Five Secrets to Finding Happiness with Your Body
"I've got serious body image issues." "I avoid looking at myself unclothed in the mirror." "When we go out together, I feel insecure with how I look."
These statements are made by real people and all the time.
According to body image expert and author James Claiborn, the media is heavily responsible for our physical insecurities, imposing unrealistic expectations on what is the ideal body for both men and women.
Media itself, however, does not guarantee that we will have body image issues. It is the story we tell ourselves when we see media that determines how we feel with our own bodies. What we do internally in thought and feeling when we see, say, a huge billboard of a swimsuit model will determine how we feel about ourselves.
Let's say I look at the billboard and tell myself "wow, she's beautiful. The bathing suit is pretty, the scenery looks nice, and she must work really hard to have a body like that." Chances are I will feel neutral at worst and positive at best when looking at the advertisement.
I can also say to myself "I can never be like that. It's not fair. How can I have any value in this world, with its heavy emphasis on physical attraction, if there are people walking around like that!" With this type of internal dialogue, I probably will feel resentment towards the model and possibly towards society at large as well as inadequate, inferior, and resentful towards my own body.
So what do we do when we are struggling in this world of media to accept and appreciate our bodies?
Here are 5 things you can do today to get you on your way:
#1 - Pay attention to your inner dialogue - Notice if the tone is positive or negative.
#2 - We all have at least 1-2 parts of our bodies that are visually pleasing. Find the parts of your body that you find appealing. If you have trouble with this, think about some of the tasks your body allows you to do such as walking, stretching, scratching an itch, or having the ability to taste your favorite food. Let yourself appreciate your body's ability to work.
#3 - Compliment Yourself. - Even if it feels unnatural and not believable, start giving yourself the compliments you imagine your lover would give you about your body. Compliment yourself in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Tell your body how much you appreciate what it does for you. If you believe in a higher power, thank your higher power for giving your body the abilities that you have noted in Step 2.
#4 - Compliment them. - When faced with an image or person that is threatening to you on a body image level, remind yourself that the other person is a human being who comes with his or her own insecurities.
There's an old story about a beautiful woman who was told her entire life that she was ugly so as not to make her too arrogant. This woman went about her whole life thinking she was ugly until one day she received a compliment. This compliment ultimately helped her become aware of her own true beauty. Don't think that just because someone is pretty, they feel it. Compliment them and appreciate their beauty. And at the same time, compliment yourself and appreciate your own.
#5 - Action. - We all have flaws - physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, spiritually - on every level we have them. If you have a physical flaw that you have the desire and ability to correct, choose a tiny action you can take today to start working on it. It's important to be aware of how much you really want to change this as well as how realistically able you are to change this. Once you find a doable action you can take, divide the task in half and start doing that half in this moment where you feel powerless over your body and body image. There's no replacement for dealing with powerlessness and hopelessness than taking action.
This article was written by Michali Friedman, LCSW of Embrace Therapy located in Queens, NY 11367. Phone: 646-396-0674. www.embracetherapy.net
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