How to Foster a Positive Body Image
have an overarching love and respect for your body?
Appreciate the unique beauty of your body and the functions it performs for you?
Accept and admire your body – including parts that do not match idealized images?
Glow and radiate feelings of beauty, comfort, confidence, and happiness with your body?
Emphasize your body’s assets rather than dwell on the imperfections?
Protect your body, internalising positive information and rejecting or reframing negative?
If so, good for you because you have a positive body image, according to researchers. For a long time, research into body image attempted to understand and repair negative body image, without considering positive body image. When we focus only on removing the negative without enhancing the positive the result is, perhaps toleration – a neutral body image rather than positive body image. There are some simple things you can change in your life to foster a positive body image.
Accept, Appreciate, and Love your Body
Despite how dissatisfied you feel with your body it is important to express love. Try writing down your physical connections to others, such as your ethnicity or other cultural qualities that make your body what it is. Take part in native customs to create pride in your body and culture. In addition to this write down everything your body does for you in a functional way and express thanks and love for this daily. Appreciating your body runs deeper than what you see in the mirror. Consider your body’s abilities and express gratitude for this. If time allows, challenge yourself to improve these functional qualities. Wim Hof has some great breathing exercises on his website which will help you improve your breathing technique and therefore your health. Many people find the couch to 5k plan a comfortable way to begin improving their body’s movement capabilities.
Rather than attempting to love your perceived body flaws, focus more on your body assets. Notice the things you do like about your body and direct your attention towards these parts of you, whilst accepting the other parts as they are.
As the old saying goes, beauty is only skin-deep. However, when you change your perception of beautiful and broadly conceptualise beauty you include inner characteristics such as personality. People are beautiful in many ways. When you appreciate and focus on who you are inside you feel beautiful and radiate feelings of beauty despite what you see in the mirror. Some research has shown that people who are their authentic selves’ glow, and that beauty is separate to sexual attractiveness.
When you invest in your external self – adaptive appearance investment – and enhance your natural features in a gentle and kind way you project your individuality and authenticity. This is different to altering your appearance or attempting to fix perceived defaults. Cook-Cottone, in her body image research, found that people with positive body image neither ignore nor judge their bodies. Rather they care for and invest time into caring for their body. Such self-care might be getting manicures, eating healthily, and exercising as acts of kindness to the body.
Inner positivity is shown externally with smiles, assertive behaviour, ideal posture such as holding the head up high and emanating a glow. Inner positivity helps happiness come from the inside and reflect out. In the 1800s – 1900s Émile Coué, a psychologist used a technique he called conscious autosuggestion and asked his clients to repeat the mantra “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better” twenty times a day. He noticed these clients recovering quicker than others that did not use the mantra.
Neuroscience, specifically neuroplasticity says the brain is malleable, like plastic. It changes in response to its use. Continued “same” thoughts encourage related growth and it becomes easier to recreate the same thought. The more you use a particular pathway the more it will connect to other areas of the brain so smaller events activate it. If you think positive thoughts and say positive things regularly the positive pathways in your brains will strengthen and you will find it easier to think positively.
To strengthen your inner positivity, write some positive affirmations that will help you think more positively about yourself. Stick them up around your home and repeat them to yourself, out loud, twenty times a day. Initially you might struggle to believe what you say but within time this will change as your brain adapts to your words.
Inner positivity increases through regular participation in enjoyable exercise, stress relief practices, preventative care, nutritious eating, and pampering. It is important that the exercise is for enjoyment and challenge rather than to change the body size and shape.
Maintaining a protective filter
Currently one of the biggest inhibitors to body positivity is unrealistic and fabricated media images. It is important to maintain a protective filter through awareness and understanding of the media’s use of unreal imagery for profit. This understanding and awareness enables you to challenge and reject the images as idealistic. Instead looking at what you see around you and directing your focus to real rather than altered images.
Tylka, T.L. and Wood-Barcalow, N.L., 2015. What is and what is not positive body image? Conceptual foundations and construct definition. Body image, 14, pp.118-129.
Cook-Cottone, C.P., 2015. Incorporating positive body image into the treatment of eating disorders: A model for attunement and mindful self-care. Body image, 14, pp.158-167.