3 body-bashing behaviours to stop
What is the very first thought that crosses your mind on waking? If you’re headed to the bathroom for a morning weigh-in or touching your stomach, whilst evaluating the contours; or if your anxiety rises, as you consider which outfit to wear, then this article is for you.
You are likely struggling with poor body image and this is damaging for your mental health.
In 2012, a Parliamentary Body Image report stated that roughly two-thirds of people suffer from negative body image. This is a deeply concerning statistic, as we know well that poor body image is frequently linked to anxiety, depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem.
How do change this?
It’s a challenging question, as poor body image is often rooted deep in your psyche. It’s formed through life experiences and feedback that were delivered, when you were small and vulnerable, so you absorbed these detrimental triggers like a sponge. This results in the feelings running like deep rivers, carving a well-known path, so that reversing the flow can feel nigh impossible.
There is some good news. You have some power to change your body image.
This is because your body image has very little to do with your actual body, rather being related to your thoughts about it. Your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and perceptions may feel like an absolute certainty. But feelings are not facts and your perception will often be distorted.
If you have poor body image, you will be unconsciously reinforcing your beliefs through your interpretation of the world and through behaviours that sabotage your self-worth further.
Here are three body-bashing behaviours to stop (or work to reduce).
Obsessive weighing rarely boosts worth or confidence. If the number on the scales decreases, the anxiety rises in concern about how to maintain the number. If the number rises, then you’ll likely react through overeating or restricting, with food preoccupation dominating the day.
If you are wedded to the scales, thoughts connecting weight with worth predominate. It’s tricky to be distracted from that morning number, once it’s imprinted in your mind.
So, work to change your relationship with the scales and reduce your interaction with them.
Looking in the mirror to check your outfit or to do make-up is constructive. Scrutinising your least favoured body parts and zooming in for several minutes is not.
People with disordered eating tend not to view the background or see their body as a whole. Instead, they micro-examine and pick apart the perceived faults and body imperfections. What you focus on tends to expand. Judgmental thoughts will likely ripple like waves through your mind, following a body scrutinisation session.
Notice how you are viewing yourself in the mirror. Notice the frequency of body checking. You might wish to make some changes here. I promise you, this will help radically reduce your body preoccupation.
Compare to despair
As a human being, you will naturally compare yourself to others. This may be to determine social status and rank. You might be inspired or influenced by others, in a positive way.
In contrast, if you have a poor body image, you may be making relentless comparisons with others, as you go about your daily life. It is detrimental to your mental health, as it’s almost impossible to win with comparisons. A fleeting feeling of superiority lasts all but for a short burst of time, and the more common feeling of inferiority can contaminate a day and poison it to the core. Either feeling distances you from your fellow humans, and you do not feel connected or worthy.
You’ll also likely compare yourself in a biased way too - not with every person that crosses your path, but those individuals that trigger unwanted feelings of envy and inadequacy. No-one wins at comparisons. Even the super-model who is comparing cannot feel safe in self-esteem, as a younger, prettier, slenderer version is always around the corner.
Every time you notice yourself comparing; stop and direct your thoughts to something else. Remind yourself that this does not serve you. Instead, go inwards and appreciate your individual strengths and attributes.
Improving your body image takes time and patience. It will need a bundle of commitment and compassion to get you through. It takes a lot of work, and you don't need to do this on your own. Contact a professional therapist for support if this is holding you back.
This article was written by Harriet Frew.