A Self-Respecting Body Image Is A Process, Not A Destination

Even people with a healthy body image struggle with insecurities. It is rare to meet a person who is completely comfortable in their own skin.

For most individuals, maintaining a healthy or self-respecting body image is a lifelong process. He or she must continuously juggle their choices, beliefs, feelings, thoughts, compliments, criticisms, physical reality, and longings about their appearance.

Ten Ways To Nurture A Self-Respecting Body Image

Below are suggestions and encouragement for building and maintaining a supportive body image. It is not a ten step plan for body image mastery—forget mastery.

A body image includes how we view and feel about our body, our idea of how others view our appearance, the sense we have of our body moving through space, and the degree of connectedness we have with our body.

  1. Acknowledge that your basic body type cannot be altered. Some adjustments can be made, but a wiry, curvy, rounded, or stocky structural inheritance can only be tweaked so much.
  2. Pursue activities that engage your natural interests and talents, or provide a sense of gratification (purpose). These pastimes can be fun, relaxing, spiritually or intellectually stimulating, or help you connect socially.
  3. Emphasize feeling good over numbers, such as the numbers on a scale or body mass index. Follow your physician’s or dietician’s specific recommendations but otherwise focus on creating good eating and self-care habits.
  4. Always filter advertisements and media messages related to appearance through your common sense. Ask yourself what the advertiser wants you to believe and then decide whether to accept it. If you are sensitive to negative media messages it can help to think or say out loud, “I don’t believe that ad. I think…”
  5. Mirrors are not body-image boosters. Research reveals that a lot of time spent before a mirror, or examining the body for flaws, tends to strengthen a negative body image.
  6. Stop dwelling on body comparisons between yourself and another. It is difficult to avoid having thoughts of comparison, but dwelling on them reinforces negative body images. When those thoughts arise, visualize tying them to a helium balloon and let the balloon go.
  7. Enjoy the company of people who have a healthy relationship with activity, food, and their body. Who we spend time with influences our attitudes and sense of well-being.
  8. Choose physical activities that allow you to enjoy moving the body, that help you feel free, energized, and relaxed. Biking, walking, yoga, dancing, swimming, or any activity that stimulates the joy of movement builds a healthy body image.
  9. Enjoying or studying fine artwork, reading about cultural and media pressures, or about body image can broaden your view about physical beauty and health. Sometimes another person’s thoughts resonate within us and give a us fresh and liberating perspective.
  10. Take time to understand how much your self-worth is tied to your appearance, and consider how much you want to allow size-prejudice to determine your well-being. Other people’s judgments about our looks may always sting, but a healthy body image and a resilient sense of self-worth are the best salve.
  11. Source: Brown University
    Photo credit: Bill Gracey (at flickr)
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