21 Jun Improving body image is an inside job – here’s what you need to know to feel comfortable in your own skin
When researching, reviewing ideas and gathering my thoughts on body image, I set about creating colour-coordinated columns to illustrate my findings around body image as an:
- Inside job
- Outside influence
Under ‘Inside Job’, I wrote ‘you have to be selfish’ and under ‘Outside Influence’ I penned ‘to be selfless.’
Why did I write this, you may ask? Well, you have to be selfish before you can be selfless.
Writing on coloured post-it notes and organising my research, I noticed three clear themes presenting themselves under the inside job column:
Self-love arguably had the most significant number of post-it notes, which told me that it’s the most crucial element and where we should begin. So, before you continue reading, grab your journal, and pen and paper or your device and let’s get stuck in because I’ve created several practical exercises for you to get to grips with this concept.
“How I feel about myself is more important than how I look. Feeling confident, being comfortable in your skin — that’s what really makes you beautiful.”
Build your self-love armoury
Below is a list of elements to start living your life by to encourage self-love in abundance.
- Know deep within that you do not need to measure yourself against other people’s standards or compare yourself to others because we are all different
Imagine a gorgeous green, crisp, sweet apple. How does the apple compare to a tangy, bright, juicy orange? It doesn’t, does it? They are two completely different pieces of fruit. In shape, texture, colour, taste and size. So why would you try to change yourself in unnatural ways to become more like an orange if you were an apple? You wouldn’t!
- Never try to change yourself to be like someone else
You are uniquely you; born to be you. You cannot be the best someone else and only you can be the best you. Stop trying to be what you think other people think you should be. What you think is probably not what they think you should be anyway! How could you know?
- Life is not a competition, there is no prize, and you will never win the race
You are not in a lifelong competition with other people. Instead of thinking that you need to compete, step aside and let everyone else play that ridiculous game. Step out, relax, breathe, stop chasing perfection and start feeling self-appreciation.
- Begin your self-appreciation journey by making a list of 20 things you love about yourself
If you’re struggling to think of more than a couple of things, then I guarantee it’s because you haven’t carried out this exercise before – so, let’s start a new habit.
What do you love about yourself? About who you are, what you know, what you’re capable of, what you have achieved, what you’re proud of and all your great qualities? How many of the following do you relate to?
- I am caring
- I am thoughtful
- I am kind
- I am loving
- I am generous
- I am funny
- I am quirky
- I am creative
- I am organised
- I am a great friend
- I am artistic
- I am musical
No matter how small they seem, write down your qualities and take a moment to be present with each of them. It’s worth spending some time on this because it is carving the way for your self-love. It will get easier once you’re on a roll. And when you reach twenty, why not jot down another twenty? There’s no limit to how incredible you can be!
- Beauty is a feeling, not a look
Take some time to think about how you feel beautiful. Do you feel beautiful when you’re loving, calm, healthy, confident, vibrant, carefree, valued, excited, appreciated, grateful? Write down your thoughts and feelings.
Are you beginning to see how many unique feelings you have? When you feel the beauty inside, your outside influence will radiate confidence, joy and beauty.
- Your body is amazing
Make another list of twenty amazing things about your body and what it can achieve. Appreciate your best bits rather than beating yourself up about what you think is wrong.
Let me give you some examples. You have a pair of eyes that share the sights of a fantastic world. A nose that can smell 1000s of aromas. A tongue that can taste 1000s of flavours. Ears that can hear 1000s of incredible sounds. Lungs that get on with breathing and transferring oxygen into your bloodstream and distributing it to your brain, muscles and digestive system etc. A powerful heart that constantly beats, day after day, keeping you living on autopilot.
You can walk and talk, dance, play, sing, prepare food and create in abundance. You are one unique and incredible person!
- Create a new vocabulary around your body
Notice the negative words that you have previously used to beat yourself up about what you don’t like or haven’t got. Swap these words for ones that build you up to be the magnificent you that you really are.
A great way to achieve this is to use transformational vocabulary that empowers you. For example, if you previously called yourself fat, change the word to soft, curvy, cuddly or curvaceous. If you criticised yourself for being too skinny, choose slender, slim or elegant instead.
Choose words that make you smile and build up your new vocabulary.
- A radiant smile is always attractive
Regardless of your age, gender, skin colour, a smile lights up your face and the world around you. Smiling makes you and the people around you feel good – and it’s infectious! Smiling is good for your health because it releases endorphins, which are your body’s feel-good vibes.
- Reflect your true personality in your style and clothes
Wear clothes that fit and feel comfortable. If your clothes feel too short, long, restrictive or baggy, you will not feel comfortable even if they are the latest fashion or designer brand.
Feeling comfortable is a reflection of who you are. The right fit, style and colours are flattering and will bring out your gorgeousness.
- Enjoy the freedom of being you
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the future, sixty years from now. You’re looking back at your life and noticing how the self-love changes have made you confident, carefree, happy and attractive.
As you do this exercise, write a love letter from you in the future, to you in the now. Tell yourself how amazing and confident you have become. How much you genuinely love and adore being you and how proud you are.
Explain how wonderful it’s been to let go of outside pressures and how intelligent life has been, reminding yourself of all the reasons that the future you loves and adores you in the now.
When you have written your letter, pop it into an envelope, seal it, address it to yourself and add a stamp. Give the letter to your parents or a good friend and ask them to post it in three or six months. Even a year or more – you decide.
I guarantee you will have forgotten about this, and when you receive it, you’ll cherish it and celebrate how much you’ve changed. The exercise will shift your self-image and self-worth in incredible ways.
“I’ve made peace with the fact that the things that I thought were weaknesses or flaws were just me. I like them.”
I am beautiful playlist
As a bonus to the self-love exercise, I invite you to create an ‘I am beautiful’ playlist to listen to in the morning when you’re getting ready for school, college, university, work or for the weekend. Whatever you decide, the playlist will give you an inspirational musical boost.
Here are a few of my favourite favourites to get you started:
- Brave, Honest, Beautiful by Fifth Harmony
- Beautiful by Christina Aguilera
- Beneath Your Beautiful by Labrinth
- Beautiful to Me by Olly Murs
- Confident by Demi Levato
There are many more songs to choose from, of course, and my list grows by the day.
Choose the life you want to lead
I am on a mission to reverse the damage experienced by our young people where so many feel they must improve their body image.
Please do keep an eye out for more body image resources and remember to share your new vocabulary and songs with the community:
Until next week, bring your smile and beauty to the surface and shine even more brightly.