All about the mind

Feeling good about yourself: How to build a positive body image

This is a sponsored post for Irwin Mitchell solicitors.

If there is one thing I’ve learnt in my almost-30 years on this planet as a woman {slight exaggeration alert!} and in the last five years as a psychologist it’s that the majority of us have a problem with our appearance. Too fat. Too thin. Too short. Too tall. Boobs are too small. Or too big. Hips are too wide. Butt is not big enough. Nose is too long. Lips are too thin.

The list never ends.

Image Source: Here (via Google images)

Most women {and some men} are perpetually dissatisfied with their bodies. I definitely see it among women I know personally and clients I see through work. In some cases, this dissatisfaction takes the extreme form of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia or body dysmorphic disorder. I guess as a population we are familiar with anorexia and bulimia. But body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is not one commonly spoken about.

When it comes to BDD, Michael Jackson was an extreme example. Someone who saw flaws in their appearance that no one else could really see to the point of taking the path of surgery to modify these ‘imperfections’. Personally, I wonder whether majority of us lie on the BDD spectrum. After all, don’t we all see some or the other physical imperfection in ourselves that no one else can see? Clinically, I have had a couple of clients so far fitting the diagnosis. And it’s pretty sad to see just how much it can impact their lives. True, my clients are not capable of surgically changing anything but it doesn’t mean that they don’t dream about doing so. In short, BDD is a long and hard battle requiring a lot of cognitive and behavioural therapy.

Sadly, a lot of individuals do go on to attempt plastic surgery as adults. And some continue their nips and tucks. Until they look nothing like the person they once were. I guess it’s not surprising then that clinical negligence claims are also on the rise. I think plastic surgeons have a lot to answer for given that they prey on people’s insecurities {unless of course, it’s for legitimate reasons like someone being horrifically disfigured in a fire or accident}. However, the media needs to take a bigger responsibility in sharing the blame for the prevalence of body image dissatisfaction and almost normalising plastic surgery. After all, if you are going to be bombarded by women who are size zero and wrinkle-free, it’s eventually going to take it’s toll on your size 12 body and lined face, isn’t it?

Anyway, the media, the plastic surgeons, Hollywood and the modelling industry are avenues that are unlikely to change any time soon. But one thing that we can start to change is ourselves. And the way we view our bodies. Especially for those of us who are not on the clinical end of an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder and basically just have those down days when we berate ourselves. So here are some tips for the same:

  • Instead of focusing on the flaws in your appearance, force yourself to look for things you like. For instance, it might be your smile or your eyelashes. You’ll be surprised at how it works. Initially it might just be one thing but you’ll soon notice the list growing. 
  • Wear clothes you love and that flatter you. You’ll be surprised at how good you feel about yourself.
  • Watch your thinking. No this isn’t about positive thinking. Rather, it’s about thinking in a helpful manner. Consciously replace the unhelpful beliefs and thoughts with more helpful ones. So for instance, me lamenting about my almost non-existent boobs only makes me feel worse about them but a more helpful way of looking at it would be that I can run without worrying about something hitting me in the face! {True story!!}
  • Stop comparing. I know this one is hard but let’s face it, there is always going to be someone from a population of 7 billion that is going to be ‘better’ than you in some way. Just as there is someone ‘worse off’ than you. It’s all about perspective. And definitely DO NOT compare to images you see in magazines. Remember, if you were photo-shopped, you’d probably look flawless too. And plastic.
  • Love your body. Eat healthy and exercise. It will help you feel better about yourself. Diets don’t work. Period.
  • If you truly have concerns about your body that impact on your health {e.g. weight impacting on high blood pressure}, do something about it. And rather than focusing on the loss in weight {as in the numbers on the scale}, focus on living a healthy life.
  • There is more to life than looks. Try and focus your energy on other parts of your life. By this I don’t mean you have to neglect your appearance completely but expend your energy on friends, relationships, hobbies, interests, work, study…it’s all of these that make you who you are and more confident in yourself.

In the end though, as clichéd as it sounds, love yourself. You have one body. You have one life. And while it’ll never be ‘perfect’, it is yours and it shows who you are.

No one else can be you.

So why would you want to be just like someone else?

Disclaimer: The above tips are not a substitute for therapy. If you do have an eating disorder or BDD or significant concerns about your body image, please see a psychologist for longer-term therapy. Please also note that none of these tips are evidence-based and more about my personal experiences and reflections. 

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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  • Reply
    Smita
    March 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I so agree with this!!! A very well written post and very relevant!!!

    We are so obsessed with looking perfect that we forget that nothing is perfect in this life!!!
    Smita recently posted…My Love for Coffee & Good People!!!My Profile

  • Reply
    Smita
    March 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I so agree with this!!! A very well written post and very relevant!!!

    We are so obsessed with looking perfect that we forget that nothing is perfect in this life!!!
    Smita recently posted…My Love for Coffee & Good People!!!My Profile

  • Reply
    Lara @ This Charming Mum
    March 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    It’s so sad that our physical selves can have such a negative impact on our social/psychological selves. Why is it so hard for us to be happy with our bodies? I don’t think I know a single person who would say they are satisfied with what they have. Maybe that says something about my social circle!
    Lara @ This Charming Mum recently posted…Comment on Facebook, we need to talk. by SarahMacMy Profile

  • Reply
    Lara @ This Charming Mum
    March 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    It’s so sad that our physical selves can have such a negative impact on our social/psychological selves. Why is it so hard for us to be happy with our bodies? I don’t think I know a single person who would say they are satisfied with what they have. Maybe that says something about my social circle!
    Lara @ This Charming Mum recently posted…Comment on Facebook, we need to talk. by SarahMacMy Profile

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