The majority of women and plenty of men don’t like what they see when they look in the mirror. In fact, some go as far as to hate seeing what they look like to the point that they avoid looking at themselves and hate having to take their picture.
In their mind’s eye, their body flaws are magnified. They experience feelings of shame and when they decide that they want to make changes, they carry these feelings of shame over into their fitness plan.
If you’re like most people, you’ve experienced a time in your life when you didn’t like what you saw and wished that you could have a better looking body. Studies have shown that body image issues are often linked with low self-esteem.
But no one is born with low self-esteem. The eroding of the confidence you have in yourself and the acceptance for your appearance is eroded, often beginning in childhood and lasting into adulthood.
The erosion is caused by childhood situations where you may have been teased or bullied for the way you look, dress or speak. You may not even realize that what you experienced affected you because you internalized it.
Once you reached adulthood, you may have had someone hurl insults at you. Since a great portion of life is now online, maybe a perfect stranger made an unkind comment and you held on that because it seemed to underscore the same type of thing you’ve told yourself about your body.
Negative body image perceptions also come from others’ perception of what the perfect body should look like. A lot of this is found in the media. The media changes your self-acceptance level because it projects what you should be, what you should look like, and shows you that you’re essentially falling short of that level.
You’ll see this on television shows, movies, in videos, and in magazines. The ideal body image is fed to your subconscious on an almost continual reel. It leads to a dissatisfaction among women and men – even if you used to think that the way that your body looked was normal and you accepted that.
What you should realize is that the shows, movies, videos and the magazines you read are selling you an idea of perfection that doesn’t exist. In real life, there are no perfect camera angles and professional lighting to make sure all your facial angles are made to look exceptionally beautiful.
There is no makeup artist on hand to make sure that you have the exact right contours so that you look underweight. The world is in the business of selling you a product – whether it’s entertainment or a physical product – and businesses point out your supposed flaws and supposed shortcomings so that you’ll buy the product in your quest for body perfection.
These business shame you into opening up your wallet.
The first step in giving yourself a body image makeover is found in learning to love and accept the body that you have. If you have issues that have hindered your acceptance, then those issues have to be dealt with.
Anything that lingers and still carries the power of shame from your childhood or adulthood needs to be eradicated so that you can move on into freedom. Once the issues are dealt with, then you have the foundation to start building a more powerful image of yourself.
What you find with many issues is that it’s not just the negative voice from other people that plays in your mind, but it’s your own voice as well. Far too many men and women feed into those body image wounds by calling themselves names.
They tell themselves that they’re fat, ugly, and that they’ll never be as good as whoever it is they admire. As much as you have to eradicate the negativity that festered within you from others, you have to also eradicate it from your own negative self talk.
Rather than speak to ourselves with love and kindness, we’re often our own worst critic. We rip ourselves up over the way we dress, how tall or short we are, how heavy or thin we are, the lines on our face, the saggy areas, the imperfections and the list goes on and on.
You have to learn to speak to yourself in a way that’s positive and full of love. Everything that you dwell on about yourself should be positive. Any unkind thought or self-talk should be shut down.
You might not realize that the way that you speak to yourself will lead to how you treat yourself. If you tell yourself that you’re ugly, that you’re too fat, that no one will accept you as you are, then that self-talk will define how you act.
You don’t need to be your own enemy. You need to always affirm yourself whether you feel like it’s true or not. How you treat yourself will come true because your mindset will change.
Learn to recognize when you’re not treating yourself in a loving manner and put a stop to it. Only then will you begin to have the power to change your body image. What some people do is they save the nice clothes for “when I lose all the weight” and that’s a very bad idea.
It reinforces the idea that if you’re overweight, if you’re not the “perfect” body, then you don’t deserve to have the nice clothes that make you look and feel good about yourself.
You should wear clothes that you love regardless of your size. If there are any objects in your home or people in your life that keep you stuck in a negative body image, then it or they need to go.
If you have a negative reminder in your home, that makes you feel bad about yourself, stop the punishment. Throw it out. If you have a person in your life who puts you down or is constantly negative about body issues, then they don’t need to be part of your life.
They’ll keep you stuck. You need to have a support circle that’s filled with people who are positive and who want what’s best for you. People who lift you rather than ones who tear you down. A negative environment usually leads to negative thinking.
Just as it’s true that negative thought patterns lead to negative behaviors, so do positive thought patterns lead to acceptance. What you think about yourself is reflected back at you when you look in the mirror.
If your thought pattern is that you’re too heavy, that you’re ugly, when you look in the mirror, you won’t see the beauty in your body or in your face. That negative thought pattern can effectively blind you to everything that’s good about you.
When you look in the mirror, immediately tell yourself out loud something positive about your body. As a negative thought hits, immediately switch it with a positive one.
Focus on all that’s good about your body – your hair, your eyes, your muscles, your movement, your hips, or your feet. Lovingly redirect your mind so that when you look in an actual mirror or the mirror of self-reflection, you see that all your imperfections have worked together to make up an amazing person.
Accept that amazing person as is whether or not you ever change your appearance. Make notes about what’s good about you. Stick these notes around your home or in your car so that you find them at random times.
Use affirmations whenever possible and if someone does say something negative to you, correct that thought immediately and if you feel comfortable, correct that person as well.
You have to adjust the way that you let the media and other people into your thoughts. Stop caring what other people say about you. Don’t accept that and don’t internalize it.
Whatever problems that person has isn’t on you. If they don’t like the way you dress or the way you look, that’s their issue and not yours. Don’t just change your thought pattern to be kind to yourself – actually be kind to you. Appreciate everything that you are.
When your mindset changes, you’ll discover that acceptance that you’ve been missing. You’ll carry yourself differently and when you look in the mirror, you’ll like what you see.
If you have a negative body image, it’s possible that you could be looking at fitness the wrong way. The wrong way to fitness is if it’s based in any form of shame.
Most people shame themselves into starting a diet or fitness routine and that’s not a good foundation to build on because it reinforces a negative body image. You should never use fitness as a way of shaming or punishing yourself.
When you work out, it should be for the right reasons. One of the right reasons is because you deserve the feel good that working out brings. You deserve good health.
You deserve all of the benefits that come from working out. What you don’t deserve is beating yourself up about it. You should never associate fitness with any negative feelings because many eating disorders have a root in shame.
When you couple negative feelings with fitness, especially shame, it can lead to what’s known as obsessive exercising. This is a condition that can begin if you psychologically link fitness to how you feel about your body image.
You should also never beat yourself up about what you eat and then turn around and use exercise as a form of punishment. This kind of beating yourself up can backfire because it can cause you to develop an eating or exercise mindset where you constantly beat yourself up both mentally as well as physically.
Thinking thoughts like, “I’m so fat, I’ll make myself exercise an extra hour” is a form of shame. Punishing yourself is the wrong way to feel about fitness. Using fitness as a way to try to escape the shame of the issues that led you to develop body image issues is the wrong way to fitness as well.
You can’t ever truly run away from what bothers you but you can learn healthy ways to deal with it so that you can heal and move on. You should also never use fitness as the answer to feeling ashamed of your body.
The struggle won’t go away when it’s linked to low self-esteem and a lack of acceptance. Looking at fitness as the answer to how you see yourself won’t work because acceptance matters more than your size.
Learn to see working out as something that you’re doing that’s good for the body that you have now rather than for the one you hope to have. Loving yourself in the moment will also help keep you motivated when you’re struggling to stick with it.
You deserve to be loved and nurtured even in the way that you conduct your fitness plan. Shame has no place in love or in nurturing. Work out so that you improve your agility, your strength and your energy rather than punishing yourself.
Don’t allow yourself to entertain thoughts that belittle you with fitness. Don’t tell yourself that you’re too fat to use a certain machine or that you’re not coordinated enough.
Don’t tell yourself that you’re a failure or that you look stupid working out compared to people who are in shape. Keep your mindset on how working out gives you so many benefits.
Think about how fitness is a way that you can give yourself love. Think about how it’s helping your body work out. Who cares if you make a mistake in how you do it or if you struggle to keep up in a group fitness class?
See every mistake as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than as a reason to give up and hate your body. When you feel stressed about life or those old thoughts of body image shame pop up, don’t try to avoid the emotions that go along with what you’re thinking.
Deal with them. Get on the treadmill and go over every good thing that you did that day. Congratulate yourself for showing up for your workout. Fitness can improve your self-confidence.
When you feel better and your self-esteem level goes up, it makes it harder for shame to take root. This can help you overcome feelings of body image shame. You gain a sense of accomplishment as well as being able to better manage stress.
One of the biggest reasons that so many people get caught up in the trap of shaming themselves with fitness is because exercise is associated with being overweight.
Since being overweight is associated with not being physically good enough, it keeps that shame cycle going. Let go of what you “should” look like.
Stop thinking of how fitness “should” work and instead of thinking about how exercise will give you a particular body or a smaller clothing size, look at it as something that you want to do because you are a person who is worthy of a life without body image shame.
Be the best friend that your body ever had. Be good to it and accept it as it is. Remember that the best body is the one that you see reflected back at you every day.