Most of us can relate to feeling bad about our bodies. From a really young age, we’re told how we should look and what counts as beautiful, that if we don’t fit that description, we should change ourselves so that we do.
Maybe we grew up with friends or family making negative comments about our appearance.
Whatever our history with it, body shaming is a near-universal experience, and it has a huge impact on our lives.
What is body shaming?
Body shaming is the act of trying to make someone feel ashamed of their body. This can be obvious, for example, insulting people for their size or the way their body looks.
It can also be subtle, like suggesting some people should eat more or some people should eat less, based on their body size. Or suggesting that someone is beautiful despite the way their body looks.
We even do it to ourselves. Maybe we tell ourselves we can’t wear certain clothing styles because we “don’t have the body for it.”
Thoughts like “I’m not beautiful enough. I’m in the wrong shape. I’m not good enough” are really common.
Body shaming essentially says “This is what your body should look like, and if it doesn’t then you should feel ashamed. Only people with bodies that fit this ideal are allowed to be happy, confident, and respected.”
How big of a problem is body shaming?
Psychology Today revealed survey results showing that “Fifty-six percent of women say they are dissatisfied with their overall appearance” and that eighty-nine percent of women want to lose weight. Yahoo Health’s body-positivity survey also revealed that only one in seven Americans feel body-positive.
What makes it harder to find body acceptance and body positivity is that body-shaming is built into our society. We see it in our advertisements, in our social media, in TV shows and movies, in magazines, and even in our normal day-to-day interactions.
And it makes us feel terrible. A study that looked at the relationship between Instagram use and psychological well-being in women found a clear link between Instagram use and depressive symptoms and body dissatisfaction.
Whether it’s our hair, skin, weight, height, teeth, face, wrinkles, breast size, body shape or something else: we are frequently bombarded with the message that something about us needs to be fixed and then we’ll be beautiful.
This “ideal” is not only damaging for our self-worth, mental, and physical health, but it’s also completely unrealistic.
Beauty standards are progressively shifting and narrowing, and even celebrities with their own personal trainers, personal dieticians, and personal chefs can’t keep up!
Articles in tabloid magazines constantly talk about celebrities having “let themselves go” when they gain a few pounds or choose not to dress up with a full face of makeup for going to the store.
In fact, it’s the opposite, and shame often acts as an inhibitor. It makes us feel worthless and helpless, and like we don’t have control or power over our bodies and our situation. This helplessness makes us less likely to be proactive and make changes.
Instead, we need body positivity.
What is body positivity and why does it matter?
Body positivity Is a social movement that promotes loving your body (or at least, feeling positive about it), regardless of your size, weight, skin color, age, shape, gender, and physical abilities.
It is about recognizing that our value isn’t tied to our bodies and allowing us to love ourselves and our bodies, regardless of what media or advertising companies are telling us about beauty.
Body positivity is so important because it reflects the diversity of real life, helps us build self-acceptance, self-respect, and empowers us to live more fulfilling lives.
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How to be body positive
Being body positive can be a challenging process for some people. If you spend your whole life looking at things about your body that you dislike or want to change, body positivity may not come easy. It is easier to achieve by taking smaller steps.
The first step is to stop shaming yourself.
I know, the toughest one first. That voice in our head telling us we can’t love ourselves can be hard to silence. You can start by building an awareness of what you say and think. When we notice our negative thought patterns they become easier to disrupt and replace with productive thought patterns.
The second step is to accept your body. You don’t have to like it just yet, but it’s important to accept it. It is the body that you have, and it enables you to live your life! It’s a process of going “My body does not look like that other person’s body and that’s okay.”
Practicing gratitude for the ways your body helps you to do things can be a powerful part of this. This looks different for lots of people.
For you, it may be about appreciating that maybe your body can’t run a marathon, but it enables you to hold your loved ones. Maybe you are grateful that your body helps you go to interesting places, or enjoy music or food.
The third step is to build body positivity. This is easier when you stop focusing on other people’s bodies and start acknowledging the value that your own body has, and loving your body for what it is.
This is about moving from thoughts of “This is my body, but I love it.” to “This is my body and I love it.”
As you move from body shaming to body acceptance, the transition towards body positivity becomes much easier.
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The benefits of body acceptance and body positivity
There are so many benefits to body positivity!
- You get to feel comfortable in your own skin.
- You have more confidence in yourself and your self-worth, and find it easier to say ‘yes’ to yourself.
- When you can love your body as it is, you stop comparing yourself to others, and start to see others for who they truly are: just other people who also have insecurities and struggle with body shaming.
- You feel less guilt and less shame, and enjoy more of what life has to offer you—be that in relationships, travel, work, clothing, food etc.
- It’s a self-acceptance that lasts, regardless of how your body changes. Many women experience a drop in self-esteem as they age, but body positivity for women over 50 is just as important as it is for teens going through puberty.
Where does weight loss and weight gain fit into this?
When you embrace body positivity, you empower yourself to make changes out of love for your body.
Remember how shame is an inhibitor? Confidence can be an activator.
So many people struggle with weight loss because they try to do it out of shame. The problem is that if you don’t lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time, or if you fall off the rails and gain the weight back again, most of the time you will feel more shame.
The more shame you feel, the more hopeless it seems, the more your self-esteem drops, the harder it is to change. It’s an awful cycle.
But if you approach weight loss with a mindset of “I love my body and I am trying to change because I love my body”, it becomes easier to stay committed and stay motivated.
You become less affected by the fear of weight gain. Your focus shifts to looking at what makes you feel good, and what enables you to do the things you want.
How can body positivity coaching help me?
A shift in mindset and lifestyle can be intimidating! Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and how to keep going. As a certified life coach, I offer body positive coaching sessions to guide and support you in finding body positivity and acceptance.
We can do the coaching by phone or by video, whichever is more comfortable for you.
During the coaching, we will discuss what lies at the core of your body insecurities, completely judgment-free.
I will then help you to challenge those negative self-beliefs and develop strategies for transforming your self-perception.
If you want to feel happy and confident in your own skin—regardless of your age, your weight, the way you look, or your physical abilities—schedule a consultation with me.
You can also get in touch if you’re looking for coaching in other areas of your life. I’m also a certified keto coach and am happy to chat about how you can combine body positivity with your healthy diet and exercise goals.