Body image concerns plague both men and women. Unrealistic portrayals of masculinity—the idea that for a man to be desirable, you should be able to bounce a dime off his pecs—are insidious and need to be taken seriously. There is a unique spin when it comes to women’s body image, though. Culturally, we behave as if a significant portion of a woman’s value as a person is determined by her perceived physical attractiveness. And of course, this causes all kind of insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. So what can women do to create a sense of self-worth that’s not dependent upon how closely they resemble society’s arbitrary and nearly impossible standards of beauty? Here are 5 great tips to improve women’s body image.
#1 Consume the right media.
We’ve all seen those videos that show models and celebrities before and after their photos have been retouched in Photoshop. But knowing intellectually that the images we’re bombarded with every day are fake doesn’t necessarily mean we stop comparing ourselves to them. So as much as you can, stay away from forms of media that promote stereotypes about what makes a woman desirable or valuable. Choose more body-positive media sources.
Happily, at least some prominent people in the public eye are starting to catch on to reality. With songs like Meghan Trainor’s All About that Bass (a celebration of the singer’s curves) and Katy Perry’s Roar (about a woman overcoming her insecurities and finding her voice) topping the charts, we can see that the media landscape might just be starting to shift towards something that’s a little more empowering for women. So to the extent possible, read blogs, watch shows, and listen to music that will lift you up, not tear you down. In the words of Baz Luhrmann, “Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.”
#2 Do things that make you feel good about yourself.
Women’s Body image issues become most problematic when we start to feel like our supposed “physical flaws” mean we’re not valuable human beings. So, to show yourself that the most important factors that make you who you are have nothing to do with your appearance, find an activity that reminds you of your strengths. Whether it’s a creative outlet or a new project at work, show yourself how much you have to offer the world—and how much more meaningful those strengths are than just your looks.
#3 Embrace your sexuality.
One of the reasons that body image concerns can be so damaging for women is the fear that, if you don’t exactly match the impossible standards of female beauty, you won’t be sexually desirable. Add to that the never-ending stream of messaging suggesting that sexual desirability is a woman’s most valuable asset, and you’ve got a recipe for major insecurity. But buying into that story is allowing someone else to dictate your sexuality. Don’t do that! Give yourself permission to enjoy your sexuality—and know that you don’t need anyone’s permission to do so.
#4 Show yourself some love.
So often, when we’re struggling to see our bodies in a good light, we’re constantly directing negative thoughts at them. On top of that, we may push ourselves to complete punishing workouts or stick to crash diets. Take a break from the constant war and your body and do something to show it a little kindness. Get a fabulous new haircut, go for a massage – anything to remind yourself that you deserve to love your body. While this isn’t a long-term solution, of course, it is something that can lift your spirits if you’ve having one of those days when you’re being particularly hard on yourself.
#5 Be a revolutionary.
These days, it seems like the norm for women is to be self-critical – and chronically self-conscious. How many times have you heard your girlfriends say, “My thighs always look fat in jeans,” or, “My hair never does what I want it to.” Yet if we heard men say these same things, it would sound almost absurd. Because this way of thinking is so entrenched, it is, in some ways, an act of rebellion to stop saying negative things about yourself, and actually begin to be happy with who you are. So be bold, make a statement, start respecting yourself, and don’t be afraid to stop following the crowd.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating © Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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