What pops up in your head when you look in the mirror?
How comfortable do you feel in your own skin?
When was the last time you felt a real connection to your body?
Poor body image is very common and often is passed from one generation to the next. It might mean feeling ashamed or self-conscious about your body. It might mean that your see other people as attractive or “looking good” but the way you perceive yourself and your body size or shape is unattractive and inadequate. People with poor body image tend to feel uncomfortable engaging in physical group activities and often feel like “the ugly duckling.”
Body Image is how you view your physical self.
Self-Esteem is how worthy you feel you are.
So, how to do you boost your body image?
What’s important to realize is that body image is subjective and it is created by reality (what your body really looks like) combined with a story that you create in your mind. The reality could be harder to change, but your perception and the story are easier to change.
So how do you change your perception and the story in your head?
First, you need to recognize that there are negative emotions involved with seeing yourself in a negative way. You have to change your thoughts because feelings follow thoughts, and thoughts are created in your mind. The good news is that you can look exactly the same, but when you change the story in your head, your attitude and your feelings about yourself change. Taking a more positive approach in the way you think about yourself, can lead to you beginning to feel good about your body and becoming more confident in sharing your true self with the world.
Growing up, we receive many messages from teachers, parents, media, and society about diets, looking skinny, losing weight, and hiding our bodies well. Over the years, we internalize negative emotions about our body. How we see ourselves physically, (in other words, our body image) is controlled by those negative emotions and we end up hating our body. Feeling self-conscious about our body feeds bigger issues of not being “good enough.” Not only do we feel physically not enough (not thin enough, not sexy enough, not young enough); we also feel not good enough (not smart enough and simply just “not enough”) on many levels.
Your body image directly affects your self-esteem. When you boost your body image you’ll improve your self-esteem and feel more confident with who you are.
The Body-Mind-Sprit connection
The transformation will only be complete if it is done on three dimensions: body, mind, and spirit. Losing weight will not be effective and lasting unless it is combined with a spiritual connection and a mental shift.
I spent many years playing the “yo-yo” game – finding another diet, formula, club or program and losing the weight, only to end up gaining it all back. I am now maintaining a weight loss of 90 pounds for 9 years, which I believe is possible only because I practice spiritual and mental tools that support my health.
How we look is not the sum of who we are. How we feel, what we think, and what we believe in, combined with our physical appearance is the sum of who we are.
Want to Boost your Body Image and Improve your Self- Esteem? Do something radical.
When you struggle with a poor body image and a low self-esteem, do the last thing logic would advise: choose a physical activity that requires repetitive, rhythmic action, something that makes you connected with the rhythm of life, and use is to stretch yourself. In other words, engage in a physical activity that will make you step outside your comfort zone. Overcoming the challenge and feeling satisfied with how you coped with the situation will boost your body image and raise your confidence level. Why physical activity? First, because you want to do something counter-intuitive: challenge your body issues by moving your body. And also, the less you move the more you stay in your head. You want to “shake it all up”: your body and your mind.
Sharon’s Rock Climbing Experience
I worked with Sharon to help her improve her body image and self-esteem so eventually she would feel confident enough to date. Working with my “Transformation from the Inside Out” program, we identified limiting beliefs and negative voices that prevented Sharon from feeling good about herself and her body. One day, she surprised me with announcing some big news: “I went Rock Climbing!” The look on my face probably told Sharon that this was the last thing I expected to hear from her. She was very excited and described to me how satisfying it was to be able to stretch herself and get to the top of the wall and then get down and do it all again.
There were 2 strategies that helped her get to the top. One was learning from others: watching other people climb the wall. The other was practicing on an easier wall, getting confident with overcoming a smaller challenge, and then using her success and satisfaction level to motivate and inspire her to climb the harder wall. We spent a few minutes talking about the metaphor, what we can learn from her strategies and how she can use them in life: to overcome a challenge, learn from others who had success with a similar situation and practice on an easier goal to get you excited and ready to reach further and higher.
I don’t climb rocks, but I had a similar experience with my “Zumba Adventure.” When I started attending Zumba classes a few months ago, I was really self-conscious and it felt to me like everybody else was busy looking at me and making fun of my movements. I challenged myself to be consistent and stick to my plan. Today, I can’t wait for Wednesday (Zumba class day) and I’m proud of myself for moving my body so freely, not caring about what other people think, and simply having fun.
So what about you? What physical activity would you like to do and are willing to try to boost your body image and improve your self-esteem?
Start today; start this week. Learn from others, take a small step first, and then with consistency, you will “climb mountains” you never knew you could!