What are Body Image Thoughts

Body image is a term that refers to the way a person sees their own body and their opinion of what they see. Some examples might be one’s opinion of their hair, skin, height, or weight. Popular, yet unrealistic beauty standards set by society sometimes make it difficult to look in the mirror and be happy with what we see. The constant exposure to edited photos on social media makes it easy for us to compare ourselves to the impossible. Overtime, our body image thoughtscan become more and more negative as it’s easy to begin to wonder how we can look like the airbrushed celebrities on our phones.

One way to begin to escape this comparison mindset is to challenge negative body image thoughts. Through various exercises, you can begin to change your negative thoughts into positive or neutral ones.

What are Positive or Neutral Body Image Thoughts

 First, it’s important to note that everyone struggles with their body image. It’s completely normal for us to look at ourselves and have negative thoughts about what we see. However, these thoughts can be challenged and interchanged with positive or more neutral body image thoughts.

A person who has positive or neutral body image thoughts largely feels satisfied and confident in their body. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy with every single part of themselves, but they accept and appreciate their imperfections and/or are working on body neutrality around aspects with which they struggle.

What are Negative Body Image Thoughts

A person with a negative body image overall feels unsatisfied with the way that they look. They may be constantly comparing themselves to others while feeling awkward and embarrassed about themselves. Negative body image can also lead to obsessive body checking and constant criticism about aspects of their body. Sometimes these thoughts and behaviors can take on obsessive patterns taking up a lot of mental and emotional space.

Continuous and long-term negative body image thoughts can eventually lead to problems such as eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. Therefore, it’s important to learn ways to challenge these thoughts. Challenging negative thoughts about your body can feel difficult because it is not yet natural and easy, which is okay. The most important thing to do is to try to start to chip away at the negative body image thoughts and lead to more neutral ones, such as appreciation for what one’s body can do.

How Can You Challenge Negative Body Image Thoughts

 There are various practices that you can do if you notice that you are experiencing negative body image thoughts. Remember that every practice might not work for everyone, so it is okay to try a few!

  1. Surround yourself with people who engage in body positivity.

 Sometimes one of the main factors that are driving our negative body image thoughts are the people around us. If your friends are often discussing food intake, appearances, and body image in general, these conversations might be fueling your negative body image thoughts. If you surround yourself with people with a positive outlook on body image, you might find yourself having less negative body image thoughts and learning how to look at yourself more positively.

  1. Repeat some affirmations to yourself each day.

Though it might feel silly at first, saying affirmations to yourself can be a great way to challenge your negative body image thoughts. If you think about it, these negative thoughts are negative affirmations you are telling yourself without even realizing it. Once you make it a routine to speak to yourself positively, you might find yourself having less of these negative thoughts. Some examples of affirmations could be:

  • “My body does not need to look like anyone else’s”
  • “My appearance has no relation to my worth or value”
  • “I acknowledge and accept my imperfections”
  • “I am grateful for everything that my body is capable of”
  • “I appreciate that my body allows me to do what I enjoy”
  1. Make a list of some things that you like about yourself that are completely unrelated to your appearance.

 One way to counter negative body image thoughts is to make a list of 5-10 things that you like about yourself. The only rule is that you cannot include anything about how you look. This exercise can help you to understand that your value is not equivalent to your looks and that who you are as a person is really what matters. When you start having negative thoughts about your body, you can pull out this list to remind yourself of all of the great things about you.

  1. Work on your ability to receive compliments, rather than deflecting them

Whenever you receive a compliment, whether it be from someone else or yourself, try to be mindful of how you receive that compliment. Rather than deflecting the compliment or trying to challenge it, allow yourself to internalize the positive aspects of yourself. You can also write it down to look back on later if you feel that you are struggling with negative body image.

Challenging negative body image thoughts is not always easy, but trying out these practices is a great start. Remember that it is always okay to ask someone to help you, such as a family member, friend, or professional.

Support for body image 

If you are struggling with your body image therapy can be incredibly helpful. At Best Within You Therapy & Wellness we have psychologists who specialize in helping people who are dealing with body image concerns. 

Thank you to Best Within You Therapy and wellness intern Jane Goldsmith and Dr. Laura Riss for this blog post. If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of the psychologists or dietitians at our practice please visit our appointment page.