Negative body image is a dangerous mindset that's easy to get sucked into, especially with social media painting an inaccurate depiction of reality (most of the time). The media surrounds us with flawlessness, which can screw our sense of reality, lower our confidence and ruin how we view our own bodies. This really sucks, because we only have one body, and there’s a good chance it doesn’t fit into society’s standards of beauty.
These concepts, along with the ideas of body acceptance and body love, are not new. I can sit here and tell you to reject beauty standards and to love your body, but that is so much easier said than done. Developing body love is complex, layered, and frankly, me telling you to love your body is like a dating coach telling a broken hearted client to “just get over him already.”
I’ve seen my friends suffer with negative body image over the years, and as much as they intend to achieve a positive body image, I see them constantly reinforcing their negative body image mindset without realizing it. One day I would like day write the opposite of this post, titled “5 Ways to Increase Positive Body Image” but I think this list, “5 Ways You’re Reinforcing Your Negative Body Image” might wake some people up. So, if you suffer from negative body image, there’s a chance you’re unconsciously reinforcing your body negativity somehow. Here are 5 things you might be doing that will hold you back from the body confidence you’d like.
1) Comparing yourself to others- Comparison is a body image criminal. Even when I was modeling, (we all literally had the same body type with slight variations) we would constantly compare ourselves to each other, and it fueled our eating disorders. Comparison doesn’t go away until you genuinely build your confidence and recognize that your happiness will never come from having smaller arms than your friends. If they have nice arms, good for them! (And I’m not being sarcastic).
2) Putting yourself down- What you think to yourself or verbalize out loud will only reinforce your reality, even if you think it’s a harmless joke, it will keep you down. Every time you put yourself down, it’s like you’re kicking a puppy. It’s not cute or endearing, it’s just messed up.
3) Making negative comments about other people's bodies- Making negative comments about other people is Comparison’s accomplice in body image crime. Humans, especially women, must boost each other up. If you see a woman wearing a bikini that’s unflattering, for the love of God don’t go projecting your insecurities on to her by pointing it out. When you see someone and you’re tempted to say something negative, stop yourself. It's more empowering to think, “She’s flaunting it like a QUEEN.” When you focus on lifting others up, you’re indirectly lifting yourself up. It’s magic, the way insecurities disappear when you change your language. The day everyone stops making negative body comments about others might possibly be the day everyone stops thinking negatively about themselves. Also, I find that if you scrutinize others, you’re more likely to think others are scrutinizing you, which is almost always not happening anyway.
4) Taking constant selfies and photos for social media- At this point in my life, I’m super happy with my body and feel confident in my skin. However, I am most likely to feel insecure when I look at an unflattering full length photo of myself. I am aware that I can slip into a critical mindset pretty damn quick if a photo turns out bad. If you’re the same way, don’t put yourself in the situation where you can fall into a negative mindset. I’m not saying avoid photos, they’re great for memories, but don’t go taking millions of them so you can find more reasons to criticize yourself. Constantly taking photos shifts the focus immediately from living in the moment to "how do I look right now." It's OK to think you look bad in a photo, but there is no need to dwell on it. Shift your focus back to the fun you're having with your friends and the moment in front of you.
5) Existing in a toxic environment- If you surround yourself with people who hate their bodies, or whiners who complain about their bodies, or even people who obsess over food and talk about dieting often, you’re reinforcing your negative body image. My first step towards recovery was when I moved out of the model apartment and quit modeling all together. Leaving an industry with unrealistic expectations for my body allowed me to slowly change my beauty standards. Perhaps you have a group of friends who fixate on the negative, or encourage poor eating habits or just straight up perpetuate a toxic vibe. If you do, it might be time to take a break from them or find a friend group or an environment that is more accepting.