Every day we are bombarded with media messages about how to look, how to act, and how to feel. People often compare themselves to these media images and beauty standards and assume that it’s not only ideal, but also achievable. However, this doesn’t take into account that these images are often altered or distorted. Countless studies have found that these media messages impact how we feel about ourselves and can lead to a negative body image.
What is negative body image? It’s the negative thoughts and feelings one may experience related to one’s body. It is a negative perception of one’s self due to a perceived inconsistency between one’s actual and ideal body. A negative body image can lead to serious negative effects including eating disorders, depression, anxiety and an overall lower quality of life.
One way to begin shifting the critical, negative voice towards kindness and appreciation is through compassion. Self-compassion can help promote a more positive body image. It allows a space for kindness and understanding towards ourselves and a recognition that our flaws are part of a shared human experience. It also helps us build a connection to how we are feeling without the need for judgment or criticism.
6 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion to Cultivate a More Positive Body Image:
- Practice mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help us recognize our thoughts and feelings without judging or criticizing. It can also be used to practice more intuitive eating. You can try a guided meditation, take a nature walk, practice paced breathing, or whatever mindfulness practice resonates with you.
- Change your perspective: Try imaging how you would speak to a friend who was struggling with negative thoughts. What would you say to them? Can you try saying this to yourself as well?
- Appreciation: Instead of focusing on what your body is not, or what it can’t do – change that focus to appreciate what it CAN DO. This can be especially helpful if you have specific areas of your body that bring you negative thoughts. For example, if I have the thought, “I hate my legs” then I could focus on what I appreciate about them “I love that my legs allow me to dance.”
- Top 10: Keep a top 10 list of what you like about yourself. It doesn’t have to be related to how you look! When negative body image pops up, pull out your list.
- Kindness: Do something nice for yourself to show your body you appreciate all it does! Take a bubble bath, get a massage, take a walk, find a peaceful place to read, etc.
- Reset: Take a look at your social media accounts. If you follow people or accounts who impact your body image negatively, think about if you really need to follow that account. Or take a social media break! Get rid of those apps that have you feeling worse! Instead, surround yourself with more positive, supportive social messaging.
Kaitlyn Patterson, MA, LPA is a licensed psychological associate who treats clients individually and through groups at Chrysalis Center. Kaitlyn’s clinical interests include eating disorders, substance use, and mood disorders.