Stop Hating Your Body: Examining the Effects of a Negative Body Image

Clues…

You are constantly receiving clues. They are the context that creates your perspective. Clues come from pop culture, gender roles, society’s expectations, and more. When it comes to your body, you use these clues to train your brain. Often, you focus on your “flaws.” Even when someone compliments you, you can’t even see what it is they like about you.

Using these clues, you train yourself to have a negative body image. Happily, this means you can train yourself out of it. You can stop hating your body. It all starts with gathering some new clues.

5 Possible Causes of a Negative Body Image

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder or “imagined ugliness”

  • Eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, etc.)

  • Depression

  • Society’s Standards

  • Unrealistic Expectations

5 Signs of a Negative Body Image

1. Self-monitoring

You may catch yourself persistently weighing yourself or taking measurements. It could also mean lots of time spent gazing in the mirror, listening to your critical voice.

2. Negative language

Even if you get a compliment, you can turn it into an insult. Your inner voice criticizes. In public conversations, you put yourself down.

3. Bargaining

You won’t do something nice for yourself until you’ve earned it. Usually, “earning it” means changing your appearance.

4. Obsession

There may be a celebrity or athlete you set up as an unattainable ideal.

5. Extreme choices

Whether you do them or not, you contemplate extreme options like restrictive diets or plastic surgery.

If any of the above sounds like you, please let out a long exhale. You are not alone. You are far from alone. Negative body image is an epidemic. With new forms of technology like smart phones, we are getting more clues than ever. These clues rarely encourage us or build us up. This means if you want to stop hating your body, it can — it has to — begin with you!

5 Ways To Stop Hating Your Body

1. Look more closely at your “ideal” body image

Guess what? That celebrity, model or athlete may be a figment of someone’s imagination. Take a look at your hero and please consider the following:

  • Photo touch-ups

  • Colored contact lenses

  • Fake tan

  • Trick photography

  • Dangerous and unhealthy pre-event behaviors

2. Figure out when it began

You’re dissatisfied with your body. But did this feeling begin with you? Or did a family member, friend, spouse, co-worker, or teammate plant the clues? This is important. If someone else gave you this idea, you must examine that relationship. If it came from you, well, you know where the work must be done. Keep reading!

3. Become your own #1 fan

Go ahead, look in the mirror. This time, only allow yourself to see what you like about yourself. Imagine other people noticing these traits. Speak out loud to yourself. Say nice things. Compliment yourself.

4. Do something amazing

Learn something new. Ace a test. Crush it at the gym. Shine at your job. Volunteer for a good cause. Sign up for a run or a race. Whatever it is, re-train your brain. You are amazing and that’s where you need to focus. Play to your strengths!

5. Avoid comparisons

Besides the false ideals mentioned above, there are everyday people we envy. Be kinder to yourself and accept that everyone has different gifts. That other person may wish they could be like you in a few ways. Would you compare a rose with a chocolate dessert? Of course not! They are both wonderful in their own unique ways.

Learning to stop hating your body requires an important shift in your point of view. But remember: you can change your negative body image.  Working one-on-one with a therapist can be an excellent first step.  Contact our intake team at the Center for Mindful Psychotherapy: call us at (415) 766-0276; or email us at intakes@mindfulcenter.org.