By: Michele Laine
What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you able to see the beauty that stands before you or is it a distorted reflection?
If you’re among the many women and men with a skewed body image, you know the answer. It’s different than what someone else sees; the reflection looking back is full of flaws and those flaws become the daily focus in life.
Maybe it’s the appearance of a crooked nose, skin, hair or another part of the body that becomes the focal point. The struggle is real. This condition can begin with the beliefs we develop from being teased as a child, unresolved emotional conflict, or resulting from an unachievable body goal. Far too often it stems from an eating disorder and stays with the person long after they recover.
I suffered from Anorexia Nervosa as a teenager and although I’ve long recovered from the disorder, body dysmorphia stayed with me for decades. Simply put – it’s a condition where I constantly thought about my weight every minute and never saw my true reflection in the looking glass. I always thought my reflection was sizes bigger than it really was.
Thankfully though, as life changes, perspective can improve. For me, it significantly improved with sound nutrition, exercise, good sleep, stress management, body acceptance, and living in my own skin. More importantly, it improved with a changed mindset. My focus in life changed from “being thin” to “being healthy”.
Here are the eight simple strategies I used to improve body image and ditch perfectionism:
1.) Throw away the scale
No seriously – do it!! One of my fondest memories was being able to throw my scale off our second story balcony and watch it smash to pieces. A bit of symbolism for letting go of that darned number of perfection!!
In my experience, muscles are way sexier than skinny. Google a body comparison of a person at 155 pounds flabby vs. 155 pounds fit, toned, muscular. It’s a compelling comparison in muscle vs. a number on the scale with proof of inches lost and smaller pants size! Stop the addiction to a number on the scale. It’s just a number; it does not define who you are.
2.) Focus on parts of your body that you like (or start finding them now!!!)
No one hates every part of their body. Begin by admitting to yourself at least one part of your body you like; your eyes, shoulders, lips? To create change, you must be able to break focus on the areas of your body you dislike and learn to appreciate the parts you do like. Painting your body in a new light.
3.) Identify and seek help to work through issues of guilt.
Self-sabotage with food, over-exercising, under-eating, anxiety, punishment; guilt comes in many forms. Commit to being honest with yourself: Skipping meals and starving is punishment, not love. What is your relationship with food? What’s your relationship with self? Learning to love oneself is the most significant gift to open. Take time to search for those answers. Get educated! Research healthy resources to feed your mind, body, and spirit.
4.) Be kind and gentle to yourself.
Stop beating yourself up for all your perceived flaws. Start paying attention to your self-talk. If you cannot be kind to yourself, no one else will!! Tell yourself something significant about what you see in the mirror every time pass by your reflection. What are you grateful for? What are you thankful for? These are fantastic places to begin. Focus on all of the positive choices you make daily – any progress made (no matter how small) is progress and deserves acknowledgment and celebration.
We are conditioned to focus on deficit and lack as a society, but magic happens when we switch our focus to gratitude and abundance. Honor all the ways that help you feel your best. When we take 100 % responsibility for what we feed our mind, we can begin to create change. We are in control of our thoughts (even is it doesn’t always seem so). Spending time in awareness can help us recognize when negative thoughts are replaying on loop in our mind. It is then we can make choices that support or deny them.
5.) Have the courage to make smart, healthy options for your body.
Instead of eating the same foods that cause you guilt, shame, and loathing. Take responsibility for feeding your body a balanced diet of the nutrients it needs. No one will do this for you – it’s up to you!
There are no shortcuts: teach yourself to cook or dust off those pots and pans if you haven’t been using for a while. Learn what healthy foods you like to eat, shop and prepare those foods in a tasty manner. Make extra meals for the week to stay on track and not make excuses. Choose to make time to shop for smart food choices and rid your house of any temptations. Or better still, try one of the many healthy meal delivery businesses available. Take time to commit to making healthy decisions when eating out as well.
Respecting your body for its power and resilience will help you honor these choices. Life is a series of choices in everything we do. They are the difference between taking action staying stuck. Staying a victim or becoming the victor.
6.) Be accepting of difficult days.
Reality is, not every day is going to smell like roses! Some days have setbacks because we are all imperfect human beings. Imperfection is glorious!!
These are the days to dig deep into mindset and perspective to pull the reality out of the distortion. Everything is learning. Focus on the good happening around you. Replace negative thoughts with positive and take back control of your life. Retrain your brain from believing the negative evidence fed to it for so long.
Don’t let stress, boredom, loneliness, or unhappiness be a reason to criticize your looks. It’s important to know when the demons are attempting to creep in and recognize them as lies. They are thoughts- only thoughts. As a test of awareness: keep a tablet with you and spend one day writing down every negative opinion that enters your mind – no matter what it is, write it down. Each time you write one down, search to find its real equivalent. You will be amazed at how many thoughts appear on paper!
7.) Believe in yourself and believe you are beautiful.
You are unique. No other human in the entire world is just like you. You have more strength and courage than you ever thought possible. Go out and face those fears and turn them into strengths and accomplishments.
Have you ever heard the quote “life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it”? We make up the fear of the event or situation in our mind much more than the reality that plays out. Which is why we often hear ourselves think or even say out loud… “that wasn’t as bad I as expected.” As you begin to work through fears, confidence builds from the lessons learned. Believing in ourselves is beauty, power, and strength.
8.) Surround yourself with amazing, positive people.
Fill your life with the love of close friends and family that make you feel extraordinary. Fill life with lots of laughter. Focus energy on others, reaching out to help where needed, making a positive change in the world.
I’m happy that I no longer spend hours worrying about every bite of food I eat or how many calories are it. I don’t allow myself to feel guilty for splurges; I own them and move on. I’ve learned to be appreciative and accepting of myself and my body; imperfections and all. My body will never match the pictures in the magazine that I desperately longed for as a teenager, no matter how much I work at it (or forced it). Don’t waste away decades waiting for those last five pounds to come off like I did! That’s not living.
Instead, focus energy on taking care of your body and learn to build your inner world. Turn inward toward yourself to become more of yourself. When we love and respect ourselves, it’s easiest to learn the lessons meant for us and see the beauty right before our eyes.
Make friends, live more, smile more, love more. Love yourself! There’s no crystal ball to flash forward to what your health might be like in the future, do your best to take care of you now. Enjoy who you are. Be confident in your body and rock what you’ve got!! Remember, the reflection in the looking glass can be anything you choose, allow it to be love, be unique, and be imperfectly YOU!
Originally published at innerstrengthandbeauty.com