In a class on body image a couple days ago we had to write out two sets of words or phrases on nametags. The first was what we felt like in our bodies. The second was what in an ideal world we would feel, and partly what we felt already even if in the tiniest sense.
My first name tag was “Comfortable.” We had to go around the room introducing ourselves as that name. I went around saying “Hi, I’m comfortable.” Most people were uncomfortable or ashamed or heavy. I felt okay until someone said back to me, “That’s awesome. How?” She might have said why, I can’t remember exactly, all I remember is being questioned.
I still felt secure in my feeling about my own body, but I felt uncomfortable in that situation. I started to feel like I should have had a bad sounding phrase or description about how I feel about my body. I know most people wouldn’t consider it perfect, but it’s mine and I’m quite content with it. I felt like I was the odd one out and something was wrong with me because I wasn’t unhappy or uncomfortable or ashamed of my body. It’s sad that feeling happy with yourself or your body is something that can seem out of place.
I think more than anything the question about my nametag through me off because I didn’t know how to answer. I said, “Because I just am.” How do you put all the work and thought processes it took to get here into 30 seconds or less? It’s not possible to explain that I once was heavier and spent my entire high school life hating my body. It’s not possible to explain how I’m not perfect but I’m smaller and healthier than I was then. It’s not possible to explain that I’m comfortable because I feel good IN my body. It’s not possible to explain that it took many, many mental corrections and internal struggles to think that I was in fact not just comfortable with what I looked like but pretty. It’s impossible to explain how hard it is to change how you can feel good about your body after years of hating it.
I didn’t know how to explain how I had the feeling that she wanted, so I just said, “Because I just am.” Inadequate, I know, but I don’t think there is an easy answer to that kind of question. There are so many ways to change your outlook and not everything will work for everyone. It’s a very individualistic process as you find out what will help you change your mindset regarding your body.
Although I feel like it is different for everyone, there are a few things that I remember that helped me along the way:
- Stop reading most magazines. In high school I wanted to work for a trendy magazine, but changed my outlook after I realized the magazines I read were in no way helping my self-esteem. Once I decided I wanted to be healthier the kind of magazine I read changed and I only look at the trendy women’s magazine with a very critical eye. It’s not worth it to be told you aren’t enough every time you read something, so I decided not to do it. Getting rid of or ignoring negative influences, whether they are people or media, is very helpful in creating your own positive body image.
- Catch the negative thoughts. In the beginning this is hard because the negative thoughts are so ingrained into your normal thinking that you almost don’t even recognize them as negative. Once you start to pick them out and label them as negative you can then move on to combating them and replacing them with positive thoughts. This feels totally fake at first, but in some situations you just have to fake it til you believe it. Tell yourself something enough and you will believe it.
- Find some good role models. This might be the best tip I could ever give about positive body image. Find someone who is comfortable in their body. Even better, find someone who is comfortable in their body though you wouldn’t expect them to be. This person can teach you a lot about confidence and being comfortable in their own skin whether you talk about it directly or not.
- Move your body! This is so critical. You can’t appreciate what your body can do and how awesome it is unless you use it like it is meant to be used! Fitness might seem scary or like work or just something you don’t want to do. Get over it. Find something fun and move your body around. Go dancing. Swimming. Walking with friends. Whatever. The more you use your body the easier it is to appreciate how powerful it is. Move. Move. Move! It gets easier the more you do it and you feel better too.
Those are just a few things that helped me. Is there anything that helped you? Or if you still struggle, can you think of anything that might help?
Not pictured: 1/2 slice carmelized onion pizza
1 hour upper body resistance training class
1 hour water aerobics class