How we look or think we look can play a significant role in our mood and mental well-being. Unfortunately, our society has created false ideas of what bodies should look like, which has led to a massive epidemic of individuals with poor body image. From social media and movies to the fashion and health industries, we are constantly being fed unrealistic ideals of what a good or healthy body looks like, which can make us feel like we aren’t good enough.
Luckily, newer generations that are pushing for inclusivity, mindfulness, and all-around more ethical treatment of individuals are having an effect on body positivity as well. As such, we are starting to see views and mindsets change regarding weight and general body image and identity.
However, while we are moving in a better direction that teaches people to stop shaming someone for how they look or how much they weigh, true body positivity comes from within. It is not about how you look but how you feel. Your weight should not define you, whether you are fat or thin. There is nothing wrong with being either of these things, but genuinely loving who you are is about accepting the way you look and not basing your self-worth on how much you weigh.
Why Body Positivity is Important
Loving your body and appreciating what it does for you is a key element in developing a healthy body image. Having a positive and healthy image of yourself is important because how you view yourself plays a part in how you feel. People with poor body image tend to struggle with their mental health significantly more than those who are comfortable and happy in their bodies.
A recent survey from the Mental Health Foundation and YouGov shows that 13% of UK adults have admitted to having suicidal thoughts and feelings that were triggered by their poor body image. Similar studies in the U.S. have also shown an increase in suicidal ideation in those with poor body image, especially adolescents. Overall, experts have concluded that poor quality of life and psychological distress are associated with those who have higher body dissatisfaction.
Tips For Learning to Love Your Body and Boosting Your Self-Esteem
Of course, understanding that body positivity is crucial if you want to feel better about yourself is different than actually developing a healthy body image. For some, it can be challenging to change the way they see themselves after years of self-hatred and bad habits. It’s important to remember that it is a journey that requires taking it one step at a time.
No one expects you to change overnight, and you shouldn’t place such high expectations on yourself either. Three key elements in becoming more body positive are 1) learning how to develop your self-esteem, 2) embracing a positive attitude, and 3) cultivating emotional awareness.
The tips can help you on your path as you learn to build your self-esteem and develop a healthier body image:
1. Think happy thoughts
This might seem obvious or a little silly,but changing the way you think and learning to see the bright side of things is an essential part of boosting your self-esteem. It’s not always easy to control your thoughts, but the more you teach yourself to think happy thoughts, the more you will start to see yourself and your life in a positive light. Remind yourself every day about the good things that happened and the amazing things that your body can do.
2. Do what makes you feel good
Don’t force yourself to do something just because it’s what you think you should do or because it’s what others expect of you. Learning to love yourself and building self-esteem requires living a life that makes you happy, not others. This also means learning not to shame yourself when you don’t do something that someone else wanted you to do.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
Often, the people we interact with daily can influence how we feel about ourselves. If you have friends or family that make you feel bad about yourself, do not be afraid to limit your interactions with them or speak up and tell them how what they do or say makes you feel. This your life — just because someone is a friend or a family member does not mean you have to subject yourself to their negativity. Surrounding yourself with loving and supportive people is an important step to take when developing a healthy body image.
4. Change your doctor
Our doctors are supposed to help us feel better, not make us feel worse. Unfortunately, there are many people in the medical community who still have backward views and outdated ways of thinking. You should not be made to feel like all of your problems are because of your weight. Having a fat-friendly doctor can significantly improve your health and well-being because they will treat you like a human being that deserves care, rather than someone who should be treated differently because of their weight.
5. Develop healthy eating and exercise habits
This can be one of the hardest steps to take when learning to love your body and who you are. Food and exercise can be a trigger for many with poor body image. Your diet and exercise habits should not be the focus on your journey to developing body positivity but eating balanced meals and getting regular exercise are essential to regulating your mood and feeling better about yourself.
The important thing to remember when eating or exercising is that it’s not about the numbers. If you focus too much on dropping or gaining a ton of weight or how many calories you are consuming, it can make you feel worse when you don’t see immediate changes. Instead, focus on how certain foods and exercise make you feel. Don’t force yourself to do something or eat something just because you think it’s healthy or because you think you should.
Learning to love yourself and accepting your body is about changing your mind, not your body. You have to stop comparing yourself to others and shift your focus to yourself and what makes you think and feel good. The more you do things that make you happy and learn to see the positives in your life, the more you feel better in your own skin and love who you are.
Just remember that you don’t have to go through this journey alone. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help. Often talking about what we are feeling and what we are going through with someone else can help us better process our negative emotions.