Body image is how you view your body — it’s the way you see yourself when you look in the mirror, how you feel in your clothes and how confident you are in your appearance. It’s about feeling comfortable and confident in your own skin and honoring your unique beauty. Your body image can be influenced by your family, friends, culture, and especially by the media and societal “norms.”
Body positivity is learning to love your body just the way it is — being comfortable and confident in your own skin. Being body positive means trying not to compare yourself to others and accepting your own unique beauty. Constant comparison leads to feeling like you're not good enough and having a negative self-image.
This negative self-talk can lead to trying to achieve what society has deemed an "ideal" body type — one that is unrealistic and unhealthy — by doing things such as over exercising or dieting unsafely. This “ideal” body type was decided by toxic societal expectations, and is not necessary to live a happy, healthy life.
Here are 5 ways to grow body confidence and reduce negative self-talk:
- Accept yourself exactly as you are: Make peace with your appearance, even if there are things you’d like to change, and find things that you love about your body. Maybe you have great skin, nice eyes, or a cute smile. Whatever it is, focus on those things and remind yourself of them often! And if you can’t think of one, just remember that no one is perfect — we all have “flaws,” and that’s what makes us interesting! When you learn to accept yourself just as you are, it becomes easier to let go of judgment from others and yourself and to have a more positive outlook on your body.
- Challenge societal norms about “the perfect body”: Society tells us time and time again what the “perfect” body looks like but newsflash — there is no such thing! Every single person on this planet is unique and beautiful in their own way. Give yourself permission to dress however you want — there is no “right” way to dress. Wear whatever makes YOU feel good in YOUR skin, and if someone else doesn’t like how you look, who cares? You don’t need anyone else’s approval on how to dress or look.
- Fill your social media feeds with images and messages that make you feel good about your body. Unfollow anyone who regularly posts triggering or content that makes you feel bad about yourself. Find accounts that celebrate diversity, feature models of all sizes, post photos of real women (not airbrushed ones!), etc. When you see images of bodies outside “societal norms” and like your own being celebrated, it will help shift your perception of what being beautiful really means: being happy in our own skin!
- Let go of judgment towards your own body and challenge negative thoughts as they come up: This one can be tough but it’s so important! Try your best to catch yourself whenever you start judging your own appearance negatively (i.e calling yourself fat/ugly/stupid etc.) and replace those thoughts with more positive ones instead. It might take some practice but eventually it will become second nature!
- Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself: Surround yourself with people who support you and cherish you for who you are. Avoid people who make comments about how you look or your weight, and learn to recognize healthy and toxic behaviors in friends that effect how you view yourself. Be with people who remind you that you are worthy of love and happiness, and build your confidence with positive affirmations and do not try to change how you look.
We must realize and disregard toxic beauty standards, and nurture a healthy relationship with our body by accepting ourself for who we are regardless of societal norms and expectations. Self-love comes from within, so its up to us to let go of negative self-talk and embrace — and celebrate — ourselves for who we are.