Have you consumed any media recently?
The answer for most of us is a resounding “YES!” and because of that, it also means that we’ve all consumed messages about our bodies and our attractiveness recently.
There’s no denying that we’re culturally obsessed with our appearance and unfortunately, the media still has a jolly long way to go in terms of diversity and representation. We’re repeatedly shown an image of aspirational “perfection” and bombarded with messages telling us subtly (and not so subtly) that we’re too much, not enough, broken, bad, wrong and in need of fixing for the low low price of just $99.99 (which funnily enough is the exact price of the product being marketed to us! How about that!)
But, there’s hope – however insurmountable it seems, we all have the power to change the way that body image is viewed in our society.
It’s hard, and it likely won’t happen quickly… but it’s possible.
And if that change is going to happen at all, it takes an army. Every single one of us can make a difference, and it all starts with assessing our internal dialogue (the way we talk to ourselves) and our external dialogue (the way we talk to others).
In this manner, slowly but surely, by making subtle shifts in the language we use around bodies and appearance, we notice perspectives start to change.
Do you want to positively improve your own self-esteem, and promote body positivity overall?
Here are 7 body positive phrases you should get comfortable with:
1. “Exercise makes me feel….”
How frequently do we discuss exercise in the context of how they’ll make us look vs. how they’ll make us feel? In most fitness based conversations, exercise will most frequently be mentioned as a means of getting toned/ripped/shredded, losing weight and building muscle. Those are all valid benefits, but we forget about the other (equally important) benefits like endorphin release, easing tension and keeping blood pressure stable.
When we neglect to view exercise as a holistic component to mental and physical health, instead opting to look at it solely as a way to build the appearance that we desire, we’re ultimately contributing to a discourse that values health only as looking a certain way.
When picking your workouts, opt for activities that make you feel nourished mentally and physically. Focus on how strong and healthy you feel, not just how defined your abs are becoming or how the inches are melting off.
2. “She doesn’t represent me, and it’s okay that I look different from her!”
Repeat after me: I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet. I will not compare myself to strangers in magazines. I will not compare myself to strangers on TV.
If you’ve ever picked up a magazine you’ll know that there’s a serious problem with diversity in the images of women that we’re exposed to and, combined with the messages that accompany the often digitally altered images, we’re left feeling unworthy, less than and unattractive for not fitting the box carved out for us on those glossy pages.
Instead of lamenting your flaws and genetics and berating yourself when you see those images, instead remind yourself that the images in the media don’t represent most people. And, at the same time, don’t chastise the model/actress pictured. Just because she looks different from others doesn’t make her body bad or wrong, either.
To counteract this, actively try and fill your media consumption time on social media with diversity, and expose yourself to a wide range of bodies.
3. “Thank you!”
As women in particular, we’re highly socialised to view accepting a compliment as boastful, or describing the attributes and achievements that we’re fond of as self-involved. Humility is a wonderful trait to have, but it’s important to ensure that your humility doesn’t cross the border into self-deprecation. Although receiving a compliment can feel awkward (especially if you don’t believe the compliment to be true of yourself), rejecting compliments can reinforce the cycle of self-loathing not only for ourselves, but for others around us who then see that deflecting a compliment is commonplace (and therefore socially more acceptable) behaviour.
Click here for an easy, non-awkward guide to accepting compliments without the “Thank you, but…” guilt.
4. “I really enjoy…”
Do you say things like “X is my guilty pleasure” or “I’m so bad for doing Y”?
Stop it! You’re allowed to enjoy the things that you enjoy! Eating chocolate doesn’t have to be a cheat day and popcorn doesn’t have to be naughty and having a 2 hour bath while you relax and listen to soothing rainforest sounds doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure.
By framing your internal dialogue to align with shame around partaking in the things that you enjoy, you’re setting yourself up to associate self-care with a dirty little secret… and that’s the opposite of what it should be! Self-care is paramount to your overall wellbeing and enjoying a variety of foods as part of a balanced diet is a healthy way to approach eating.
When you set up these negative traps for yourself (e.g. telling yourself that you can only eat your guilty pleasure food on cheat days), you’re only serving to make yourself want that thing more… but because you view it as negative, you’ll tend to take an all-or-nothing approach and run yourself through cycles of peaks/troughs or feasts/famine, rather than balance.
5. “I am…”
Many of us spend a great deal of energy trying to categorise others (“She’s pretty!” or “She’s really smart!” or “She’s such a pushover!” or “She’s really quite a bitch!”) and yet pay fairly little attention to setting our own definitions for ourselves.
When we spend all our energy focusing on defining others, we’re stripping ourselves of the power to define our own identity.
6. “You’re being disrespectful, and I’d like you to stop.”
Again, as women, we’re told to be polite and nice… but being a woman that has a body is a seemingly dangerous thing, as most of us at some point have had a friend, family or stranger give us unsolicited opinions and advice about our bodies, often being less than pleasant about it. Even more dangerous is to be a woman with a body on the internet – and if you’ve ever received hateful comments from trolls and bullies, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The next time someone makes a comment about your body (or someone else’s!), instead of just nodding, rolling your eyes and trying to shrug it off, make a point of saying something. You don’t have to go all guns blazing (unless you really want to) and give the person a really good taste of what a foul human you think they’re being, but by letting them know that you’re not going to go along with their body-based comments, one of two things will generally happen:
a. They’ll be so offended that you’ve called them out on something, refuse to change their behaviour and you’ll see less and less of them; or
b. They’ll modify their behaviour and maybe even reflect on why they talk about bodies the way that they do.
7. “I’d actually prefer not to talk about it.”
Have you ever been confronted with someone else’s self-deprecating comments that you felt forced into playing along with, even though you disagreed, couldn’t relate or didn’t want to talk about it?
For example, you may have smiled and lamented along with your coworker as she mentioned discussed her diet (even though you weren’t on one) or you might have laughed along with your friend, agreeing that cellulite is bad (even though you love your dimples).
By not actively taking a stand for what you do/don’t want to discuss, you’re condoning the subtle body shaming behaviour. And, even if the body shaming behaviour doesn’t directly affect you, you’re encouraging it by being a silent participant. If, by taking a stand and mentioning that you don’t think it’s healthy to talk about bodies like that, you encourage someone to think differently about themselves… well, you’ve made a real (and awesome!) difference!
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And although it’s hard to know exactly where to begin, making a conscious choice to focus on self-love is an awesome start. It sparks ripples of change within yourself, and that has a flow-on impact on every single action you take – from the way you talk to those around you to the political choices that you make.
And that, friends, is how you start making a difference.