How to boost your body confidence

For many people, body positivity isn’t something that comes easily. It’s much easier to criticize our bodies for what they aren’t than to compliment our bodies for what they do.

Why has this become the norm, and what can we do to change it? Professor Maja shares her tips.

What is body image?
Body image is how we think and feel about our bodies, but it’s also how the body is experienced and evaluated by yourself—and how you feel about yourself is influenced by family, peers, school, media, and culture.

Body image affects everyone, not just girls or women. Men struggle with this too, regardless of race or sexuality.

We must challenge what we consider the standard of beauty, health and fitness is. Rather than always asking how our bodies look, let’s change our focus to body functionality (i.e. what our bodies can do). How are you caring for your body today? 

It’s OK to not love your body sometimes
The body is a spectrum of emotions. There is a huge push right now to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your body. Well, sometimes you love your body and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you don’t even think about your body. All of that is perfectly fine. How we feel about our bodies is a fluid state, it’s not an end destination. 

Sometimes your body doesn’t feel beautiful or good. That’s OK. 

The problem with fat talk
Fat talk is any disparaging dialogue about your body or your weight. It can be negative comments like “I hate my stomach rolls”, or positive comments, such as “I’ve lost 20lb, now I’ll wear a bikini”.  Fat talk is a contagious type of conversation that most women engage in. And if we’re not directly disparaging our bodies, then we listen to other women do it. 

The average woman has 13 negative body thoughts a day! Why are we wasting our time talking (or thinking about) the state of our thighs, whether our boobs are perky, or whether we have cellulite?

Women engage in fat talk for a variety of reasons:
  1. As an idiom for distress. Fat talk is really a way of masking our emotions, so instead of saying I’m feeling stressed. I’m sad, my anxiety is bad today, we say “Oh my gosh I’m having fat day”
  2. Seeking validation: Saying “I’m fat” is a call for support from your peers. We use fat talk as a form of group identity, and a way to avoid vulnerability, so that we get affirmation from others that we’re not that fat, that we look good. 

Body negativity leads to avoidance
Negative body image leads to people avoiding activities or experiences!

Avoidance is erasure. Avoidance takes the form of missed opportunities, networking, career mobility, socializing, education, avoiding blind dates or applying for a new job. We must get to a point where we see more than just our size or shape. We must focus on acknowledging that we have good bodies, rather than asking if our bodies look good.

How to interrupt negative body talk
  1. Take inventory of how often you engage in negative body talk. How often do you hear other women disparage themselves? Can we please have conversations that don’t revolve around mad mouthing ourselves, our hair, our rolls, our cellulite, our wrinkles, or our body-after-baby? Sadly, negative body talk has become our default conversations. Ask yourself: who benefits from this self-loathing? Is this type of internal noise helpful or harmful to your physical and mental health? 
  2. Practice self-compassion. People with more self-compassion express greater empathy for other people. Treating yourself with kindness and empathy helps you see the humanity and beauty in other bodies. Every single day you must choose to be kind to yourself.  
  3. Have a no-body-talk zone. No negative talk in your home, at work, for family event. Have a rule and re-direct to a more meaningful conversation. The next time someone starts complaining about their bodies say: Hold up, can we please start talking about our careers instead of our bodies? Can we talk about our feelings? Our pain? Let’s connect with people. Let’s look people in the eyes and connect. 

Professor Maja is the author behind 'Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing', available at bookstores and on Amazon. If you want to see her live, please visit her website.
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