How can you develop a more positive body image? Does this come from exercising to get a ‘summer body’? Or maybe learning how to get your makeup just right? Typically not.
Contrary to the popular cliche, how you look doesn’t quite correlate with how you feel, at least not long-term. Dressing up and looking good gives you a temporary feel-good boost. It doesn’t last.
There’s a reason why many ‘gorgeous’ stars and supermodels struggle with body image. They may look amazing, but they don’t *feel* that they look amazing.
Read that again.
There’s a subtle distinction there. And it matters.
How you feel about your appearance is actually just one aspect of your body image. It goes even deeper than that.
This is why outside work (exercise, finding clothes that fit well, etc) is great but isn’t the full story.
Developing a more positive body image comes from doing inner work.
First, we need to be clear on what body image is (and what it isn’t)
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Your body image is your attitude toward your body. How you feel about your body and how you relate to it. Do you perceive your body in a mostly positive or negative light?
Your body image is also impacted by how you think others perceive your body. Their opinion of how you look.
If you’re wrapped up in concern over how others perceive you, this affects your body image. You’re seeking validation from others. But the only validation that matters is the validation that comes from within.
It’s one thing to feel flattered when people compliment your looks. It’s another to spend an entire evening feeling down about yourself because you’re embarrassed to wear tights to the gym. Or even go to the gym at all.
This is common. We’ve all had thoughts like these at some point.
Let’s be clear. Cultivating a positive body image is not about telling yourself repeatedly that you’re beautiful and that you look good.
That’s a mistake many people make when they think about body image.
It’s about accepting every part of you, whether it meets common beauty standards or not.
Whether you were teased about your height as a child.
Or had an ex-partner who criticized your stomach bulge.
Or have a ‘complex’ about the size of your nose.
Or anything else.
It’s about acceptance of your body in its totality. The seemingly good and the seemingly ‘bad’. When you do this, you reach a more neutral perspective of your body. And neutrality is actually a good thing when it comes to body image.
Accepting your body and building a positive body image is also important if…
…You struggle with a chronic illness (I can relate).
…You’re trying to come to terms with an altered body image post trauma.
…Or even if you think your body hates you because you can never seem to lose weight/fit in cute jeans/feel energized/or whatever else…like the next person.
It’s all part of your body image.
So, the tools I’m about to share are part of re-shaping your overall body image. This is Part 6 of the Self-Love Series.
This is about Re-membering the whole, positive concept of yourself that’s been shattered and scattered into tiny bits over the years of breakups and betrayals. Let’s not forget the celebrity standards of success and beauty we’re all exposed to. Plus the plain old joys and pains of everyday life. A lot of it has impacted your body image.
Time to start putting the pieces back together into one whole, complete picture of yourself that you love, accept, and appreciate.
This is deep work. And deep work takes time.
The good news?
You can do this.
One tiny step after the other.
Honoring your appointments with yourself (more on this below) helps.
Many things help.
Try different things, find the combinations that you resonate with, and build some type of regular practice where you return to these tools regularly.
Please know: If you’re struggling with severe negative thoughts about your body image, do not hesitate to seek the professional help you feel you need to move through this. This also applies to writing. If writing about your body feels too heavy and difficult for you, may need to do this work with someone who can facilitate the process for you, instead of you trying to do it alone.
I encourage you to re-visit these journal prompts as many times as you can. Create a Journalette™ of your own: a tiny journal, with the theme of Positive Body Image. You could write about these prompts every day for a month, for example. Or revisit each prompt once a week for 11 weeks. Your choice.
For some of the prompts, I’ve shared examples of things I’ve written in the past. This is just to get you thinking. Journaling is an individual process. What bubbles to the surface will probably be different for you.
Here are your prompts, broken into 3 categories (morning, evening, and general)
Positive body image journal prompts for the morning
1. How will I honor my body today?
This sounds like a deep question, but you can answer it however you choose. Sometimes I write about how I’ll be kinder to my body the day ahead. I’ll write about how I’ll take breaks throughout the day and make sure I’m not sitting for long a period of time.
Sometimes I write about the exercise I’ll do or that I’ll give myself a luxurious foot soak in the evening.
Sometimes I write about how I’ll sit with junk-food cravings, take a few deep breaths, and try to let them pass, instead of indulging.
It all depends.
If you choose this journal prompt, just write what comes to mind. What feels like honoring your body to YOU.
2. How would I like my body to feel today?
Pick a concept that would feel good to you (example: strong, grounded, at ease, energized).
Write out that concept/word, and then write about what it would mean, why you’d like to feel that way, and what you can do to facilitate that concept today.
For example, if I write ‘energized’, I know that there are certain things I can do in the morning that will help me feel that way (exercise, hydration, etc).
I write what I’d need to do to feel the way I want to feel.
3. No matter what happens during the day, at the end of today, I want to feel….(examples: light, grateful, satisfied, proud of myself, etc).
Write down what you can do today to help contribute to how you’d like to feel at the end of the day.
For example, many foods make me feel heavy.
If I want to feel light at the end of the day, I know I need to be prepared and eat accordingly.
So I write about my plan, why I’m choosing to eat that way for the day, and I reinforce this choice by writing about how much better I feel when I don’t feel so heavy and bogged down, digesting heavy foods.
Another example: I’m proud of myself for exercising. Even if I do it every day in a row, I still feel pride at the end of the day for having shown up and gotten it done.
Positive body image prompts for the evening
4. How did my body support me today?
Did you do a lot of walking/standing or anything that felt demanding? How can you show appreciation to your body for supporting you?
Did you have to think a lot at work? Remember different things? Work on something hard? Use your brain even more than usual?
Most times we never notice the work our body does. Take a few moments to reflect on this and write about it. This is showing gratitude to your body.
5. What can I do this evening so my body feels good (or at least better) tomorrow when I wake up?
That may be going to bed early.
Eating an early dinner if sleeping with a full belly doesn’t feel good.
Following an unwind routine.
6. Where in my body do I feel tension? How can I relieve it?
I usually feel the most tension in my neck. Some days my neck and shoulders feel like solid rock.
Take a few slow breaths, close your eyes if this helps, and focus on your body. Try to feel where the tension is, then open your eyes and write about it. Writing is a powerful release.
Some tension is deeper than just what built up during the day. Here are a few tools that may help:
General positive body image journal prompts
7. What appointment (related to honoring my body) have I set with myself lately that I keep skipping?
This could be anything from lunch preparation to stretching to exercise to any number of things. Yes, these are appointments. The most important appointments are the ones we set with ourselves.
You are that important.
Take a few moments to reflect and get clear.
Is today the day you decide not to skip?
Why? Why does this matter for your body? Your life?
What will you do to make sure you don’t skip it today?
8. Am I tying most of my self-worth to my body image?
These are the hard questions that journaling gives us permission to answer. Privately. (And if you’re concerned about writing things down that may get read by someone else, I give tips around this very topic in the How to Journal Consistently Video.
Is there a direct correlation between the times in your life when you felt most down about yourself and your physical appearance?
In my 20’s, I struggled with being out of shape and yo-yo dieting. I would start and stop every diet & exercise program imaginable. (Late night infomercials would get me every time.)
I was also very depressed. Being out of shape wasn’t the only reason, but it definitely played a factor. I felt embarrassed, unattractive, heavy, and slow.
If I went to an event or a meeting, I could feel myself looking around at everyone to see if I was the biggest person there. Comparing myself and body shape. I wouldn’t stop there, I’d start imagining how the other people were staring and criticizing me in their heads (even though they probably weren’t).
This was the gunk rolling around in my head.
Most of it nonsense.
My sense of self-worth was in the toilet.
Losing weight wasn’t the answer.
The answer was doing inner work to stop tying my sense of self-worth to my physical appearance.
When I started doing that work, a funny thing happened:
I finally started exercising consistently and actually stuck with it long-term, ditched the junk food and got into shape.
But my self-worth started improving BEFORE I did all those things. I starting loving myself right where I was at the moment.
Are you attaching your self-worth wholly to how you look? Ask yourself these tough questions and write about it.
9. What do I love about my body?
This doesn’t have to be something obvious or anything that fits common beauty standards.
I have a friend who stands and walks so graciously. Not a typical thing you’d think of when thinking about positive body traits, but I find it quite remarkable.
Another example: I love that my upper and lower body is strong. I can lift heavy things. A lot of heavy things 🙂 This makes me feel powerful.
Think about your own remarkableness.
You can write as many things as you choose. Or write about each thing on different days.
10. Prompt: Even though I don’t like my (….), I am starting to accept it/them as a part of me. I understand that every single part of me makes up the whole of me. If I want to start loving myself, I’m aware that self-love is not about picking pieces I like, it’s about loving the all. Loving my entire being.
This is more an affirmation than a prompt. Fill in the blank bit in parentheses, and then re-write the sentences as many times as you choose. You can say them out loud as you write them, too.
This is powerful work.
11. Write a letter to your younger self at a time you felt a change in your body perception.
For me, it was my teenage years. Do some reflection to recall when you started feeling like you weren’t okay with your body. When did you start becoming conscious of your body and what your perceived ‘flaws’ were?
There may be times in adulthood when this happened also (such as post-pregnancy or illness or trauma).
Write a letter to that younger self at the time of the change. Be kind. Reassure your younger self that they were worthy and precious and not to blame. They were (and still are) doing the best they can with the circumstances and level of awareness they were on at the time.
Here’s a bonus for you
Because meditation deepens my journaling practice (and vice versa), I recorded a quick, 2-minute micro-meditation for you.
Like this meditation? Subscribe to the YouTube Channel HERE.
Or catch the Micro-Meditations on iTunes (Podcast)
As mentioned above, cultivating a more positive body image takes time.
But it’s rewarding work. Necessary work.
As you take tiny steps to reshape your body image, you’ll appreciate your own efforts and be proud of yourself for doing the work.
P. S. Always remember you are your #1 priority.
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