Steps to Improving Body Image

“You’re beautiful just the way you are,” is meant as a comforting statement, but for anyone who’s suffered from body image issues, this attempt at reassurance definitely falls short. Unfortunately, many people suffer from body image issues at some point in their life, if not for a substantial portion. Additionally, it is estimated by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders that over 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the US alone. In an age where media expectations and standards work as currency for our self worth, it is important that we take a step back and attempt to remedy the toxic ways in which we evaluate our bodies, especially in relation to our self-worth. Helping your own body image is something that I see as very personalized. No one has a magic solution that they can bestow upon you, it is a long and personal process.


It is easy to synthesize body image and self image, yet toxic to do so. So much emphasis is put on our bodies and appearances through entertainment and social media, and our perspectives of ourselves inevitably blend. For example, when you look at a profile of someone on virtually any social media platform, the first thing you’ll come across is a profile picture. Changing this perception is going to help you find other values besides physical appearance. What do you care about? What do you love to do? What are your capabilities that set you aside from everyone else? Finding value that transcends the physical and aesthetic is an undeniable asset to overcoming body image issues.


A warped perception of one’s own body is very common, but if there is something specific that you want to change, there is absolutely no shame in doing so. If you struggle with how your body looks, it’s always a good idea to analyze specifically what you do or don’t like. Not only will focusing on what you do like allow you to stray away from complete negativity, but if you can find some root causes of your body image discomfort, there is usually a way to ameliorate it. For example, I have never liked my thighs, and I spent years and years unhappy with how they looked in jeans, pressed against my chair, if I had a gap, if my friend’s thighs were the same size, and anything else my mind could reach. However, I was an avid dancer and ballet built chunky muscles into my legs which, for my body, pushed the fat that I hated out (which was minimal, yet still plagued me). One summer, I took up running outside almost every day. Ths was a great way to both clear my mind and use cardio exercise to strip fat rather than build muscle. I recognized a significant slimmer appearance to my legs, yet still toned. In a healthy way, I had overcome my insecurities.


It is increasingly toxic to look at a certain type of body as ideal and frame your own self image around a comparison to this. Again because of ballet, I looked at tall, thin, and willowy bodies as ideal. This is futile as I am 5’3 and have natural curves. Conversely, a lot of girls who don’t feel traditionally feminine look at girls who have curves and put this body type on a pedestal. Our bodies can only do so much, and frankly the grass is always greener on the other side.


Don’t let any outside critique of your body determine how you feel about it. There are many reasons why someone may feel the need to comment on your body, and none of them are valid. The purpose of changing your perception of your body should be for your own mental and physical health.


 Find clothes that make you feel good. It helped me to look into what is complementary to my body type, but at the end of the day, presenting yourself in a way that makes you feel happy and confident is going to alleviate pressure on how your body looks. Additionally, some people create photo albums on their phone full of pictures of themselves that they like. This can be a nice reminder of confidence when you’re feeling negative. This could even be physical photos that you keep somewhere to reference when you need to.


Body image issues are not something that can be fixed in a day, week, month, or sometimes even years. There is no simple solution, it is a process that is different for everyone. Even so, body image issues may be something that you don’t cure but learn to manage and live with, being happy and keeping it under control. Being aware of yourself, how you are feeling, and what healthy methods help you is the best way to overcome insecurities. Value yourself, and take the time to be and feel the best you can be.