More than one third of UK adults struggle with concerns about their body image and it’s costing us our mental health. Find out how you can be more body confident.
What is body confidence?
At its simplest level, body confidence is about feeling comfortable in your own skin, such that you don’t really worry about your appearance. It is NOT about having a great body!
To be body confident means you:
- Are OK with the body you’ve got
- Appreciate what your body can do for you
- Don’t engage in negative self-talk
- Accept who you are
- Value yourself for the qualities you already have
- Nurture and care for yourself
- Know you’re fine just as you are
At this point, I would like to point out that not worrying and not caring are two different things! It’s OK to care about how you look, to want to look your best, so long as it comes from a place of enhancement and joy rather than resentment and fear.
You can change your appearance…so long as it’s for the right reasons
As a body confidence coach, I will never discourage my clients from changing aspects of their appearance. However, I will encourage them to fully explore their reasons and to start from a place of self-acceptance.
My personal experience of cosmetic surgery came about a few years ago when I decided to invest in a breast reduction procedure. My boobs weren’t massive, but big enough to cost a small fortune in bras and swimwear and, for the sake of decency in front of my sons, I had even taken to wearing a bra under my pyjamas. Being just over five foot tall and with a short torso due to my scoliosis, I felt top heavy and desperately uncomfortable. At the time of writing this blog, it’s been three years since my surgery and I still haven’t got over the novelty of being able to more easily fit into standard-sized lingerie and clothing, not to mention going bra-less to bed!
We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded with images of how we “should” look – flawless, toned, proportioned, Instagram-perfect. It may be nothing new, as the media has long portrayed idealistic standards that are beyond the reach of so many, but somehow it seems far more pervasive than ever. Even your friends are doing it with their filters and apps and careful posing!
The impact on our mental health is huge
Poor body image usually goes hand in hand with low self-esteem and will often result in the withdrawal or disengagement from activities that may be otherwise enjoyable or beneficial. It can adversely impact your relationship with those around you and may even prevent you from forming some relationships in the first place.
From anxieties about swimwear to not feeling good enough for a promotion, how we feel about our appearance really does matter. Age is no discriminator either. I thought I would be less concerned about my looks as I got older but, as of yet, that hasn’t happened. I still have to work on my body confidence, perhaps more so as the disfigurement of my scoliosis seems to be worsening with age.
How to improve body confidence
There is no silver bullet, no one thing that will magically shift your thinking, but there are some things you can do that, over time, will help you to feel better about yourself.
Upgrade your self-talk
Addressing the way we talk to ourselves is the number one priority for improving body confidence. But first you need to notice how that internal dialogue goes. All too often, we use words and phrases about ourselves that we simply wouldn’t use on anyone else, at least not to their face! So why do we deem it OK to speak to ourselves like that?
Make a point of noticing your inner thoughts and conversations and in particular any criticism you level at yourself. Then start to change your language. Accept your flaws and appreciate your strengths. Show compassion towards yourself. Daily affirmations can be very helpful, for example:
“I am [insert non-appearance related positives] and perfect just as I am.”
Quit the judging
When you lack body confidence, you can tend to be very self-critical, but have you noticed how judgemental you are about others? Comparing ourselves to other people is nothing new but it seems so much worse in our digitally connected world. Beware though because you are rarely judging like with like – studies show that we typically compare the worst of ourselves to the best of others.
Start to notice your judgemental behaviour and use it as an opportunity to remind yourself that what you’re seeing isn’t the real person, and that judging anyone on the basis of looks alone is shallow and unhelpful – it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters.
Focus on your health and wellbeing
Nothing looks better on anyone than the glow of good health. And it doesn’t just stop with your appearance – when you’re eating well, staying hydrated, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep, the boost to your mental wellbeing is without doubt, and the knock-on effect to your confidence unquestionable.
Come up with two to three simple things you could do to improve your health, implement them, make them a habit, and then add in another two or three actions and follow the same process. Over time, you will make noticeable differences.
Motivation is key, and making it doable is crucial. Sometimes less is more, and action is most definitely better than inaction.
Gratitude is an amazing weapon in the battle to gain confidence. Being thankful for the people and resources that we have in our lives lifts our mood and makes us feel more positive. It also reduces stress and has beneficial effects on our mental and physical health, all of which help to lay the foundations for building confidence and an attitude of appreciation.
It’s really easy to get into a gratitude habit – two of my favourite options are journaling and A-Z. Your daily journal doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a notebook and a pen and a commitment to write down three things each day that you are thankful for, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. A-Z involves finding something about which you feel grateful for each letter of the alphabet. If you have children, try drawing them into the game as well!
When we have body confidence issues, we tend to focus on what we don’t like about our appearance. Try flipping that focus and instead consider the things you do like or, if that’s a step too far, think about all the wonderful things your body does for you. Take a sheet of paper and write the heading “My body can…” and then brainstorm as many things as possible. Re-read the list regularly.
The journey to body confidence is just that, a journey, and it can be fraught with pitfalls. But the destination is worth it, in terms of the joy and freedom that comes with being able to be your whole, authentic self.
Take a look at my Coaching Page to find out how I can help you.