9 Crucial Steps For Overcoming Body Image Issues

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happy woman

Overcoming body image issues is challenging for most people. Body dissatisfaction happens to almost everyone, most especially women.

The mean things you may do and say about your body happen automatically, without you even realizing it. And the self-bullying only worsens your poor body image.

Whether it's about you needing to lose weight and trying to adhere to society's beauty ideals, your body hears everything you say or think about it.

But, the good news is that overcoming body image issues is possible.

Although no article, tool, wisdom, fad, or behavior will flip that switch, instantly, you can still successfully fall back in love with your body.

RELATED: Why We Need To Change The Way We Talk About Body Image, Health & Wellness (Like, Now)

Here are 9 crucial steps for overcoming body image issues and improving your relationship with your body.

1. Be aware.

Awareness of how you speak to yourself means that you begin to recognize and change your self-talk to make it more accurate and neutral.

By self-talk, I'm referring to thoughts.

Instead of thinking, "My stomach is disgusting and it looks like I'm carrying twins," you can simply say, "Right now, I'm feeling dissatisfied with how my stomach looks and feels."

The first thought is mean, untrue, and self-deprecating. The latter is true and in the moment.

Awareness of thoughts means you can gently question their validity and reframe them. Every time you think of a particular thought, that thought is strengthened.

You're always practicing something. When you think a thought, you're practicing thinking that thought.

Be aware of what you’re thinking and practicing and, therefore, what you’re strengthening. The fancy term for this is neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity means you can actually change thought patterns and behaviors as well as develop a new mindset, new skills, and new abilities.

Your body hears, internalizes, and feels everything you say about it.

Be aware. Be deliberate.

2. Be here, now.

Your body carries history and brings you into the future. Yet, the here and now, in time and space, is where your body actually exists.

In any given moment, your relationship with your body is a blend of the past and present — biology, culture, and the environment; emotions, perception, and behaviors.

The more immersed in the past or the future your body image is, the less present you are in the here and now. And, the here and now is all that any of us has.

If you're not in the here and now, you're missing out on presence in your own life. Instead, you’re immersed in judgemental, self-critical chatter about the past and future.

When in the here and now, you're more likely to notice the deep burgundy color of leaves, the melody of robins chirping, and the overall beauty surrounding you.

3. Avoid objectification.

Body image is a relationship. It's the relationship you have with your body. Like all relationships, the depth of the relationship is something over which you have some agency.

When you objectify your body, you relate to it as if it is a thing — an object to manipulate, something to focus on (like size and shape), and unidimensional, like a shoe, pillow, or toaster.

Consider if an objectified relationship is the kind you want with your body. Cultural messages are designed for you to believe your body is not good enough, that your relationship must be conflictual.

Advertisers and social media are brilliant at promoting your body as your enemy. Relationships with enemies are rarely neutral or happy.

What if you embraced with delight, or at least accepted with neutrality, the whole of you?

4. Be on your own side.

Your body is with you for life. It will carry you through life’s ups and downs.

Your body will age, experience illness and injury, and change. Everything does.

Your body provides you with feedback about emotions, health, the environment and so much more.

The more friendly you are in the relationship with your own body, the more you will be able to access its wealth of knowledge.

RELATED: 3 Reasons Poor Body Image & Eating Disorders Often Go Hand-In-Hand

5. Be joyous.

Your body is your own personal pleasure source. Sensory capacities are your gateway into joy.

Stop for a moment. Look, listen, feel, taste, and smell.

Breathe. That breath of air? That is life.

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6. Be active.

Your body is a type of instrument, not just an ornament. Your body, in water or on the ground, is meant for you to enjoy — it's not just something to decorate.

Regardless of age, health, or size, your body has the capacity to move.

Maybe the movement is dipping your toe into an ocean’s wave as it comes to shore, or stretching your fingers.

How about expanding your lungs with a deep breath in and contracting them with your exhale? Or skateboarding in purple sparkle sneakers.

7. Be courageous.

How about tapping into your well of courage and experimenting with these body image recommendations?

Be a rebel and be the change you wish for the world. Notice how you feel in and about your body.

You do have agency with your body, especially when you're on your own side.

8. Be respectful.

Your body does hear everything you think. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your body. Or, at least, don't be cruel.

Speak to yourself as you would a friend. Consider all your body has carried you through. Have thanks. Give yourself grace.

9. Be you.

You are made up of all the amazing people who came before you. You may have your mom’s hips, your grandmother’s ears, or your dad’s eyes.

Your body contains the genetics of your ancestors. You are a walking family tree.

Overcoming body image issues is a complex process that often takes time, awareness, and trust.

Start with one of the ideas and add another when you're ready. You don’t need to do it all at once. One step at a time.

Remember to love yourself. Once you do, everything will fall into place.

RELATED: 15 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Self-Esteem (That Can Be Done *Anywhere*)

Dr. Elayne Daniels is a non-diet, Certified Intuitive Eating specialist and clinical psychologist in MA. If you’re struggling with your body image and/or an eating disorder, visit her website or send her an email.

This article was originally published at DrElayneDaniels.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.