Guest Author - Linda Steele
Perceptions of the ideal body, comments people make about people’s bodies, making comparison between ourselves and others, the experience of prejudice and discrimination are all factors that define body image. Fortunately, many of the factors are controllable.
Having a healthy body image involves understanding the controllable factors. Here are some steps you can take to have a positive body image and protect your mental health.
Go on a media diet. Advertising is a very powerful form of persuasion. However, we have the power to filter the information that an advertiser wants us to believe by limiting the amount television that we watch as well as the number of magazines we read. When we do read magazines or watch T.V., we can choose which messages to believe based on if they are right for us.
Reprogram negative self-talk. Refuse to pay attention to the negative comments. You can reprogram negative self-talk by replacing old messages with positive statements. This may feel awkward in the beginning but this approach works over time.
Embrace your body type. Whether your body is more rounded or pear shaped rather than an hour glass, you need to appreciate your body and work with what you have at the present time. Find something that you like about yourself and accentuate it.
Stop the comparison. You are a unique individual with your own needs and abilities. You can not get a sense of what it is you really need by using someone else’s body as a reference.
Move and enjoy your body. Do not do this because you have to, but because it makes you feel strong, energized, and peaceful. Walking, swimming, biking, hiking, skiing and dancing are some of the many activities that emphasize pleasure rather than controlling your body.
Spend time with like-minded people. If you want a more positive body image, spend more time with those types of people. If you want to soar with the eagles, you can not expect to flock with the chickens, can you? People who have a positive body image will have a healthy relationship with food, activity, and their bodies. By association, it will make a difference in how you feel about these issues and yourself.
Nurture your inner self. Body image is linked to self-esteem, so engaging in past-times that leave you feeling good can actually help you to feel comfortable in your own skin. Particularly helpful are activities that are relaxing, soothing, spiritual, or that allow us to connect to others. Remember, we are more susceptible to being critical of our bodies when we do not have ways to manage our stress or anxiety.
Broaden your perspective. Explore the subjects of body image and cultural pressures in books, discussion groups as well as on the internet. "Google" some fine art images on the internet. Fine art does not exist to create a need for a product. It exists to be beautiful and appealing to the eyes and our senses. You will find that fine art collections depict a variety of body shapes and have been celebrated throughout the ages and in different cultures. Museums such as the Louvre in Paris as well as the Pitti Palace in Florence are full of works of art that depict the more rounded woman.
The next time you are feeling a little down about your body image remember that you have to ability to control that perception. Practice some of the ideas mentioned above and take one step closer to a healthy, positive body image!