by Colleen Reichman, Psy.D.
Bad body image days. You know what I’m talking about. Those days when you wake up, glance in the mirror, and that mean girl/guy voice immediately whispers, neigh, hisses “not good enough” in your ear. Those types of days when you decide that the voice is right, and you make the choice to launch into what I affectionately refer to as “the mental terrorist scan of doom.” This is that scenario when you find yourself staring into your bathroom mirror (or even worse, a full-length mirror) and picking apart every perceived imperfection with a fine-toothed comb. What does this do for us? Well clearly it makes us feel worse. How does it help? It doesn’t. Not in any way. So why do we do it? And more importantly, what spurs on those bad body image thoughts?
I don’t believe there are any simple answers to either of those questions. Sometimes there are clear-cut reasons for the thoughts, and sometimes we just wake up with them. Other times it feels like we are absolutely compelled to point out our own flaws and inadequacies. Who needs enemies when we have ourselves?
The good news is there are ways to combat these thoughts. Below, you will find 10 tips to turning a bad body image day around. Remember, practice makes
perfect progress, so using these tricks over and over is the way to become adapt at snapping yourself out of those bad body days.
1. Hold up:
Pause. Take a step back. Breathe. Take a few moments to think and breathe before your decide to launch into a mental tirade on your appearance. How are you feeling emotionally? Spiritually? Physically? What is going on right now in your life? What would be more beneficial to channel your energy into today?
2. Opposite action:
This one is a toughie, but tried and true. Find something on your body that you are thankful for and take a moment or two to thank it! This could mean writing it down, saying it out loud in the mirror, or just saying it to yourself (e.g., “I am grateful for my legs, because they are strong and take me from point a to point b” or “I am thankful for my stomach, because it does its job every day for me”).
3. Distract yourself:
Don’t let yourself go down the self-hate path. When you find yourself feeling the bad body vibes, find something else to occupy your mind. Call a friend, pick up a good book, color a picture, knit something, etc. Dig deep into that coping took box and find something to get blissfully lost in.
4. Practice self-love:
Instead of being mean to yourself, make the choice to practice self-compassion. Remind yourself of your ultimate goal to love and accept yourself. Instead of focusing on your flaws, tell yourself, “I am a work in progress.” Repeat to yourself, “I was not put here to be perfect.” Over time, you will begin to internalize this self-compassion, and it will start to feel more natural.
5. Treat yourself like you would a friend:
Imagine meeting your best friend for coffee. She walks into the shop, sits down, looks are you in despair and says, “I’m feeling really insecure right now.” Now imagine that you scan her up and down with a critical eye, and then begin to list off all of her imperfections and physical flaws. Sound absurd? That’s because it is! We would never keep friends if we talked to them like we talk to ourselves. Make a commitment to begin responding to yourself like you would a good friend. You deserve as just as much kindness and love as you give to others.
6. Focus on the internal:
When your attention becomes negatively fixated on the external, make it a point to consider what really matters ― the internal. Write down a list of all the positive attributes about yourself that don’t have to do with appearance or weight. Put this list somewhere easily accessible and look at it whenever you need to remind yourself of your dreams, kind heart, intelligence, humor, etc. (e.g., the things that truly define us).
7. Challenge the negative:
Write down the negative thoughts about your appearance that you are having. Now write down positive counter arguments to these statements. Even if it feels disingenuine, writing down the counter arguments allows us to begin the process of changing our thoughts. Change your thoughts, change your life.
Do something nice for yourself. Take a bubble bath, get a pedicure, watch your favorite movie. Distract yourself from the negative thoughts by treating yourself with extra kindness. Each time you choose one of these self-soothing activities over abusing your body you move one step closer to self-acceptance.
9. Remind yourself of how much more you are than a body:
A scale measures your gravitational pull towards earth. That is all. You are so, so much more than a number. You are your ambitions, your bravery, your triumph over adversity. You are your dreams, your passions, your soul. You are a living, breathing miracle. You are you!
10. Write it down:
Write down the negative thoughts. Take a moment to look at them. Now put them into a box on your dresser, close the lid, and walk out the door.
Alternatively, if you are feeling particularly sassy, rip the piece of paper up and toss the pieces into the garbage. By doing this you are taking the power back from the thoughts and reclaiming it as your own. You are shutting the thoughts down before they have a chance to ruin your day.
You have the power to choose self-love, even on a bad body image day.
Even though it may feel hard initially, over time these techniques will get easier and easier to use. So next time your feel those mean girl/guy thoughts creeping in, try one of these ideas! What do you have to lose? You have probably already tried being nasty to yourself and it has kept you stuck. Give being your own friend a try. You can do it!
Read more Project HEAL blog articles here: http://theprojectheal.org/blog/.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.