Cultivating a positive body image is not an easy task. It seems like nowadays we are bombarded by a lot of information on what is the healthiest option in terms of food, exercise, or vitamins. Social media and the internet constantly show us video after blog post about what are exercises that are the best for burning fat and toning muscle. Fad diets such as Keto and Whole Thirty are taking our culture by storm for their effectiveness at burning fat. Additionally, we are flooded with images on what is a healthy or attractive body versus what isn’t. With all of these conflicting messages hitting us from all sides, is it really hard to guess why we tend to be dissatisfied or even hate our bodies? We are hit with the constant message of our natural bodies aren’t enough. When we aren’t satisfied with our bodies, we are encouraged to change whatever it is that we don’t like….by whatever means necessary. With this type of messaging being pushed our way we are being told that our bodies are unacceptable and need to be changed. While improving our selves and our health is not a bad thing, it can become a bad thing especially when it involves hurting ourselves in the process (i.e. restricting food intake, working out excessively, etc.). So how do we develop a better relationship with our bodies? How do we look at them with kindness and affection instead of with disdain?
First, we have to realize where our identity really lies. Our bodies are just a part of who we are, not the end all be all. Our identities are so much more then our physical bodies, our accomplishments, our personal property, our money, or our sexuality. The problem becomes when we put all of our identity in those things, and those things are very changeable. We have to put our identities in something permanent. That could mean that we put our identity in something like our faith, morals, or even ethics. Those are the things that never fail us when push comes to shove, and those are the hings that usually last the longest in our lives.
Second, we have to recognize that our bodies have limitations when it comes to different things and that’s okay. Our bodies aren’t meant to meet one overall standard of beauty. We all have different body types each with different needs. Because of this simple fact, it is impossible for any of us to meet a specific standard for beauty. Also what our bodies need to be healthy is very different from others. For us to expect to fit in to a certain standard of health and beauty is completely unreasonable. Our goal for our bodies should always be focused on them being healthy all the time based on the recommendations of our primary care physicians or other health professionals. Going off of social media ideas when it comes to fitness or even diet often tends to cause us to push our bodies towards their limits and often in not very healthy ways.
Third, we have to accept our bodies as they are. For some people they will never be able to meet a certain weight due to medical conditions. For others they have scars from different accidents or injuries that they suffered throughout the course of their lives. Every body has some imperfection that will never be fully resolved one way or the others. But we can’t focus on these imperfections completely. If we continue focusing on the imperfections or things that we don’t like, we will never learn to accept our bodies as they are. At worst, we will continue trying to change them in unhealthy ways because we can’t stand how they look. How do we do that? We need to start looking at the good things about our bodies such as how strong they are, how we can challenge them when we exercise, how our hair feels or looks, or even how good we look in our favorite outfit.
Fourth, we have to not compare our bodies to others. As I said before, our bodies will never be completely alike. To compare ourselves to others and expect them to fit into a certain mold is unrealistic and unhealthy. Also the mold that we might be trying to fit them into may not healthy one that we don’t need to fit into. We have to accept that our bodies are wonderfully unique and are meant to be unique. Because of this uniqueness, we will never completely fit into a mold. If we embrace this uniqueness, we open ourselves up to less pressure to be like everyone else and we also open ourselves up to being more confident in who we are as individuals.
Having a positive body image is not an easy skill to develop. The biggest hurdle to get past is this idea that we have to be perfect in everyone’s eyes, especially our own. But we need to realize that perfection is not attainable. And that is okay! We don’t need to be perfect whatsoever! The only things that we need to have a balanced perspective when it comes to our physical bodies.