How can you and therapy change body image?
Recognising and acknowledging your feelings and accompanying body sensations will help you become more comfortable in your body. Using a basic technique of mentally scanning your body a few times a day to notice sensations, tensions and feelings can start to put you in touch. Therapy can support you to start this process and begin to feel like a wholly physical being.
Challenge negative thoughts
Challenging negative thoughts is a way of changing your body image. What is my evidence for this? Is this really the case or a feeling? Is this my perception? Am I comparing? Can you start small and offer yourself some affirmation about your physical self (even if you don't believe it yet)? By challenging your thoughts you are asking if you believe your usual dialogue, and offering an opportunity to change the way you perceive yourself or change that narrative.
Can I offer some compassion to myself? How do my loved ones see me? Friends? Do they like the way my face makes expressions? Do they enjoy my movements/gestures/vitality? Offering a caring and kind response to harsh words or judgements you make about yourself is another way of changing your inner narrative to become more accepting and motivational.
Movement, dance or exercise can allow you to enjoy your body. How do you use yours? Can you enjoy the power and sensations you create when you move? Walking, stretching, or taking part in a physical pursuit? What sensations do you feel? If you exaggerate a movement or try and move differently what is this like? Learn to enjoy your body and all its possibilities. Appreciate its infinite possibilities. Explore its power and limitations to really inhabit your body rather than viewing it as a separate part of you.
Nurture your body
Think about how you nurture your body. Do you take care of yourself? Exercise/healthy food/enough sleep? Do you get your check-ups at the GP/optician/dentist? Do you give some time to looking after your body? Enjoy a bath/use a cream/get your haircut? When we love someone, we take care of them and show love. Beginning to look after your body in different ways can be the start of nurturing and liking yours.
Beginning to explore the negative messages and perceptions you have about your body is another way to start overcoming. What parts of you are scared/hurt/sad? Do these keep you feeling bad about yourself?
Thinking about the ways you learnt to regard your body may allow you to consider whether these messages were appropriate. We receive lots of ideas about our physical selves from family, media and peers but these are not always true in the present or may have come from others skewed perceptions of body image.
Idealised body images pervade our media and provide an impossible standard for aspiration. Finding your ideal is important and acceptance of yourself to feel confident and empowered is achievable.
Counselling is a means of exploring these issues in depth and to uncover the messages you have internalised. Therapy provides a space to challenge negative perceptions, to adopt different ways of affirming your positive sensations and to counter the negative diatribe.
“I need to see my own beauty and to continue to be reminded that I am enough, that I am worthy of love without effort, that I am beautiful, that the texture of my hair and that the shape of my curves, the size of my lips, the colour of my skin, and the feelings that I have are all worthy and okay.” Tracey Ellis Ross
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