Do you suffer from a negative body image? Do your self-esteem and confidence take a hiatus when you look in the mirror? Do you spend a good part of your day judging and criticizing your own appearance?
If you would like to take more pleasure in the way you look, then this is the episode for you! Today, we’re going to touch on two powerful techniques that will help you to shift your perspective and develop more confidence, not just in your body image, but in your whole life.
A negative body image is something that almost everyone deals with at one point or another. In fact, it’s such a pervasive topic that it can affect every area of your life, whether you notice it or not.
The issue with body image is that we wear the way we feel about it on our physicality like a tattoo . . . and we can never escape it.
When we’re self-conscious about the way we look, we slouch (which makes us look short and stout), we keep our body language closed off (which makes us look unapproachable), and we tend to avoid eye contact (which makes us look less confident).
These are all ways in which we attempt to “hide” ourselves from the world. Ironically, however, everything we do to compensate for our negative body image makes us less attractive.
The bigger problem is that we also believe that our frustration with our body image is going to motivate us to make a change.
Firstly, that is rarely an effective means of motivation. Nobody looks in the mirror, tells themselves how gross they are, then feels powerful and energetic enough to go lift weights or jog three miles. In fact, that sort of mindset is incredibly draining and will likely inspire you to do nothing but Charlie-Brown-walk yourself right out of the gym.
Secondly, even if it were effective, would that really be the kind of fuel you would want propelling your personal transformation? No! If you’re going to make a change, you want to feel positive, happy, and powerful in the process!
Self-hatred may get results in the short term, but lasting transformation only occurs when you make adjustments you can stick with for your entire life.
So, how do we acknowledge our negative body image while also gaining control over it in a healthy way that will lead to greater overall confidence.
Step one is to assess the standard that you’re setting for yourself.
In my work, I’ve found that most people set ridiculously unattainable standards for the way they believe they should look. Let me use myself as an example. When I used to look in the mirror, I’d see all kinds of issues: I didn’t like the area around my eyes, I thought I should have almost no body fat, and I wanted to see bulging muscles all over the place.
Basically, I expected to see the world’s handsomest super hero, and when I didn’t, I’d feel discouraged and inferior.
This is, of course, absurd.
So, the question is: What is that ideal body image for you, and how healthy do you think that expectation is?
Most people I work with will say they want to be in shape. When I really push them, though, the men actually want to look like Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine, and the women want to pass as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover models.
Now, that’s not impossible—we’ve all seen The Biggest Loser, so we know that massive transformation is feasible in some cases. But we should also be realistic and accept that, for most human beings, life is going to get in the way of achieving such an extreme body image standard.
Fact: even Hugh Jackman doesn’t look like The Wolverine all the time . . . AND he gets paid to look like that.
Celebrities train incredibly hard with very exclusive and equally expensive personal trainers, and they go on heavily restricted diets that are probably overseen by nutritionists. Most of my clients don’t have a personal trainer or a nutritionist, and they’re certainly not getting paid millions of dollars to look a certain way as a part of their job.
Now, let’s consider the swimsuit models. As with Hugh Jackman, it is literally their job to look like that—so, their bodies do not have to compete for time with their full-time jobs, children, and grocery bills. On top of that, it is well known that modern models often rely on unhealthy dietary practices (not to mention photoshop a genetic lottery win) to look the way they do.
Sure, many of these “ideals” may look good a lot of the time (because they’re living their lives under the spotlight), but they’re also going to extremes in the weeks and months leading up to a film or photo shoot. Hence, you’re only ever seeing the best possible physical version of them.
As mentioned above, it is not healthy to live in extremes.
The point of this isn’t to discourage you—just the opposite, in fact. The harder we strive for an unattainable ideal, the more likely we are to view our progress as minimal, and the more likely we are to assume it’s impossible and concede defeat.
If, instead, we can get realistic about healthy expectations (such as eating healthier, lowering our blood pressure with diet and exercise, or achieving a healthier BMI), we will be far more likely to stick with our goals and feel a sense of pride as we inch toward them.
Step two on the road to greater body image confidence is to recognize your pattern of focus when you look in the mirror.
Recently, when looking in the mirror, I discovered that I tend to go right to the area right around my eyes. And, once I’m there, I beat myself up because I don’t like what I see.
Think about it—that horrid pattern runs in my head a thousand times a day: look at reflection, check eyes, “Ew, gross,” look away. Every time I pass a mirror, look in a storefront window, walk by a car door: look at reflection, check eyes, “Ew, gross,” look away.
This pattern is so automatic that we don’t even consciously know that we’re doing it. It’s insanity, and it’s not going to help or change anything.
Upon realizing this pattern, I set out to notice when I was succumbing to it so that I could change it. From then on, any time I looked in the mirror, I would force myself to look somewhere else first—I’d even try to keep myself from looking at the area around my eyes at all.
The most helpful tip for changing this destructive pattern is to consciously force yourself to focus on something you know you like when you look in the mirror. Maybe you have beautiful eyes or lips or teeth or hands . . . who cares! Whatever you like about yourself (or are at least neutral about), just make the conscious effort to look directly at that feature every time you notice your reflection.
By forcing yourself to focus on a positive feature, you will help to set a new, more constructive pattern of behavior.
This works hand in hand with the idea of choosing a more positive mindset from the start.
When you focus on something you like about yourself, you are more likely to speak optimistically to yourself about how you look; and when you focus on how strong or dedicated or flexible you are during a workout, you are more likely to want to keep going.
Not only does this mindset feel better in the short term, but it is also more possible to sustain over the course of your entire life.
In order to see radical change in our body image starting now, you must let go of the self-criticism, crazy expectations, and negative images you’ve developed over the course of your life. The sooner you can learn to be on your own side, the sooner you will begin to truly enjoy your body and create more profound joy in your life.
As always, I invite you to subscribe, especially if these episodes are making a difference in your life. The more you immerse yourself in your work toward greater self-confidence, the more your entire perception of yourself and the world around you will transform for the better. As you work to develop your self-esteem in one area of your life, you will continue to put yourself out there in ways that will deepen your connections to the people around you and, ultimately, improve the overall quality of your life.
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.