12 steps to positive body image and self esteem
As an eating disorder survivor I know how someone’s perception of their body’s image can be completely distorted. It is indeed a big struggle to get back to where you were before it all happened, regain your self-acceptance and start building your relationship with yourself from scratch. It is okay to feel like you’re sometimes moments away from a new relapse – especially during the early stages of your recovery. However I can assure you that although it takes much of your time and effort, it is not impossible to recover and regain your physical and mental health. Here is what I have learned from years of therapy and has helped me a lot in terms of putting myself above society’s standards of beauty.
Do self-affirmations daily!
What you think on the inside shows on the outside, so tell yourself how beautiful you look today and every day! You’ve probably been mean to yourself for long enough, but it hasn’t helped you. Be kind with yourself while looking in the mirror. Focus on all the features of you that you like and remind yourself that it's okay to love and be proud of what you see. You may like the shape or the colour of your hair, your fingernails, the shape of your nose, your lips, your big eyes, your legs, anything! Make a huge list! Embrace your beauty because it is one of a kind!
Wear clothes you feel comfortable in
You should feel good in what you wear on a daily basis. Don't wear clothes that feel too tight or restrict your movement and don’t buy clothes that are too small for you in an attempt to remind yourself that you need to lose weight! Don’t promise yourself that you will fit in those shorts in a month or so! Dress for the body you have NOW and to feel comfortable, not to impress others.
Cut labels off of your clothes
The size on the tags shouldn't dictate your mood for the day and it doesn’t define your worth! You need to remind yourself that what is written on the clothing labels is just a number. There are loads of brands out there, and each brand differs from others in terms of size. My size may be SMALL for brand A but I may need MEDIUM for brand B. And if some clothes feel tight remember: it’s not your body that doesn’t fit in those clothes; it’s the clothes do not fit your beautiful body.
Get rid of the bathroom scale
If your weight needs to be monitored, leave that up to your dietitian. How much you weigh should never affect your self-esteem or dictate your worth. Besides, weight is also just a number! Trust me, many of my clients may not see the number on the scale drop even though they feel lighter after two weeks of following their nutritional plan simply because it is their body composition that changes (they lose fat mass and increase muscle mass so their total body weight does not change much). Even throughout the day your weight changes simply because of what and how much you eat, because of salt/fluid changes, hormonal imbalances and bowel status.
Fashion magazines – not a good idea
Most fashion magazines focus on an ideal of beauty that is not something anyone in real-life can be. Don’t forget that those that are featured in those magazines have tons of people to transform them into what their final photo looks like - stylists, make-up artists, photographers, lighting specialists and people who master Photoshop! Unless you can read those magazines knowing that their content is pure fantasy, it's definitely better to stay away from them.
Remind yourself all the reasons you should be proud of yourself
I’m sure each one of you has hundreds of reasons to love yourselves. Maybe you are kind, loving, caring, creative, intelligent or compassionate. Think of all the reasons you deserve to love yourself to bits and write them down in a list. Make sure you update that list regularly and refer back to it every time you need a little inspiration or a reminder of your strength!
Treat your body kindly
Do nice things for your body and spend quality time with yourself, because that is the first person you need to get along with. Once in a while get a body massage, get your nails done, or go to the hair dressers for a make-over. Pamper yourself to long hot baths by candlelight and relaxing music, watch a movie, read a book, or simply get together with a friend. Treat yourself with your favourite body lotions and take power naps when you need to! Show yourself some love, like you do with other people!
Challenge yourself by doing things you wouldn’t normally do, or wouldn’t do alone
This is going to be difficult and challenging in the beginning. But think of all the things you are scared to do - maybe leaving the house without makeup, leaving your hair natural for a day, or going to the beach no matter how bad you think you look in your bikini. Your makeup, hair, body type or clothes do not define you and should not affect your self-confidence. Go places you'd never go alone. Maybe go watch a movie by yourself? Or enjoy a cup of coffee at the local cafe and read the newspaper? How about a fancy restaurant dinner for one? You should start hanging out with yourself for yourself, and once you do that, don’t forget to give enough praise to yourself!
Watch out for negative self-talk
When that little evil voice pops up in your mind trying to remind you all the reasons you shouldn’t feel happy and content with yourself, try turning those negative thoughts into positives. When you find yourself being self-critical, immediately stop and pay yourself a compliment! It is ok when those thoughts pop up - every one of us has their good and bad times with ourselves. What matters is the way we elaborate those negative thoughts. Think of it like you are talking to a friend who comes towards you telling you that they don’t want to hang out for the night because they feel bad about themselves. What would you tell them? Wouldn’t you remind them how beautiful and unique they are? Would you criticize all those children around you for being themselves? Are you focused on the weight of a six-year-old while you watch them play? Wouldn't you protect a child that is being bullied for their weight? Well, you don't deserve to be bullied either, and especially by yourself! Talk and pay compliments to yourself like you do to others!
Be active and enjoy life
Exercise is something that helps improve the relationship and connection with ourselves and our bodies. Find a hobby and stick to it and your body will pay you back for it. I don’t mean working out for three hours a day, seven days a week. I mean taking up yoga, knitting or dance classes, going for a thirty-minute walk five days a week in the park, or taking a bike ride during sunset hours. Do anything that feeds and nurtures your soul and makes you happy!
Your beauty is one of a kind!
We are all different because we're supposed to be that way. It would be an incredibly boring world if we all looked exactly the same. It's a truly special experience to look around and realize that everyone is beautiful, no matter what their body type, hair, or skin colour is. There is endless beauty in everyone, and that includes you! Remember that those who truly love you, love you for YOU, not for your looks. It means no more, and no less than that.
I hope you find this post helpful.
Please do not hesitate to let me know what you think and share your experiences in the comment section!
Inner peace and light,