Have you ever found yourself picking yourself apart in the mirror? From your butt, your stomach, your arms, your legs, your teeth, your laugh lines, your hair … shall I go on?
Do you even do this daily?
What’s sad, but true, is that most of us don’t consciously even realize the frequency of these negative messages we send ourselves daily. Most of us are so used to them, that we don’t even realize they’re subliminally messing with us our confidence.
In short, we women see images that – despite recognizing them as unrealistic, unattainable, and often not even real – we often times aspire to meet them and then suffer when we fail to do so. Between our personal past and the pressure from the unrealistic media images we see constantly this can lead to a poor body image that then leads to obsessive self-scrunity in the mirror, having disparaging thoughts about our body, frequently comparing our body shape/size to other people, envying a friend’s or celebrity’s body. Did you know that the current media ideal for women’s bodies and overall appearance is achievable by less than 2% of the female population?!
Our perception of our body plays a HUGE role in our self-esteem. If we are continually being critical of our bodies that often leads to feelings of inadequacy, ultimately making us feel ashamed of our bodies. And if we are being overly critical to ourselves for long periods of time, that can lead to deeply ingrained thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that cannot easily be broken.
In addition to low self-esteem, some of the more severe consequences include eating disorders, doubts of depression, smoking, alcohol abuse, and promiscuity/sex addiction.
Let’s change that and give ourselves a healthy dose of body and self love.[line]
We can stop this negative, nasty cycle and give ourselves a healthy dose of body and self love! Here are 7 strategies to help:
1 | The Message of Origin.
Before we can truly begin any change, we must face our past. A big chunk of our inner beliefs are from childhood. They are echoes from our past that try to reshape our current reality. Where do yours stem from?
Were you bullied in school? Did your parents divorce? Were you verbally abused and told you weren’t good enough? Were you sexually molested/assaulted? Did you move around a lot and never “fit in.”
This entire blog can end up being a list of all questions … but it’s up to you to identify the reoccurring echoes that are holding you back.
For me, it’s the fact that I came here from Greece as a little girl, my mother dying a year later, and feeling completely displaced in this new country where I felt like a total outcast. I was initially bullied by classmates – even invited to a sleep over just to be picked on. I had a “weird” accent. I had a different sense of humor. I was naive to the culture. Most days, I had mix-matched clothes and greasy hair because, hey, it was just me and my dad. We only had each other. And he wasn’t into fashion by any means.
I was made to feel like I was beneath everyone else because I was so different. I was the target of their entertainment.
I CLEARLY remember looking in the mirror one day. I was maybe 9 or 10. And I was wondering how I would look like when I was 17. (No idea why I chose that age.) But I was wondering if I would be pretty enough. If people would like me. What I would be doing with my life. Would I have friends.
Although my innate character was always really strong, those early years are so tender and those experiences really impacted me. My dad really did a great job raising me – especially with absolutely NO help. He always taught me to never take shit from anyone and that I could do anything I put my heart and mind to. Despite that, I had many things to work through because of the loss of my mother, the sense of belonging and my self-confidence being shattered at such a young age.
Those echoes were telling me I wasn’t “good enough,” or “pretty enough” or “part of the in-crowd.”
I could seriously write a novel on my full experience. But for now, I wanted to give you a glimpse into some of my personal echoes that have taunted me and how they impacted my self-image growing up.
So you can know you’re not alone. And go inward and tap into yours.
2 | Embrace the Facts.
Here’s the deal. 99% of everyone around you is dealing with some type of negative body image issue. Even the ones that seem super confident. And yes, even those who have amazing bodies still can rip themselves apart. Crazy!
It’s a destroying habit we all have. And in a weird twisted way, knowing this is enough to create a more realistic perspective and give ourselves a self-esteem boost by the simple fact that we are all feeling the same way! And we are all being sent the same media messages and fighting the same “invisible” battle.
We are NOT alone.
Even if you believe your particular body issue is worse than most, just look around you more carefully when you’re in a crowded area. I bet you won’t find perfection. Because it doesn’t exist 😉
Oh, and some #FACTS about Photoshop and Victoria Secret. A retoucher shares some truth bombs in this article. You know this doesn’t only happen with Victoria Secret. Do you remember the recent “Me Too” video Photoshopping with Meghan Trainor? Glad she had them add in the original!
So yeah. Remember the facts.
3 | Pledge to Not Compare.
Maybe your friend can slip into a size 4. Or maybe your friend has a flat stomach or those legs you’ve dying to have. Maybe your friend has luscious curly hair that you’ve always wanted (I bet you she wants your straight hair!) We always think it’s greener on the other side.
Besides, I know that what you’re hating about yourself is something that someone else is admiring! Doesn’t that just blow your mind?! 😉 It’s true.
You have to make a conscious choice to stop focusing on this comparison game that jars our reality.
So make a PLEDGE to not compare.
Look in the mirror – naked – and realize that you are truly BEAUTIFUL. That doesn’t mean that you don’t improve or take care of yourself, it just means you ACCEPT yourself throughout your entire journey. There’s no “end.” There’s only a constant journey of growth. So you have to draw a line in the sand, make a decision, a pledge, to LOVE yourself during the process of any change/growth. That’s the challenge, but you can do it!
Besides, it’s so much more than your body. It’s your soul, your spirit, your heart.
You have amazing qualities to offer your friends, family and associates that have nothing to do with how your body looks. When you catch yourself comparing, remember how fleeting and superficial these differences are. And you are so much more than that!
4 | Focus on Health First.
I gave up on “six pack abs,” which will be another blog post fully dedicated on that subject.
This helped me shift my focus from something superficial to something greater and more important: my health. That focus helped me look at the larger picture, which by default gave me the patience to be in the game for the long haul. Instead of “I want hot abs in 6 weeks,” which isn’t realistic, my friends.
Rather than striving to be “physically perfect”, instead commit to being more physically fit. That’s a more attainable goal for everyone that will keep you focused on your DAILY actions, rather than trying to cram 1 year’s worth of no exercise and poor diet into 30 days of results 😉
Learn what a healthy body weight is for your height, and work toward maintaining or attaining that weight.
Start where you’re at now. Not where you were a year ago or even 2 months ago. Find a fitness program you enjoy, and work towards creating a DAILY fitness habit. Pay attention to everything you put in your mouth, including the seemingly innocent drinks (they have many hidden sugars and carbs). Resist empty calories and junk food that do not FUEL your body. Choose a diet heavy on lean protein, veggies and fresh fruits. Last, but not least, drink PLENTY of water daily and get your beauty sleep, darlings!
By simply focusing on your health, instead of one or two body parts (that you’re obsessing over), this will help take control of unrealistic expectations, quick fixes and yo-yo dieting. As a result you’ll feel better physically, mentally, emotionally … and as a result your self-esteem will soar!
And … by doing this some of those goals you were trying to “quick fix” may actually come into fruition! My abs are finally peaking! 🙂
5 | Change What You Can.
We can still improve ourselves while at the same time accepting ourselves. Loving ourselves will fuel the motivation for change.
If you are overweight, you can definitely take action to lose weight. If you have problems with your teeth, you can go see a dentist or orthodontist. If you feel anxious or down, you can (and should) seek therapy. I recently had a friend see a hair specialist because her hair was thinning. With the doctor’s special hair shampoo, treatment and masks, her hair is thicker and healthier looking.
Maybe there’s something you’ve always felt uncomfortable or embarrassed about, and it requires minor surgery to change. If you feel it will free you from self-consciousness, and it is NOT life-threatening, then go for it!
If you have a body image issue that is severely impacting your self-esteem, and you can do something (within reason of course) to improve the issue … then DO IT!
Just make sure it’s for you and ensure this won’t cause further self-esteem issues by having on-going surgeries to mask deeper issues. Because there’s a diminishing point of return with procedures and surgeries, especially as we get older. At some point, we must gracefully allow nature to takes its course and accept our aging and changing body.
6 | Live OUT LOUD!
Live your life OUT LOUD! The more you do that, the more you own the process of the “get healthy inside out” journey, and the more it keeps you accountable.
The best self-esteem booster is creating a life so full that you’re too happy and focused to worry about your appearance in that way. Instead of obsessing about your body, you’re more consumed with carrying out your life passion and purpose.
Find work you love. Surround yourself with interesting people who LIFT you. Share your beautiful talents with others. Travel to amazing places. Be part of a cause. Go back to school. Help others. Be present and mindful.
Life moves fast. We must make the most of it! So why not create a life by design. A life YOU designed.
This mindset will make you wildly attractive to other people.
7 | Seek Help.
This is so important and near and dear to my heart. I have OCD anxiety and understand the importance of therapy, community, support and understanding when you’re on an inner journey of healing.
But let’s face it. I think EVERY SINGLE PERSON in this world should go to therapy. The world would be a better place. I personally believe it’s important to get both spiritual and psychological help. But at minimum, psychological.
And guess what. That does NOT mean you’re crazy. It means you have something to work through. Just like every other human being on this planet.
Now that I’ve said everyone should seek therapy, it’s even MORE important for those who have eating disorders, depression, anxiety or any other mental health problem.
Although mental illness is starting to be “accepted” and considered a serious medical condition, research still suggests that there are still major stigmas around it. I believe it’s those stigmas that keep people silent and avoid getting the help and support they need due to fear of acceptance. And when it comes to healthcare, we still have a LONG WAY to go before mental health patients are treated with the respect afforded physical health patients.
Although this article is a few years old, it’s still pretty powerful in showing that mental illness is more prominent than most think.
What is mental illness? Anything that affects our psychological and mental well-being to the extreme. And that has an affect on our physical well-being.
So if you’re experiencing severe depression, anxiety, heavy drinking, eating disorders, etc – those are all a form of a mental/emotional problem. Please seek help. Take care of yourself. Know that you are not alone.
And know everyone should get help for one reason or another. That should take the pressure off 😉[line]
Always be true to yourself. Remember to fill your heart and spirt before trying to change the physical.
And remember my friends:
↠ Embrace your imperfections.
↠ Embrace your unique beauty.
↠ Embrace your journey.