Look in the mirror.
What thoughts start to run through your head?
If your mind immediately says "Hey gorgeous” or “Dang Rockstar! Lookin’ good” then I’m giving you all the hi fives I can muster and I want to hang out with you, pronto!
But, if your mind is like mine and takes a good look and starts saying anything unkind, then I have some kind words for you and a few tips to help change the tone of those pesky thoughts.
First of all, and I know we hear this a lot lately, but you.are.awesome. Right now, in this moment, just as you are. Also, you have always been awesome and will always be awesome. God doesn’t make mistakes and He was pretty excited about who he created you to be - don’t take that lightly.
I have mentioned before on this blog that my body image issues began when I was in 5th grade when I found out my best friend and the boy I was crushing on were making fun of my rear end during a tornado drill. And while never formally diagnosed (because I never sought help), I have enough of a Psychology background to know that I heavily bordered on Body Dysmorphic Disorder for nearly a decade in my mid20s-mid30s. Thankfully, I feel like the worst years of body loathing are behind me and I have slowly made my way toward acceptance and even (dare I say) loving the gift I’ve been given - a body that allows me the opportunity to do so many awesome things!
In this picture, I was three months post-partum with my second child, in the middle of moving to my third state in 6 months, living away from my husband (but thankfully with my gracious and kind parents). Now, as I look at this picture, I see someone who has more mental strength than anyone I know, a girl who didn’t give up when things got really hard, and also a girl who desperately needed a nap (have to keep it real). But, back then, at a time when a lot of women love their bodies for being able to give life to a tiny human, I hated that I couldn’t fit in my jeans and that raging hormones brought back my awful acne.
This chick here, was 6 months post-partum after baby number three. She had discovered fitness as a great form of psych therapy to help ease anxiety and depression. She learned what it felt like to be physically strong. But, she also was still really obsessed with the number on the scale and on the tag of her jeans. Fitness and food were a double edged sword.
And this picture was less than a year ago, when I finally decided that enough was enough. That little girl holding my hand (and the one not pictured), made me realize that I never want to hear them talk about themselves the way I was talking to myself in my head. I started to clearly see where my obsessions had turned into pitfalls and physically, my body started to tell me it had had enough abuse from overexercising, from not eating enough, and from the mean thoughts I was feeding it.
I tell you these things so that you know I’ve been there. It has taken me a really long time to feel like I finally figured out some things that helped me get off that body hate train. And while I know that body acceptance is kind of a buzz phrase right now, I also know that it is still a very big issue for so many people.
I have found three pretty simple things have helped me in very big ways.
Tip 1 - CLEAN UP YOUR FEED!
I want you to go Unfollow/Unfriend/Delete/Throw Out/Turn Off anything that makes you think ‘I wish I looked like that’ or ‘I wish mine didn’t do that’. Even if it’s someone being positive. Even if it’s me! If it makes YOU feel less than or just doesn’t cause you to have good thoughts about yourself, you don’t need to be looking at it, listening to it or reading it.
For me, this meant unfollowing all the fitness people I loved getting ideas from. I quit looking at ‘healthy recipes’, I don’t read about the latest diet trends (Keto, I’m talking to you). Basically, if it didn’t make me feel good, I just made it so I didn’t see it. It’s okay to do this even with family and friends. You can still love them and talk to them, but you don’t need to bombard your brain with the stuff that is harmful for you personally.
Tip 2 - WRITE ABOUT IT.
You can journal, you can blog, you can leave Post-it notes, make lists in your planner or on your phone. So often, thoughts keep jumbling around in your head because they have nowhere else to go. To start, just do a major brain dump. Find some quiet time and just get all those awful thoughts out of your head. Then rip that paper to shreds and burn it or trash it.
Once you’ve cleared some room in your mind, start taking a minute or two every day to notice things you appreciate about your body. It can be as simple as ‘my eyes look an awesome shade of blue today’ or ‘my ankle didn’t hurt while walking’. The more frequently you fill your mind with something positive, the more frequently you will think something positive.
This should be an ongoing project! Don’t stop doing this on a regular basis - we all need reminders because we all have bad days with a tendency to revert to old ways.
Tip 3 - GO OUTSIDE.
Admittedly, this one is hard for me because I’m a comfort girl - I don’t like to be hot or cold and I don’t like to be bored (which I often am outside watching my kids play). But, I definitely notice a difference in how I feel when I have taken an opportunity to just go outdoors. The vitamin D from the sun is super beneficial to mental health. But, also, taking time to appreciate nature and all the beauty surrounding us just does something to brighten my day. It puts me in a good place mentally, but also it encourages me to move around - whether going for a walk, chasing a kid, weeding my flower beds, etc. Making my body move in nature, reminds me that I wasn’t created to just sit around and be lazy. My body was created so I could DO things.
And you don’t even have to go out for a long time, I have found even just 10 minutes makes a huge difference. Taking in the scenery, moving your body in a natural way - it all helps to take your thoughts to a good place.
I’ve tried a lot of different things (including throwing out the scale). While some of them work for short periods of time, these three tips have stuck around long term. And because they’re so simple, they’re easy for me to continue doing without feeling burdened.
If you know someone struggling with body image issues, share these ideas with them. And maybe in the comments, let me know what has helped you love the skin you’re in! The more we share, the more people we help.
Disclaimer I am not a mental health professional nor do I claim to be one. I know that body dysmorphia is a serious disorder and if you are suffering with this disease, please seek the advice of a healthcare professional.