I go through ebbs and flows with my body image. It has never been easy for me and, at times, it is one of the more difficult things I go through. Over the years, I have found a few ways to help combat the negative self-talk/body hate and (for me) body dysmorphia through a few great skills. If you are struggling with your body image, try one or two of these and see if they might be helpful for you as well.
1. Cover/Remove Your Mirrors
For me, I was triggered seeing my body in the mirror while changing, so removing the mirror in my room made a huge difference. I also covered up the mirror in my bathroom with wrapping paper to make it so just my shoulders and above are visible and that has a huge affect, too. (I will discuss how I did the wrapping paper at the bottom of this post.) I still have one full-length mirror in the house in another room where I check to see how my outfit looks. In that instance, I have to monitor myself and make sure I am not checking myself and then hating on my body. Know yourself and your own limits and see how this would apply for you. Eventually re-introduce mirrors when you feel comfortable and ready.
This is a pretty important one. Noticing is about being mindful of your thoughts and aware of when you are starting to get into that cycle of negative self-talk. Depending on where you are at in recovery and with coping skills in general, this may be a matter of simply noticing. Be aware that these thoughts are happening. This is “step one” in a sense. Later on, noticing and then being compassionate and kind towards yourself for having these thoughts. Not being angry at yourself for it or judging yourself, but simply aware of the thoughts and having kindness towards yourself for these feelings. Validate these feelings in yourself. Even later on, it is about taking the awareness, validation, and noticing further. It is noticing that the negative self-talk is happening and possibly spiraling, validating those feelings, and choosing not to engage with them. One thing I usually say to myself is, “Are these thoughts/actions/etc helping me?” If the answer is no, then I need to do something different. Instead it is using other words to replace the self-hate with such as affirmations, which I will get to next, and positive self-talk such as stating something you actually like about your body, which for me is how muscular I am. It is really important in this part to stop engaging in the negative self-talk, knowing that you do not wish to engage in it, and having a replacement for it.
For some people these work better than for others. If this is something that is right for you, then go ahead and try it. One of my favorites to use is, “The body image piece will come later.” I have others that I have come up with (with help) that are person-specific to me and my situation. There are plenty to come up with that are person-specific to your and your situation as well since we are all different. Do not be afraid to ask for help on this one! These are really great to use when having a lot of negative self-talk and general body image woes.
3. Being Comfortable
This tip is often difficult to practice especially with body changes/fluctuations. A particular monthly fluctuation brings me so much grief. Some of my pants start feeling uncomfortable and not fitting right. If I have had a bad day or am having a tough day, this could be especially difficult leading to tons of clothes being tossed around the room in frustration. Recently, however, I have really worked on trying something new by simply wearing what is comfortable regardless of the size. I am redirecting myself away from the size of the clothes and towards whether or not they are comfortable. See how it goes. Put on a pair of jeans regardless of the size, knowing your are comfortable and feel good, and see how it feels for a little while.
4. Positive Self-Talk
Of course I would bring this up! It is very important. I do think that it is incredibly hard and that at times it feels impossible, but I believe it is such an important part of loving yourself and overcoming this body hate. It does not have to start with something huge. It can be as simple as “I love my toes”. As I said, for me, I really enjoy how muscular I am. Always have. It is using that part of your body that you love and reflecting on that rather than the part of your body that you are stuck on hating. When that body hate comes up, noticing it, and remembering that there is something to love about yourself and talk about that to yourself instead. Even when you do not have that negative self-talk going, just reminding yourself here and there.
What skills have helped you combat your negative body image? Feel free to share!
And if you would like to read more about positive body image, here’s a really good blog post to read!
For the wrapping paper:
To do wrapping paper across my bathroom mirror, I measured across the mirror and then cut out that length in wrapping paper. I used plain white to possibly write positive quotes on it later. (Still on my list of things to do!) I definitely suggest that you give it a try. I then took the wrapping paper and folded it in half so that it folded downwards, was long, and would go across the mirror. I cut it in half along the line. I used painters tape to adhere the halves of wrapping paper to the mirror. Since I am short it worked perfectly this way. You may need to use some extra wrapping paper depending on your height.