You’re not alone
Body image issues affect people of all types, shapes, ages and sizes. Some of the best things to do to improve your body image have nothing to do with dieting or trying to change your body. Here are tips from a psychiatrist and coach to work on changing how you think and feel about your body.
Think of your body size like your shoe size
You don’t spend hours in front of the mirror pining to be the ‘perfect’ size 7 shoe, so why give that treatment to the rest of your body? You shouldn’t, says clinical psychiatrist, Dr Susan Albers. “It can be a big leap to go straight from ‘I hate my body’ to ‘I love my body,’ so I tell my clients to work on acceptance, first. We accept our foot size and don’t try to change it, and we can do the same with our body,” she says.
Have a love fest with your body
Just like there are parts of your body that you may not love, there are also parts you probably do. Remember and celebrate those parts of yourself. If you struggle to find something positive to feel about yourself, Dr Albers suggests remembering the compliments you’ve received from family, friends or strangers. “Think about the positive feedback you’ve gotten, such as ‘I love your hair,’ or ‘Your eyes are stunning,’” she says.
Embrace the notion that everyone is different
Instead of comparing yourself to models or celebrities you follow on Instagram, switch your mindset and focus on how everyone is different and no person is better or worse than another. “Comparison is such a destructive bomb to self-esteem. Don’t think, ‘she’s better,’ ‘she’s skinnier,’ or ‘I’m fatter,’” says Dr Albers. “Instead, focus your mind on how everyone is different and just because they may weigh less, it doesn’t mean they’re better than you.”
Avoiding mirrors can be empowering
“Removing additional mirrors can be helpful in shifting your focus from how you look to how you feel,” says Dr Albers. Check to be sure you’re stain- and wrinkle-free, then step out of frame.
Focusing on what makes you happy can actually make you happy
It can be hard to ignore your physical appearance – in fact, nearly 85 per cent of women report opting out of social activities when they feel bad about how they look. But that’s a big mistake. When you’re feeling down about yourself, Dr Albers suggests actively seeking out an activity that brings you joy. “When you’re doing something you love, whether it’s pottery or exercise or reading a good book, your focus on your appearance goes out the window, because you’re so in the moment and focusing on other things,” she says.
Invest in three fabulous outfits
We all have those mornings when it seems like nothing in the closet fits how we want it to that day. Stave off a permanent bad mood by stacking your wardrobe with a few outfits you always feel good in and that are really comfy. “Wear those when you’re having a day where you don’t feel good in anything,” says Dr Albers.
Stop looking at clothing sizes because they don’t matter
Whether you’re a size 8 or a size 18, constantly looking at clothing tag sizes can become a vicious cycle of self-hate – plus, each clothing brand fits differently, so one size won’t always fit all. “I recommend taking three different sizes into the fitting room and not looking at the size when you try them on,” says Dr Albers. “Nobody sees the size, so focus on which pair of jeans you really feel comfortable in.” The more comfortable you feel in an outfit, the more confidently you’ll carry yourself and the better you’ll feel.
Write yourself kind messages and leave them around
“Put notes of positive inspiration around to remind yourself to focus on the big picture, instead of obsessing over the little imperfections,” says Dr Albers. Post sticky notes with positive affirmations like, “You look great today!” on the bathroom mirror, or pick up a tube of bright lipstick and scribble them right on the reflection.
Striking a power pose can boost your confidence
While some research seems to debunk the notion that a power pose (making your body more physically expansive) can enhance your life and confidence, Dr Albers still believes it’s worth a shot – and it certainly won’t harm anything. “Practise poses of confidence,” she says. “People read a lot from your body posture.” Plus, a 54-study analysis says posture affects emotions and power posing is worth researching further. Try standing with your feet spread apart, back straight, chest out, and hands on your hips, before leaving the house.
It’s OK to accept compliments, even if you don’t believe they’re true
“When we don’t feel good about ourselves, it’s natural to excuse people’s compliments or turn them down by talking negatively about ourselves in return,” says Dr Albers. “Instead, be open to them and practise saying, ‘Thank you,’ even if you don’t believe them at that moment. The more you start taking compliments instead of shutting them down, the better you’ll feel in the long-run.”
Use social media as inspiration
It can be all too easy to fall into the abyss that is #bodygoals on Instagram. To keep it positive, unfollow any accounts that constantly make you feel bad about yourself. “Only follow people who are positive and inspiring,” says Dr Albers. “Scrolling through your phone and seeing only positive messages can really shift your mood.” Unfollowing people and profiles that don’t serve you is one way to have a healthier relationship with social media.
Shame and guilt don’t sustain long-term motivation
“Those negative feelings might motivate you for a day, but what you end up doing is avoiding the things you feel bad about, so then you’re no longer making progress,” says Dr Albers. If you do catch yourself talking down about yourself, follow it up with something positive.
Put a positive spin on your desire to change
It’s perfectly fine to want to change things about your body. The key is to view those changes as positive instead of negative. That means instead of saying, “I need to lose weight, my thighs are so fat,” think to yourself, “I’m going to tone these thighs of mine. Focus on changing to be stronger, better and healthier,” says Dr Albers.
Don’t go shopping unless you feel great
If you’re having a ‘bad hair day,’ not even the excitement of a new outfit can make you feel good in it. Save your shopping spree for a day when you’re feeling your best, advise the experts.
It’s OK to say “no”
“Part of building confidence is having good boundaries,” says Dr Albers. “Practice saying ‘no’ to situations that you know will make you uncomfortable or unhappy. Eventually, it’ll just roll off the tongue,” says Dr Albers.
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