It's not a good body image day. The physical self-analysis and critique are flowing from your lips like a waterfall. You try to stop but can't break the cycle of thinking negatively about your body.
What do you do? You've been struggling for a long time now, trying to bury it. Does this sound familiar? Whatever the reason for it, it can feel overwhelming and sad, and you might feel alone. But trust me, you're not, and there are things that you can do to help get through these challenging body image days.
Read on to learn how to start to feel more positively about your body again.
Start by treating yourself and your body with more compassion.
It's okay and normal to have bad body image days. It's also normal to feel upset or angry with your body from time to time. Things happen, we get sick, you might feel like our body isn't doing what you'd hope for.
What would you say to a friend going through a hard time? I'd hazard a guess you'd be kind, supportive, and encouraging. You might even take your friend out to distract them for a while. But when it comes to ourselves, we often don't pay ourselves the same courtesy. Instead, we engage in harsh inner-criticism that you'd never say that to a friend!
Self-compassion starts by acknowledging this is a tough time and then being gentle on yourself as a result. It may help to label the feeling you're experiencing. For example, "this is a bad body image day." By acknowledging, the emotion you can then take steps to look after yourself in this time. To listen to yourself and to do things that can support your wellbeing is a beautiful act of self-compassion. Be sure to check out some of our self-care zines for ideas to treat yourself with more kindness each day.
"having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness." - Dr. Kristin Neff
Resist the urge to compare yourself to others
Research shows that many body image issues arise from the numerous physical ideas presented in the media and our culture from a young age. These media exposures can leave you feeling like you don't measure up to these physical standards.
When you're having a bad body image day, you might feel tempted to get online and look for solutions or compare your situation with friends or celebrities. But often, you're just looking at other people's highlight reel of their best moments. The worst thing you can do for your own body image is compare yourself to others.
While struggling to come to terms with having alopecia, I used to feel tempted to look up images of people with thick luscious hair! You can see where that's headed? It was never going to lead to me feeling better about my situation.
When you notice the temptation to compare your situation to someone else, try with all your strength, walk away, do anything to not go there, and not engage in this practice. We'll cover more about how to do this in the next sections.
"To compare yourself to others is to forget the uniqueness of your own journey." - Ram Dass
Get lost in the art of distraction.
"Avoid getting distracted" is what we often learn from a young age. However, there are times when distracting yourself can benefit wellbeing.
If you notice you're stuck ruminating about your body or checking yourself in the mirror over and over again. Try distracting yourself with an activity. For example, if you enjoy being creative, channel this energy into doing something creative like a craft activity, drawing, or writing. If creative pursuits aren't your thing, distract yourself in other ways like calling a friend or getting out of the house, even if it's just for a short moment. Distraction is an excellent way to break the cycle in challenging moments.
Change the focus to body function instead of body features.
If you find that you're critical of how your body looks on the outside, it can help try to change the focus instead by learning ways to appreciate how your body tries to support you from the inside—this philosophy is known as function-over-feature.
For example, if you notice that you're critical of the way your nose looks. Try to reframe this thought instead by thinking of what your nose is trying to do to support you. Your nose has a few critical jobs over an above smelling. Noses also filter and warm the air we breathe - interesting!
You can see where this is going? By moving your attention to the nose's function, you can start to recognize how vital your nose is to make you comfortable with warm filtered air - think of the brain freeze if it didn't do this job!
It's essential to recognize that your body may not always get things right, but it still tries to make things better as much as it can. And if you can turn some negative body thoughts to these activities, it may help realize that your body is on your side.
Know your triggers and take steps to protect your body image
What are some triggers that set you on a path to feeling negative about your body? Is it when you spend time with certain people? How about when viewing individual social media accounts. Is there a particular time of day that you find more challenging?
Think about this, and write any triggers down.
The next step is to find ways to minimize these triggers and replace them with positive inputs instead. This could include surrounding yourself with positive people. Moving your body in ways that you enjoy and feel right for you. And avoiding situations that feel triggering during sensitive times.
Making sure that your body is your number one priority is important. Listening to it, if something doesn't feel good, or you notice feelings of rumination and negative thinking starting, then having the discipline to step back, reflect and put a strategy in place that facilitates growth and healing.
Knowing what triggers feeling negative about your body can empower you to take action and make changes to address challenges head-on.
It's time to take charge of your body image
Tough body image days will pop up. The important thing is to recognize when you're struggling and take steps to treat yourself with the compassion your body deserves and protect it from the things that can leave you feeling bad about yourself.
If you'd like to learn more about body image and ways to improve it, explore our body image zines, workbooks, and guides.