Growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was bombarded with the unrealistic beauty standards of that time. In particular, the idea that Bridget Jones, at a weight of 136 lbs, was overweight, still blows my mind to this day. I was a chubby child, as many of us were, and I first began dieting in my early teens, when I went to school with 2 crispbreads for lunch and not much else. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I started to focus less on what my body looked like and more about the wonderful things that my body does for me on a daily basis. Now that I’ve hit my 30s, I finally feel like I am accepting my body in all its flawed glory. In part, that has been due to the help of a great therapist, but also due to some body positivity exercises that I have been implementing for the past couple of years. So I thought it would be a good idea to share them with you, in the hope that you, too, can benefit from them.
- Keep a gratitude diary
A gratitude diary is similar to a normal diary, except that it focuses solely on the things that you are grateful for. At the end of each day, think of three reasons why you are grateful for your body and write them down. This can be in a physical notebook or digitally on your phone, ipad or laptop. An example of a day’s entry might look like this:
Monday 28th January
I am grateful for my arms because they carried the grocery shopping into the house today.
I am grateful for my nose as it let me smell the fresh baked croissants at the coffee shop this morning.
I am grateful for my legs as they allowed me to climb the stairs at work this morning when the elevator was broken.
You can repeat the same body part on other days, just think of new reasons why you are grateful for that particular area. Also, pay particular attention to the body parts that you feel most insecure about. Then, when you have a particularly difficult body image day, you can look back at your previous entries to remind yourself of all the fabulous reasons you have to love your body.
- Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are positive statements that we repeat to ourselves often and can be used as a way to boost our self esteem and, in this case, body image. To begin, think of what you want your goal to be. For example, “I want to feel that I am beautiful” or “I want to be thankful for my body”. Then, turn these statements into the present tense as affirmations work best when they are spoken as though they are already real. This is because when we do this, we start to generate the positive emotions that we will experience when we have reached our desired outcome. For example, “I feel beautiful” and “I am thankful for my body”.
Furthermore, do not add negatives into your affirmations, for example, “I am not going to let others’ opinions of my body upset me”. This is because a positive affirmation should be just that; positive. If we bring negativity into our affirmations, we may focus on the negative way we are currently thinking, instead of focusing on the positive that we want to achieve. Once you have written your affirmations and are happy with them, you can begin to practice them. You should always say your affirmations out loud because our brains are conditioned to learn better that way and try to practice a few times a day, repeating each affirmation at least 5 times. If you find it difficult to remember, perhaps set an alarm on your phone as this can help to prompt you.
- Make a list of what you like about yourself and your body
When writing your list, focus on the self as a whole. Make a list of the achievements you are proud of, the personality traits that you like in yourself and the awesome things your body can do, as well as what you like about your physical appearance.
Once you have created the list, place it somewhere where you will see it often e.g. on your bedside table or stick it to your bathroom mirror. Then, at least once a day, re-read the list out loud. Similar to the way positive affirmations work, the more we hear something, the more we will believe it and be able to bring it to mind whenever we feel we need to.
- Follow people who promote body positivity
As we tend to only post the best version of ourselves online, we can often end up comparing ourselves to other people, forgetting that we are only seeing one side of the story. Therefore, one great way to boost our body image is to follow people who promote body positivity. This way, we see unfiltered and unedited photos, usually accompanied by reassuring and empowering posts about just how amazing our bodies are and most importantly, that they do not need to be changed to conform to the societal standards of beauty that are portrayed in the media and elsewhere.
Check out the pages of Ariella Nyssa (@ariellanyssa), Mik Zazon (@mikzazon), Kayla Logan (@kaylaloganblog) and Jaimmy Koroma (@jaimmykoroma), if you are looking for inspiration.
- Practice self love
In today’s world we are often taught that putting ourselves first is selfish. However, in order to give your best to others, you need to make sure that you are the best version of yourself first. This means that you should do something for yourself and prioritize your own well-being on a regular basis.
For example, you could take a long soak in the bath, read a good book, cook your favorite meal or simply watch your favorite show on Netflix. Whatever it is that comforts you and makes you feel like a million bucks, make sure you are practicing this regularly to show yourself some love.
At the end of the day, even with the help of these tips, learning to love your body is a journey. The road is long and there will be rainy days as well as sunny days. Throughout your entire journey, remember to practice self-compassion as you get to grips with your changing body image and hopefully, you too will one day accept and love your glorious body just the way it is. Share this with others if you think it will be useful and leave a comment below to let us know about your own personal body positivity journey.