Given our culture’s incredibly narrow beauty standard and our obsession with how women look, it can be hard to have a healthy attitude toward your own body. When you’re flooded with media messages linking your worth as a human being to the shape of your body, mirrors can start to feel like the enemy. And body worries aren’t just distracting; they’re also linked with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
Beauty Sickness is a term I use to describe what happens when concerns about how you look take valuable time, energy, and emotional resources away from things that matter more than your appearance. When you’re beauty sick, it’s difficult to see beyond the mirror. You lose sight of the things that truly matter. And you become disconnected from the values you want to guide your life.
The good news is that there are effective ways to fight beauty sickness. Here are some strategies to try:
1. Make a list of what matters most to you in life. Is it your work? Family? Friendships? Making the world a better place? Keep that list with you. When beauty sickness creeps in, take a few minutes to meditate about these things that really matter to you. Think about why they matter and how you can allocate more attention and time to those areas of your life.
2. Ask yourself, “What type of person do I want to be?” After you come up with responses, take at least one small action that’s consistent with one of the qualities you've listed. Do you want to be bold? Kind? Creative? Then do something bold, kind, or creative.
3. Even if our bodies let us down at times, we can still practice gratitude for the things our bodies do for us. Take some time to consider everything your body does to get you through each day. Thank the different parts of your body for the things they do for you. Do your arms let you hold the people you love? Do your legs let you take walks in beautiful places? Do your hands help you express yourself? Write your body a letter of gratitude for the ways it has served you throughout your life and continues to serve you right now. Add to your letter when you’re inspired to do so and re-read it whenever you feel the pull of beauty sickness. If you are comfortable doing so, share your letter with people you care about and invite them to write their own letters. Create a community of body positivity.
4. Reach out to a loved one. Ask that person meaningful questions about their life and listen carefully to their answers. Focus on staying present in the conversation. Shifting our attention away from the mirror and toward engaging with someone else is a powerful means of breaking free of our own body worries.
5. Go on a social media diet. Numerous studies have linked social media use to body dissatisfaction – especially social media use that’s image-focused. Take a break from documenting your life to be more fully present in it instead. Give yourself a break from posing and posting. Give your brain some time away from all of those images of other people that are hard not to compare yourself to.
6. Remember that body shame is not a diet plan. When you hate your body, it’s hard to take good care of it. We don’t take care of things we hate. Instead of berating yourself up if you’re disappointed with how you look, practice compassion toward your body. Focus on caring for your body the way you would care for someone you love. Use kind words when talking about your body. Don’t say anything about your body that you wouldn’t say to someone you love.
7. Do something kind for someone else. Rumination about your body fuels body shame. Break free from those negative thoughts by turning your mind away from your own sadness or anxiety and toward someone else’s happiness. Be a bucket filler!
We’ve got a lot of important work to do. Let’s reclaim some of that time we spend despairing about our bodies and get back to the business of making the world a better place.
Facebook image: Tatyana Dzemileva/Shutterstock