Body acceptance and confidence are things many of us struggle with.
Like many before me have postulated, the war against our bodies fuels some of the most lucrative industries in the world. In 2019, the cosmetic industry was globally valued at over $530 billion USD, and with the rise of influencers, insta models, and photoshop, we are often left thinking: Why don’t I look like that too?
Your body image is a complex mix of how you perceive, think and feel about your physical self, and it plays a big part in your overall happiness and sense of worth. Let’s explore how to improve on the negative feelings you might experience with these 9 fundamental steps to body acceptance.
1) The aims are neutrality & acceptance. Confidence is a bonus!
This is probably the best and most important tip I have, and though it might sound counter-intuitive, let me explain: the aim to a healthy body relationship is to be neutral to your body, or to simply accept it. And if you don’t love it, love its flaws, rolls or scars- that’s perfectly fine too. If you’re not body confident… that’s OK.
Think of it this way: we have all been bombarded for years with beauty standards- and though the parameters may change (can you imagine if big bums were as in fashion during Kate Moss’ time as they are now? ) we are still told there are ‘rules’ to follow. This may make it hard to love something you’ve been told to enlarge, smooth or change your entire life. So really, body acceptance should be the goal – anything above acceptance (love, amazement, pride) is gravy.
Still feeling uncertain? Think of it this way: your body is just the vessel that contains your heart, your mind and your soul. It counts far less than your generosity, intelligence, resilience or kindness ever will.
2) Concentrate on WHAT your body does
Our bodies are amazing machines of strength, resilience and regeneration. They recover from accidents, they run races, they carry babies, they can donate , they see, hear, smell, touch and taste, and they can thrive in scorching hot conditions, as well as below zero climates.
Next time you feel unkindly towards the shape of your body, the size of your breasts, your lack of biceps, or the texture of your hair, remember how much your body has done for you so far despite all the abuse it’s taken throughout the years, and how much further along it’s going to take you still.
3) Mind what you say
The way we speak to ourselves and about ourselves matters, and impacts the way we perceive ourselves as a whole. Saying things like ‘I feel fat’ or ‘I’m ugly’ is not only unkind and utterly counterproductive, it’s also a cop out to explore what we are really feeling about ourselves.
What could ‘feeling fat’ really mean? Are you bloated? Feeling guilty from overeating? Feeling insecure and needing attention or validation?
Next time you’re about to engage in negative self-talk, stop to analyse your thoughts first. Then validate whatever feeling it is you have inside with more productive, cooperative steps.
4) Treat your body like you would treat your friends’
Think of something negative you’ve said or done to your body lately:
- Negative talk (I feel fat, my hair is gross, I’m so skinny and flaccid)
- Picking on it (pinching fat, spending hours in front of the mirror, pulling and smoothing skin)
- Abusing it (with alcohol, food, over training, dangerous or promiscuous behaviours)
- Not celebrating it (not pampering it, not dressing it up, not thanking it for its efforts)
Now, imagine your best friend walked in and said something disparaging about themselves. Would you just sit back and say, you’re right, your hair IS really disgusting, your cellulite IS actually unsightly, you are unworthy of what you have because of the way you look. How would it make you feel to know you’ve just contributed to their shame, their self-hatred, their insecurity?
5) Challenge it to tough tasks
One of the best ways to improve our body acceptance and confidence is to try a tough task. When we complete it, we kind of HAVE to celebrate it afterwards.
For example, if you think your body is only good to Netflix & chill, challenge it to go for a 3K walk. Tomorrow, challenge it to a 3K walk in less time. Challenge it to a 4K walk. Challenge it to a 4K run.
Expect more from it, and reward its efforts and improvements by pampering it and pushing it to do more.
6) Grow your self worth
I wrote a big post about self-esteem and self-worth, which you can find here. But in short, your self-worth comes from the knowledge that you are enough just as you are; worthy of being seen, loved and helped. It also comes from honouring your truth, having high morals and doing well unto others and yourself. Your self-worth fuels your self-esteem, which is the manner in which you evaluate yourself and compare yourself against others. Who you know, how much money you have, and your position are the external factors responsible for your self-esteem.
Growing your self worth means that even you have bad self-esteem days (days in which nothing looks good on, in which your body betrays you, in which it doesn’t do what you request) you still know that you are a worthy individual, and that you are not what you look like, or how much money you have.
You are less prone to poor body acceptance and confidence when you know your self-worth.
7) Keep your social feed in check
Social media is one of the greatest inventions of our time, but it comes with innumerable issues; one being the unrealistic standard imposed by influencers, fitness models or anyone with access to Photoshop or FaceTune.
The purpose of fitness models and accounts is to teach and motivate you to train more efficiently and diligently; but if it’s not hitting the spot for you, and your own body acceptance suffers because of it- LET GO.
Equally, if your feed is filled with wrinkle-free skins, slender limbs, bulging muscles or impossibly perfect pouts, remember: not everything you see is real, and social media is nothing but a highlight reel of someone’s life.
8) Dress up, dress down and have fun
This one is easy: what do you feel your best in? Power suit, lipstick, a designer silk tie? Go do that. Clothes and accessories play a massive part in how we express ourselves, and if something makes you feel body confident, do more of it!
9) Sleep & eat like you mean it
Sleep is the new black. Everyone from Arianna Huffington to Jeff Bezos has waxed lyrical about the power of sleep, and with good reason. Collectively, we often think of sleep as a ‘nice to have’, a luxury or even a weakness for lazy people. What we need to remember, however, is not only that sleep is non-negotiable, but is also paramount to our well-being. An ever-increasing number of studies on sleep have shown how important sleep is for our mental health, which in turn affects our body acceptance.
The same goes for eating. Eating a balanced diet helps with more than just shedding extra pounds or building muscle. In fact, cardiac surgeon and food expert Dr. Gundry explains that our overall health starts in the gut, and the gut is responsible for just about everything from immunity, to mood, to sex drive to… you guessed it! mental health. And good mental health= good body acceptance!
So, sleep and eat like your health depended on it, because it does!