Updated: Jun 8
We all want to live in a world where we feel comfortable and confident in our own skin. But for many of us, that goal can feel out of reach when it comes to our own bodies. Despite our best efforts to embrace body positivity and self-love, we still find ourselves struggling with negative thoughts and insecurities.
But why is it so hard to apply our body positive beliefs to ourselves? You may think it is a perfectly reasonable response for people who are socialised in a capitalist patriarchal society, which tells us that our worth is finely balanced on how attractive we are and how productive we are. But this is not the only reason.
The answer also lies in the way our brains are wired. Our brains are wired to protect us from danger and ensure our survival. This means that we have an automatic response to negative stimuli, including negative thoughts and emotions about our bodies. Our brains perceive these negative thoughts as a threat to our well-being, and they respond by trying to protect us from this threat.
The good news is that this cycle can be broken. By becoming more aware of our thoughts and patterns of behaviour, we can begin to challenge and reframe them. This requires us to slow down and take a step back from our automatic responses and to work to cultivate a desire to want to change actively rather than falling for the alluring comfort of what we know.
Here are some practical tips for breaking the cycle and applying more neutral beliefs to your body image:
Practice self-compassion: Instead of criticising and berating yourself, try to approach your thoughts and feelings with kindness and understanding. Recognise that unkind thoughts about your body are just thoughts and that they don’t define who you are. And our thoughts are a collection of pieces of information which you have learned. We may feel they are true because we either think our thoughts are absolute truth or sometimes we have come to them of our own accord, and to some degree, that's true. You have filtered information which aligns with what you already believe. But that has been pulled from information around you, like adverts or TV or gossip or relatives. This is why so many of us have societal views which are the same (and that we rage against).
When you catch yourself having thoughts about your body which are anything less than compassionate, take a moment to stop and challenge them. Ask yourself where these thoughts are coming from and who taught you that? And most importantly, who is profiting from me thinking this?
Surround yourself with positivity: Surround yourself with people and media that promote body positivity and self-love. This will help to counteract the negative messages we often receive from society about what a “perfect” body should look like.
Focus on what your body can do: Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, try to focus on what it can do. Did it make you tea today? Or digest last nights dinner? Or get you to the bus on time? Or help you read this? Don't miss the small things - for that is where the breakthroughs lie.
Seek support: Community is how we heal. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. If you would like to join some of our group work in SelfCareSchool, we are constantly working on finding new ways to think and talk this stuff into existence rather than it just being a nice theory. Talking about our struggles with body image can help to normalise them and reduce their power over us.
By making a conscious effort to apply beliefs which are more kind and considerate to our own body image, we can break the cycle of self-criticism and cultivate a safe body to live in. Your body is amazing and deserving of love and respect just the way it is. The more of us that make the decision to work on this stuff, the more space there will be for more of us.