Maybe you stare in the mirror and think, I hate my body. Or perhaps when you see pictures of yourself, you tend to say, even in a joking way, “Ugh, I hate how I look.” If this is the case, you might have a negative body image.
Body image issues and body dysmorphic disorder, which is when you have frequent intrusive thoughts about one or more perceived flaws, have become more prevalent recently, particularly among adolescents. With constant exposure to social media and a society-wide focus on image, many people find themselves paying increasing attention to their bodies. This may have become even more common with pandemic-driven remote work and the fact that we are seeing ourselves on screens more and more.
Whether in a Zoom meeting or in front of your bathroom mirror, you might find yourself fixating more on your body. For some people, this preoccupation can lead to a potentially dangerous eating disorder.
If you or someone you know is living with an eating disorder, consider reaching out for help. The National Eating Disorder Association Helpline can be reached at 1-800-931-2237 and has tools and support to help you through this time.
If you are experiencing negative feelings surrounding your body or looks, you are not alone. In fact, research points to the fact that many Americans feel unsatisfied with their bodies at some point in their life. Given the rise of social media and our common desire to be attractive to potential mates, it’s unsurprising that so many people fixate on real or imagined physical imperfections. A negative self-image can lead to several issues, especially given that our bodies are incredible machines that perform thousands of essential functions every single day.
It’s okay if you’ve come to worry a little or a lot over your body. Your feelings are normal, and you are certainly not alone. There are ways, however, to overcome these concerns so that you can develop a healthy relationship with your body.
So, how exactly can you cope with negative thoughts and ensure you’re happy in your body? This article will discuss some of the ways that you can overcome negative feelings toward your own body and move towards forming a healthier body image.
1. Determine Whether There Are Deeper Roots To Your Unhappiness
Oftentimes, poor body image stems from specific behaviors or moments in your life. Perhaps it’s staring at old pictures of yourself, statements from certain individuals, or constantly comparing yourself to the people around you. If you find yourself saying, “I hate my body,” it may be essential to uncover the “why.”
Ask yourself why you’re having issues with your self-image and go beyond simple answers about specific features. Ponder your past experiences and possible concerns like low self-esteem or depression. Ask these difficult questions, and you can be better equipped to understand why you’re judging yourself the way you are.
Consider this: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with your body just because it looks a certain way. What we perceive as “flaws” are in many cases common, natural features of our bodies—like cellulite or stretch marks, for example—that we may have a warped perception of due to social conditioning. Where did these ideas come from? Who decided that your body should look different than it naturally does?
Once you uncover the roots of a negative body image, you can get one step closer to tackling it. Some methods to work through these negativity sources include journaling, talking to someone close to you, and meditating. Sharing and processing your feelings may help uncover what truly drives your bad thoughts.
2. Focus On More Important Aspects Of Yourself
This is easier said than done, of course. It’s okay to spend time thinking about and tending to your appearance from time to time. Obsessing over it, however, can exacerbate self-image issues.
To cope with this, try to look beyond the body in the mirror. Try being grateful for the things your body provides you besides its appearance. Instead of repeating, I hate my body, in your head, start repeating, I’m grateful for my body.
Try to dispel the negativity from your life. Negative self-talk that makes you feel bad your body image can make it harder to overcome bad habits. Think instead of how your body lets you work harder and get stronger daily—or perhaps how your body brought children into the world. There is much more to you than just your appearance.
Developing positive self-talk can help you move closer to body acceptance. Focus on goals beyond your physical appearance. Work on fitness goals, such as new push-up records or new mile times. Look at food as your medicine, helping you be healthy from the inside out. Set mindfulness goals and try activities such as deep breathing, meditation, or reading instead of scrolling social media.
3. Work On Your Mental Health
It can be difficult to reshape your poor body image if your mental health is not being taken care of. You may gain or lose weight from time to time, and that is okay. Embrace the changes. Your body will change throughout your life, just as you do. This is expected and healthy.
There is a common misconception that body issues always stem from a desire to be more attractive. Oftentimes, body issues have more to do with a sense of control. Some people may obsessively edit their body through apps, feeling as though they must maintain control over their outward appearance as much as possible.
4. Take A Break From Social Media
Beauty standards change constantly. Social media influencers will edit their images and then sell products that promise to make us look more like them. Ask yourself, Has society—including social media, Hollywood, magazines, the beauty industry, etc.—given me a complex about my physical appearance?
Social media can have lasting effects on body image and mental health. It’s all too easy to fall into comparing your body and your life to the bodies and lives that you see on the screen. You may start to look at your body in a negative light because you don’t believe that you are living up to the examples you see.
Take a break from these platforms from time to time. You do not have to cut yourself off cold turkey, but try heavily restricting your time on social media platforms for a while and see if that alleviates some of your concerns.
Rather than the strangers who populate our social media feeds, consider role models in your day-to-day life. Ask yourself why you admire these people. In most cases, it probably has little to do with physical beauty and more to do with the way they make you feel, their skill or experience in what they do, etc. This can help remind you how much more important personality is than our mere outer shells.
5. Roll With The Changes
There are many changes that we undergo in our lifetimes, such as weight fluctuation and childbirth. If these changes are causing you to worry about your attractiveness, there are steps you can take. For example, you could throw out clothes that no longer fit. Rather than holding onto old clothes in the hope that they will one day fit again, you can develop a new wardrobe. This may help you move on and accept how your body has changed.
The only constant in life is change. As you move through life, you will inevitably experience emotional, intellectual, and spiritual changes. It’s only natural that your body will change along with you. Try to avoid guilting or punishing yourself for going through phases that are entirely normal, healthy, and even beautiful. This is likely not the last time your body will change. And that’s okay!
6. Treat Yourself
You are so much more than a body. You are a person who is worthy of self-love. Take time to treat yourself. Negative self-talk and a negative body image can lead to physical and mental health concerns.
By occasionally pampering yourself with self-care, you can help improve your overall well-being. And by eating healthy and exercising, you will be more likely to have a strong and healthy body. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing!
7. Don’t Forget Basic Care
Self-care is only one part of the larger equation. You’ll also want to maintain basic care that you might have been neglecting, which can lead to larger health issues. Consider the following areas of basic care: hydration and sleep.
8. Consider Seeking Support
Body dysmorphic disorder can be a debilitating condition that has the potential to affect many aspects of your life. If you or someone you love is experiencing BDD, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. CBT can help you reframe the negative thought patterns that may lead to symptoms of body dysmorphic syndrome.
If you worry about an eating disorder or other mental health-related concern affecting your relationship or the mental health of you and your loved ones, consider a free consultation with ReGain. With ReGain, you can connect with an experienced therapist from wherever you have an internet connection (or phone service). The qualified mental health providers at ReGain know how to help you build a positive body image and guide you on the path to self-love.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What do I do if I hate my body?
Hating your body is a difficult and often damaging mindset to live with. Each day can have you feeling distressed, and it can have an isolating effect when it comes to family and friends. Your ability to function might be compromised, and it may lead to depression and anxiety. Learning to love your body is a process that will likely take time, but that is well worth it in the long run.
What is it called when you hate your body?
A negative self-image or obsession with a body part can be due to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a serious mental health concern that can cause people to fixate on their appearance and often leads to other disorders.
Eating disorders are a common symptom of BDD. Some of the most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa. Binge eating is the most common disordered eating condition in America.
How do you love your body when you hate it?
Therapy, self-care, and mindfulness are all ways that you can help develop a healthier self-image. It’s important to remember that learning to love your body can be a long process, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Friends and family can create a supportive network on your journey.
Learning to love your body may seem impossible if you currently hate it, especially if you also live with depression and/or anxiety. It’s important to remember that a distorted body image can be reframed. Learning to love your body can improve many facets of your life.
How do you feel confident when you hate your body?
If you hate your body, learning to love it and feel confident can be difficult. One of the most effective ways to improve your self-image is to try to shift your focus to things that you’re proud of or grateful for, like your personal achievements or your friends and family.
Eating disorders are sometimes a part of living with low self-esteem about one’s body. This can be a repeating cycle that makes it harder and harder for you to feel confident. It’s important to remember that your body does not define who you are.