Comparing ourselves, our lives, intellect, humour and of course our physical appearance is a natural and human thing to do. However, the frequency, intensity, and also the nature of comparisons can impact how you feel about yourself and your body.
Why? Body and appearance comparisons drive unhelpful and unhealthy competition between ourselves and others. They reaffirm narrow and stereotypical beauty and body ideals and use language that is toxic, shaming and unkind. It’s the ideals that are the problem, not a person’s body size or appearance.
But that can be a tricky concept to believe when the messages in our world tell us otherwise. Body comparisons can also damage our self-esteem and create disordered relationships with eating, physical activity and our bodies.
So, what can you do? Firstly, remember that body image is more about how you feel, rather than how you look. We can choose to work on our feelings and this will strengthen our body image. It’s not about feeling amazing in your body all the time, but instead striving to see yourself as valuable and important no matter what your body size or how you look.
Here are 5 tips for building a positive body image
1. Combat the comparisons
If you find yourself comparing, you might like to try ignoring it or not engaging in the comparison – give it less oxygen so it can’t thrive! Channel self-compassion and use positive statements to circuit break toxic comparisons i.e. “I am enough”. It’s also helpful to identify when, what, and who triggers comparisons in yourself. If you need someone to help you with this, reach out to someone you trust.
2. Focus on something you like
It’s easy to focus on our “flaws” and think that these need to be fixed or changed. The more you focus on things and try to “fix” them, the worse you will feel. What is it that you do, or contribute to the world that is good and positive? What can you celebrate in yourself? What are your strengths, what makes you, you? Focusing on things that are good and positive can build you up and strengthen your self-confidence.
3. Admire and acknowledge differences in others
If you find yourself putting yourself down around others, or trashing others in an attempt to build your own body image up – try flipping this to celebrate and admire traits in others. Acknowledging and accepting traits in others that we don’t have ourselves is something that does take practice, but is empowering for everyone. Less “I wish” statements and more genuine, non-comparative compliments instead.
4. Find ways to be kinder to your body
it can be challenging to love, accept, appreciate and feel comfortable within ourselves. So set small goals that demonstrate kindness to your body. Can you speak more kindly to your body? Can you add more movement that you enjoy, or foods that help your body function and feel good? Do you need to improve sleep habits or find some positive ways to manage stress? Introducing acts of kindness towards your body means you will hopefully have less time for comparisons.
5. If you’re struggling, talk to someone
If you find yourself thinking about your appearance and it’s taking you away from the things and people you love and enjoy it’s important to talk it out with someone you trust. Your body is your vehicle to move you through life, not something to hold you back.