In one of the articles, we discussed where body shame comes from and how it affects our physical and mental wellbeing. After learning about body shame and its origins, many of you may have been asking how to free yourself from this insidious feeling.
First, remember that it’s taken you your whole life to internalize these negative, self-critical ideas about your body – be patient with yourself as you gradually embark upon the process of un-learning them. To start doing so, we recommend asking yourself a few key questions:
Who profits from this feeling?
Entire industries are created and supported by making us feel shame about our natural selves – our body hair or lack thereof, the size of our thighs or bulk of our muscles, how big or small our breasts are, whether we have hair on our heads and enough of it, and whether it looks “good” – whatever that means.
When you begin to hear those old familiar critical thoughts pop up, ask yourself which company or industry will profit from that feeling. Does your insecurity about your weight send you searching for flat tummy teas or diet pills? When you wish you had lighter skin, do you buy skin-lightening creams or foundations? Does your desire for rippling muscles cause you to start researching protein powders or supplements?
Don’t allow big business to profit from your negative self-image. Remind yourself that your self-worth is not for sale.
“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
How am I reinforcing this feeling?
The truth is, although most of us love social media, it’s can cause us to critique and analyze bodies in ways that promote body dissatisfaction, constant body surveillance, and disordered thoughts. Over 50% of college students between 18-25 report body dissatisfaction, and studies show that Instagram is the worst offender for negatively impacting our mental health.
To identify how we may be unconsciously feeding body shame, take a few minutes to perform a quick inventory of your social media feeds. Do you feel better after scrolling through Instagram? Or worse? Does a quick Facebook check-in stoke your self-image or destroy it?
Try to identify how you feel about each profile you see. Delete, mute, or unfollow any accounts that make your body shame flare-up. This doesn’t mean the account is bad, or wrong – it may just be your best friend enjoying a beach vacation – but if the images you’re seeing are bad for your mental health and body image, you may need to take a break for a bit.
To fill in the gaps made by deleting accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, add in somebody positivity activists to make you feel good, like The Birds Papaya, Jameela Jamil, Jess Amyn, Bishamber Das, Megan Jayne Crabb, and Stevie Blaine. These activists can fill your feed with rich, joyful, and introspective reflections on body positivity, body image, and how our culture constantly perpetuates self-hate.
Where is My Focus?
Part of the reason body shame is so powerful is that we reinforce it so often. To break the cycle of negative self-talk, flip the conversation.
Spend a few minutes each day writing down five things you truly like about yourself. This might be tough at first but stick to it. The things on your list can be big or small, and don’t require anyone else’s agreement but yours. Have you secretly always liked how soft your belly is, even though you’re bombarded with ads for ab-workouts? Write it down! Do you like how strong your legs are, even if you wish they were a bit slimmer? Write it down!
The point is to refocus your attention from looking for flaws to looking for the beauty, strength, and joy your body holds. It’s already there – you just need to recognize it.
With time and practice, you can shift your mindset from self-hatred to self-love. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?