Do you ever think, "if only I could stop thinking so negatively about my body?"
Body affirmations are positive statements that aim to change the emphasis from negative body thoughts to more positive ones. They can be pretty powerful if done right. In this article, we'll explore what makes a good affirmation compared to affirmations that are likely to fall flat (make you feel worse) and how to use them.
Why Use Affirmations for Body Image?
In our appearance-focussed culture, we've become so attuned to making disparaging comments about our bodies that sometimes we don't even know we're doing it.
Our bodies are living beings, and they do a stellar job adapting and responding to the plethora of situations presented to them every day. Still, we often don't stop to recognize these. Instead, we think of the things we don't like. These are typically physically focused.
"I don't like how my skin looks today."
"I wish my ______ was more muscular."
"If only I could change this part of my body."
Every negative body thought can chip away at our resolve like an overzealous woodpecker.
Positive body affirmations serve to change this negative inner-dialogue with more affirming and positive statements about our body that can shed light and focus on the fantastic things that our bodies do for us instead. But there's a right and wrong way to use affirmations which we'll chat about next.
What Makes a Good Affirmation for a Positive Body Image?
It's not a case of saying positive things about your body, and you'll magically feel more positive about it. Our brains are already clued into this and have a well-attuned B.S. radar running! In other words, if you don't truly believe it deep down, it will do little to help your body image.
So here are some principles for what makes a good, and most importantly, effective positive body affirmation!
1. Keep it Realistic
Let's keep it real; we're not going to love everything about what our bodies do. It's just not possible despite what some body-love advocates might leave you thinking.
Things crop up, illness, injury, physical change as we grow, developmental changes can bring unwanted little body-bonuses.
Such affirmation statements like "I love everything about myself" won't fly, and your brain will repel these faster than a bolt of lightning.
Instead, I like to focus on smaller factual statements about the things that my body tries to do to take care of me, even though it's not always perfect at it.
Let's unpack an example. Here's an affirmation from our Body Affirmations zine:
"I am grateful to my expressive eyes for helping speak my truth
when I struggle to find the right words"
With this affirmation, we're not focussing on the appearance of the eye per se as being 'beautiful' because this can be problematic if we don't honestly believe this. Instead, it focuses on one thing that our eyes might help us within our day-to-day life that we wouldn't typically think about.
Instead, this affirmation presents a realistic statement that we can't argue with too much. When we're sad we express tears; we may look downward, our eyes become red and swollen. When happy, our eyes may squint with our brimming smile, or become big and dilated when we're surprised by something.
Using affirmations in this way can help us appreciate that little extra thing our eyes do over and above their appearance.
2. Avoid Affirmations that are Strictly Appearance Focussed
While I like to target affirmations that address body areas, I might feel more critical about— which are often appearance-based. I try to steer it away from being too physically focussed or judging a physical attribute. For example, "My wrinkles are beautiful."
While this might be true, and I might think this is realistic, I feel like we can go deeper into the significance of our wrinkles and what they represent to our lives to give them more depth of meaning. For example:
"My wrinkles are a welcomed symbol of my life experiences."
This affirmation brings more meaning to what wrinkles represent— wisdom, life experiences, history. You can feel a deeper sense of appreciation for all that wrinkles might represent about you.
Bringing that human (imperfect) element to affirmations is essential to them being a helpful tool to support body image.
How to Use Affirmations
Now that we know what makes a valuable and effective affirmation, how do you go about integrating them into a practice that works for you? The approach will likely vary for everyone, but here are some suggestions for using affirmations day-to-day.
1. Make Affirmations Physically Accessible
Have your affirmations readily available so that you can read them without it being too much trouble and disruption to your usual routine. You might like to pop a couple of affirmations on a post-it note on the mirror to read while you're getting ready for work.
Another idea is to have them on the nightstand to read one when you wake up or turn it in for the night. Having them available in a journal can also help if you are feeling some negative thinking popping up. You can whip it open and for a quick reminder too. If your affirmations are sitting in a drawer, they'll soon be forgotten and not used to keep them at the ready.
2. Stick to One Affirmation at a Time
Try not to flood yourself with too much positivity in one dose. It can feel overbearing.
Start small, I tend to read one affirmation at a time, or each day, give me time to think about it, mull over the statement and reflect on what it means to me. This helps to have a more lasting effect, and it isn't too arduous to fit into a daily routine.
3. Say Affirmations Aloud
If you can, that is, speak the affirmation aloud so that you can hear it. Saying an affirmation aloud makes the statement more formal and something you can then take a moment to think about the statement, let it sit with you.
Merely reading an affirmation quietly, it just gets washed away with other thoughts coming and going.
Ready to use Affirmations to Support your Body Image?
Affirmations can be an effective strategy that you can apply at home to help support and improve body image. They don't have to be an overbearing exercise, but one statement that you can speak aloud and ponder over during that day. Don't forget to keep them realistic and stick to affirmations that help you reflect on some of the other interesting facts about your intricate body.