Having a body in the world isn’t easy. Especially as women, people make comments about our bodies or bodies of others all the time — comments that we then internalize and use as fuel to develop a negative body image. Advertising, media and social media tell us that we should look a certain way, too — be thinner, more athletic, have curves in “all the right places.” We’re told if we don’t have that “perfect” body, whatever that means, we should try to achieve it through diet and exercise.
But what if you could love your body as it is, regardless of its size or shape? It will take time and patience, but you absolutely can learn to love yourself just as you are, to accept your body and understand that how it looks is only a very small part of you. Here are some ways to get to that place.
01 — Stop Comparing Your Body to Others’ Bodies
We’re all born in different bodies — we have different bone structures, metabolisms, cravings, reactions to stress and other external factors. We’re not meant to look alike! Your body is just as valid as everyone else’s, without your having to change it in order to be acceptable to yourself or to others. Comparing your body to what you see around you and in the media can harm both your mental and physical well-being.
02 — Appreciate Your Body for What It Does for You
Sure, your body looks a certain way. But when’s the last time you thought about what it does for you? In everything we do every day, there’s a small miracle: when you prise open that pickle jar, when you feel a breeze on your skin, when you make it through a tough workout. If you focus on all the ways your body serves you, rather than on the ways you think it’s “lacking,” your perspective will change. A regular self-care practice can help you find that appreciation for your body as well. You could try some gentle yoga, go for a nature walk, run a bubble bath, meditate, do a sheet mask … You name it! You deserve it!
03 — Make a List of Things You Love about Yourself that Have Nothing to Do with Appearance
What do your friends and family love about you? Is it your waist-to-hip ratio? Of course not. They love you for how creative you are, for the way you bring positivity into every room you enter, and for a million other little things that make you a wonderful person. Challenge yourself to see your value the way those who care about you see it — that is, untied to your appearance. Keep a list of your best qualities, read it often, and add to it as soon as you think of something. This will help you reframe your mindset to find self-acceptance.
04 — Consume Media Mindfully
The images and messages we’re exposed to every day have an impact on us, whether we’re aware of it or not. Pay attention to how you feel after reading a certain magazine, or scrolling through a certain social media app. If something you come across makes you feel bad about your body and makes you think negative thoughts about yourself, disengage from it. Don’t read that magazine in the future, unfollow that account. In the same way, pay attention to the different types of media you consume that make you feel confident and beautiful. Those are the keepers.
05 — Find a Body Positive Community
There’s strength in numbers. Surround yourself with positive people who make you feel happy and important. Make sure to listen to the experiences of people with different body types than yours, too.
In Real Life
So many of us have talked negatively about our bodies with friends. Break the cycle: surround yourself with people who don’t make you feel like your body is somehow not enough, and let your friends know when something they say isn’t helpful for your body image or for theirs. On the flipside, make sure you don’t make any comments about your own body that could hurt your friends inadvertently.
On Social Media
Social media is a double-edged sword: it can both harm and help our body image. There are now ever-growing virtual communities dedicated to body positivity and neutrality that will make you feel less alone. On Instagram, follow activists and inclusive nutrition professionals — here are a few we love:
- Megan Jayne Crabbe
- Caroline Dooner
- Dalina Soto
- Danae Mercer
- Lee Legobane
- Shay Neary
- Jessamyn Stanley
- Yasmeen Alhaj
Body image is complex and tied to many external factors. Developing a positive body image is a process that won’t happen overnight, but it’s a journey worth taking, so that you can finally see yourself as your loved ones see you. Keep on shining.
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in InStyle, SheKnows, Cosmopolitan, POPSUGAR, Her Campus and more.