By Silvia Carli
Do you know the best way to get a truly killer bikini body? Step one: Have a body. Step two: Put a bikini on it. It’s that simple — or, at least, it should be. That said, when was the last time you looked into the mirror and didn’t see anything to criticize about yourself? It’s so easy to be harder on yourself than you’d ever be on anyone else and to engage in toxic body-shaming. You know it’s not good for your self-confidence, but it’s so hard to stop. Here I’ll teach you how to replace that damaging self-talk with positive affirmations that help improve your self-esteem. You deserve to feel good about yourself and be happy with what you see in the mirror.
What is “Body-Shaming”?
Body-shaming is the act of putting down someone’s physical appearance, like their weight, their skin, or their facial features. It’s something most of us stopped doing to other people after about the seventh grade, thankfully, but when it comes to ourselves, we tend to be much less kind. Think about this for a minute. If you were to make comments to your friends about their appearances the way you think about your own appearance, would you even have friends? If the answer is a resounding no, you can be reasonably sure you’re in the habit of body-shaming yourself.
What do you see when you look at your reflection? Do you see a friendly face, bright, expressive eyes, and a beautiful smile? Do you see a body that is strong and capable of doing the things that bring you joy? Or do you see the ten pounds you’ve been nagging yourself to lose and a nose that’s two sizes too big for your face? If you don’t love what you see, now’s the time to make a change. And I’m not referring to a diet or a nose job here — I’m talking about the way you speak to and about yourself. Let’s talk a little more about how to love yourself just as you are.
Five Ways to Practice Self-Love
One of the most effective ways to rid yourself of a bad habit is to replace it with better ones. Here’s how to practice self-love rather than self-deprecation.
Prune Your Closet
Nothing makes you feel worse about your body than ill-fitting clothing. Life’s too short to wear anything that chafes, pinches, rides up, or makes you feel frumpy. Spend a Saturday afternoon weeding through your closet, and ditch anything that doesn’t make you feel great. If it’s still wearable, pass it to a friend or coworker or drop it in a donation bin — someone will be happy to have it! You can also try selling your unwanted stuff on consignment sites like Poshmark or thredUP. That should net you some cash for a shopping spree for new clothes that make you feel gorgeous.
When you don’t feel happy with your body, it’s easy to start punishing yourself: restricting calories, skipping meals, or overdoing it on exercise. Beginning today, resolve to make meals, snacks, and workouts part of your body-positive self-care plan. Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals and healthy snacks. Enjoy salty snacks and sweet treats in moderation. Move your body in ways that bring you happiness, whether that’s by dancing, swimming, or tennis with friends. And if you do slip up and eat a whole pint of ice cream (or sleep through your morning run), please forgive yourself. It’s part of being human.
Be Grateful for Your Body
The next time you feel mired in negative thoughts about your body, try practicing gratitude for everything you do like about it. Sure, it might be nice to have longer legs, but yours carry you through those intense barre classes twice a week. Yes, you might wish your arms were more toned, but yours are so good for hugging. You may not think your body is perfect, but it carries you through all the most important parts of your life. Take a minute to appreciate everything it does for you.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
In addition to being grateful for everything your body can do, you can practice self-love by engaging in positive self-talk. The next time you’re tempted to call yourself fat or unattractive, give yourself a good old-fashioned compliment instead. Pat yourself on the back for your shampoo-ad-worthy hair, your awesome outfit, or your beautiful eyes. While you’re at it, give yourself props for that raise you recently scored, and remind yourself how much your friends love you. What kinds of things would you say to someone you care about to cheer them up? Those are the kinds of compliments you should give yourself, too.
Comparison Is the Thief of Joy
It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people and come up short. Be mindful of how often you measure yourself against others, whether it’s celebrities, influencers, or your friends. Remember that what you see in magazines and on Instagram has been heavily edited and manipulated. Your skin doesn’t look as perfect as a cover model’s — but neither does theirs. If you find that browsing through influencer posts makes you feel depressed and ashamed, hit the “unfollow” button and stick to your friends’ photos. Oh, and if you catch yourself wishing you had your BFF’s amazing figure? Keep in mind that she’s probably every bit as hard on herself as you are … and she might envy you sometimes too.
Ditch Body Shame for Body Respect
Do you remember that scene in Mean Girls where “Queen Bee” Regina George and her crew complain loudly about their appearances? After they’ve lamented their physical flaws (right down to Karen’s nail beds), they turn expectantly to clueless new kid Cady, eager to hear her body-shame herself too. We use body-shaming as a group bonding ritual — that’s how ingrained it is in our culture.
It’s high time we broke the vicious cycle of self-deprecation and replaced it with a culture of self-respect and body positivity. You can start today by working on yourself. Don’t bash your body, don’t let anyone hear you bash your body, and don’t bash anyone else’s body. The next time you hear a loved one or colleague start to do it, gently interrupt and redirect the conversation to a more positive topic.
We’re each given just one body to enjoy for a lifetime. Let’s be thankful for everything our bodies can do and be a little kinder to ourselves. We deserve it!
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