What happens when you’ve reached your goals, and you still feel inadequate walking poolside in a bathing suit? How do you shut off the voice in your head that uses comparison as a weapon and equates hard earned achievement to lies? I’ve seen so many women who are all beautiful and physically healthy bash their own image. I’m not immune to insecurities, but lately I’ve seen body insecurity become a socially accepted trend-even addiction. There is so much focus on striving and dreaming for everything we don’t have rather than appreciating what we are already blessed with. No matter your size or age, having a healthy body image is difficult to obtain and even more difficult to maintain.
Here are some reminders I’ve found has helped me achieve and keep a healthy body image and sense of self.
1. Stop Body Shaming Others
I’ve realized that for many years, every time I see an actress on TV, people on the street, or in the gym working out next to me I’d immediately pin point their flaws and go over them like a list. “If only this, this, and this were different then they would be gorgeous.” How we view others is a reflection of how we view ourselves. “If only my eyes were bigger, my stomach was flatter, and my legs didn’t giggle then I would be pretty.” One day I decided that this type of deprecating point of view wasn’t helping anyone. It was only lessening my appreciation and kindness towards others and myself. When we choose to see others in a positive light it helps us as individuals appreciate the beauty in everything including ourselves. Rather than reflexively look at the flaws we see in people in the spotlight and in our everyday life, try to change your list of flaws to a list of compliments. Suddenly your mind and way of thinking will change and you’ll help foster a more positive image of self.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparison is a curse. It demeans your self image and almost always leaves you in worse shape than when you started. The truth of the matter is you will never look like the person you wish you could be, because you can only be yourself! Stop idolizing the women drenched in makeup and photoshop and learn to appreciate how far you’ve come. Whenever I get discouraged by my weight or stamina during a workout, I like to think about the long journey it took just for me to get here. Focus on your accomplishments. The only person you need to compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.
3. Strive for Health
Beauty is only skin deep. Beauty fades. Both are cliches and both are absolutely true. Society puts a far too disproportional importance on physical beauty. But there are so many things that are far more important than being a certain size or shape. Being kind to others, showing compassion to those who are less fortunate than ourselves is a beautiful way to live your life. Being a good daughter, or sister, or wife, or mother is such a greater accomplishment than fitting into a certain pair of jeans. The less importance you put on the way you look the happier you will be. Also, don’t forget that emotional and mental health is crucial for your well being. So often we brush these two things aside and focus only on the physical. However, to truly lead a beautiful and healthy life your heart and your mind weighs far heavier on your health than the way you look. I talk about striving for health in greater detail in my Choose Healthy Not Skinny post.
4. Train For Yourself
One day I was on the treadmill and my mental mantra was “I need to exercise so people will stop critiquing me and I can get a hot boyfriend.” What a load of crap! I now laugh at how ridiculous that sounds. If you stop to think about all of the ridiculous even laughable things we tell ourselves we’ll begin to see how terribly society pressures us to be perfect. The definition of beauty and perfection changes every couple of months in society. Just think about butts! First it was a small butt. Then a toned butt. Now it’s a Kardashian butt. It’s all total bologna! Never strive to fit into society’s definition of beauty because that definition is fickle, superficial, and meaningless in itself. There will always be someone who will critique the way you look so the least we can do is silence the negative voice in our head. Also, I’d like to point out that I disagree with the idea that you should accept yourself exactly the way you are and use that as an excuse to never workout or eat right. Yes, accept yourself but if you have a certain aspect of your body that you can change and would like to change, go for it! Work your ass off for a new set of muscles or toned legs. But let the motivation behind it be for yourself alone. Because at the end of the day you have to be the one who is happy with yourself so that you can ignore the banter from everyone else.
5. Love Others
Lately, I’ve been bombarded with images and “inspirational” quotes on loving yourself and how loving yourself is the cure to all body insecurities. But I find that the more we love others, the less focus we put on ourselves, the happier we become. Body image, self image, beauty, physical satisfaction, it’s all a very self-centered foundation to live upon. But if we focus our eyes outside ourselves, away from the mirror, and into the world everything looks clearer. The moment we forget about ourselves by loving others is the moment I’ve found that the way I look is no longer an issue. Exercising transforms into a way to stay fit instead of a never ending road to unobtainable perfection. My mental and emotional health improve the less I focus on my flaws. So rather than say the predictable “Love Yourself” I’d like to say “Love Others” because that is where I have found the greatest joy lies.
I hope these few tips give you something new to think about when it comes to having a healthy body image. Ultimately, I feel like being healthy rather than aspiring to society’s version of beauty, and focusing on someone and something greater than yourself has made me the happiest I can be and given me a positive sense of self.