With the Winter Olympics taking place right now, I have been thinking about how in AWE I am of what people can do with their bodies! It’s inspiring to watch our athletes compete, but it can also be frustrating to compare our bodies to World-Class Athletes…What they are able to achieve, what they look like, etc. Being unhappy with our own bodies can make us feel discouraged and envious. It might be chronic pain, past trauma, injury, illness, fatigue, or wishing your body would look a certain way that brings dissatisfaction. Re-framing can help combat these negative thoughts. Here are some ideas:
- Focus on the Positive: Our bodies are AMAZING, even when they don’t function perfectly. Our bodies serve practical and recreational purposes for us every day. Using a gratitude exercise can help us to refocus on what IS working. Ask yourself: What can my body DO? What are the functions that it provides that I may not usually think about? Make a list of what you are grateful for that your body does. This might be as simple as breathing or going on a weekly walk. Or the list could include the incredible and life-altering things that our bodies can do like fighting illnesses and giving birth! Focusing on all that our bodies afford us can help to blossom a new mindset.
- Take a Media Break: The internet/movies/social media/magazines/TV are full of unrealistic images. We all know this, but it still affects the way we think about ourselves! Research has consistently shown this. In fact, one study found that when girls and women look at fashion magazines their confidence lowers and, as a result, they have lower performance on tests! This may also be true for boys and men looking at bodybuilding magazines. The idea is, looking at unrealistic images can be damaging to the images we have of ourselves. Social media can be fun, but it also breeds comparison. People tend to put their best selves out there and don’t always advertise their challenges. This may make it feel like no one else has struggles. So take a break! Facebook and Instagram will always be there when you are ready to return. And when you get back to social media, try to surround your virtual world with Positive images and Supportive connections.
- Reconnect: Connect with your body in a positive way. For many of us, disconnecting body from mind is a survival strategy to keep us safe from various traumas–past and present. We disconnect in all sorts of ways–with alcohol, overeating, under-eating, and the list goes on. Getting back in touch with your body is so important to the process of healing. Yoga is one of the best evidence-based ways to process trauma and begin the process of connecting mind and body. It is an intimate practice that begs us to be in-the-moment with ourselves just as we are. This is hard for someone who is dissatisfied with their body! It is a life-long practice that has life-long benefits. Other ways to reconnect include: dance, meditation, theater, and art. These activities tend to engage multiple senses at once. When our senses are fully engaged it’s hard to stay “in your head” and easier to be “in the moment.”
- Remember That You Are a Whole Person: I think most of us know this, but we can all use more reminders! You are not your thighs, your acne, your aching knees, your chronic illness, etc. You are a whole person! You are a complex, messy, beautiful organism with so much meaning to the people around you. What makes you “You” is not your body. It’s the all-encompassing package and essence of you. You are your sense of humor, personality, compassion, wit, thoughts, feelings, history, relationships, and more! For this one, think of the fabulous song “I Am Not My Hair,” by India Arie. The chorus goes:
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am the soul that lives within
This is a priceless reminder that our value is so much more than skin deep.
Lisa Wilmore, LPC