Four blocks to better body image & how to banish them

4 blocks to better body image

Four blocks to better body image

When women tell me they’re struggling to make progress with their body image, I know they are blocking themselves in some way.  Although consciously they want to have a different relationship with their body, subconsciously there is something holding them back.

There are any number of blocks that work against better body image, but there are some common culprits that come up time and time again.

Here are four of the most common blocks I’ve come across:

#1 Believing your life will be better when you weigh less, or look different

If you have a belief that success or happiness is dependent on what you look like, you’ll struggle to develop a better body image.  Believing that life will only be better once you have achieved a physical change such as weight loss reinforces the belief that you aren’t worthy of happiness or success now.  I bang on about this point all of the time precisely because it’s such an important one to get:

You are entitled to happiness, love, success, or whatever you dream of regardless of your looks.  Every single human being is inherently worthy of these things.

Do yourself a favour and stop putting your life on hold because of your appearance.

Here’s a quick exercise for you to try:

List all the things that you won’t do now because of weight, shape or any other appearance concern:

I can’t _______ until I’ve [lost weight, dropped a dress size, got my hair re-styled, had my facial hair removed, etc]

Here are some I’ve heard from clients:

I can’t wear a bikini until I’ve lost 10 pounds

I can’t go clothes shopping until I’m down to a size 12

I can’t be intimate with my new boyfriend until I’ve had my body hair lasered

How long is your list?  Does it surprise you?  You may be shocked at how much of your life is being put on hold.  What will you commit to doing regardless of your weight, size or shape?

#2 Caring too much for others’ opinions (friends, family or media)

There is no doubt that the opinions, views and comments of family, friends and the media can have an impact on how you feel about your body.

However, just because someone has a certain view, it doesn’t make it the ‘truth’.  It’s simply their view of the world which is in turn influenced by their own life experience.

If you allow the opinion of others about appearance and weight to have undue influence on you, your body image will constantly be at the mercy of those influences.

Decide that your opinion is the most important one.  Choose to value and like yourself as you are, and let that be enough.  The people who really love and care for you will accept you as you are.  For those who don’t, you have to question if they’re the kind of people that you really want in your life.

 #3 Being too hard on yourself

When you’re aware of your inner critic, that internal voice saying unpleasant things about your body, it’s natural to be hard on yourself.  You might think, “Why do I beat myself up like this?” or “Why can’t I stop these negative feelings?”

However, berating yourself will not improve your body image.  What will help, is being more self-compassionate.

According to Dr Kristin Neff an expert on self-compassion, being self-compassionate allows you to take a more helpful approach to negative thinking.

When you are self-compassionate, you don’t beat yourself up about having poor body image.  You accept where you are now, and remain open to ways to improve how you feel.

Neff recommends the following approach to derail negative thinking:

Acknowledge what your critic is saying e.g. you might say, “I hear what you are saying, and I know you are only trying to help, but I’m going to try another way to feel better.”

Tell yourself that it’s hard to experience such unpleasant thoughts e.g. “It’s really hard to feel this shame about my body.”

Reassure yourself that you aren’t alone in having negative feelings e.g. “I know I’m not the only one that sometimes feels this way, it’s part of life to experience this kind of emotion.”

Finish by asking yourself for kindness e.g. “May I be kind to myself in this moment.”

Neff also recommends using a physical gesture while going through these steps, such as placing your hand on your heart – this helps to lower the stress levels that accompany negative feelings.

#4 Surrounding yourself with a negative body mind-set

Do you find yourself surrounded by people who constantly moan and berate their weight, shape or appearance?  Or perhaps you are over exposed to Photo shopped images that serve as a constant reminder that you don’t look like that?  What about the gossip magazines that are filled with body shaming content devoted to the ballooning and morphing bodies of celebrities?

It’s impossible to have a positive mind-set if you are over exposed to negative messages.  If you listen to enough negativity about the body, you’ll internalise these messages.  If you want to improve your body image, you need to seek out people and media that spread body positive messages (like me for example, but there are plenty of others out there too).

Take a good hard look at the people you hang around with.  If they are whingeing about weight, either don’t participate, or take a break from them.  Be mindful of the media you are exposing yourself to, whether that’s on-line or in print form.  Cutting out gossip magazines was one of the best things that I did for my body image.  It got me out of the habit of being critical not only of my own body, but others too.

Do you have any of these body image blocks?  What other blocks to improving your body image do you think you have?  Getting clear on what is blocking you is a vital step in moving towards a more body confident you.

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