodies and minds. There are days when we have negative body-image thoughts, even when we are really trying to practice body positivity and self-acceptance. Below are a few suggestions on ways to cope and take care of yourself when experiencing a bad body-image day.
Be mindful of your emotions
When negative body image thoughts emerge, such as “I feel fat,” “this outfit doesn’t look good on me,” or “what will others think about me if they see me with or without –insert own thought” arise, it is important to recognize that there are underlying emotions that are attached to these thoughts. Ask yourself (non-judgmentally and taking a curious stance) what am I truly feeling in this moment that led me to have these thoughts. Am I feeling lonely? Ashamed? Inadequate? Allow yourself to experience these feelings and allow the feelings to pass along. Although it may seem difficult in the moment, remember that feelings are temporary. In these moments remind yourself to practice self-compassion and kindness.
Recognize that you are so much more than what your body looks like
What you look like does not define who you are or your worth. You are so much more than a number on the scale. Take a moment to challenge these thoughts of negative body -image and respond to them as if you were speaking to a loved one. You wouldn’t tell your family or friends to engage in harmful behaviors to punish themselves (e.g. restricting food, over exercising, or self-harm) because of what they ate last night. You wouldn’t tell them that they are not worthy or unlovable due to their physical appearance. Break this pattern and start treating yourself like a friend. You deserve this kindness from others, but most importantly from yourself.
“If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brené Brown
Focus your attention on body functions not appearance
Instead of focusing on perceived imperfections, take a moment to focus on all that your body does and allows you to do.
“Although we don’t often consider it, our body does its very best for us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, despite the damage we may inflict on it or the feelings of shame our narratives about it elicit.” (A. Pershing and C. Turner)
Make a list of all the things your body helps you participate in or identify functions of the body as a way to neutralize your negative body image thoughts (e.g. being grateful for your arms in order to hug a loved one).
Coping with a bad body-image day is not easy, but you have more power than you think. You may not be able to change the way you feel about your body in the present moment, but you can begin the process by challenging the thoughts that emerge.
“Our body is both resilient and fragile, and regardless of size or shape, worth the very best care we can offer.” (A. Pershing and C. Turner)
Please visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/ten-steps for more suggestions on this topic.