How to Improve Your Body Image

How you feel about your body affects how others see you.

Posted Aug 28, 2020

Photo by Vitória Santos from Pexels
Source: Photo by Vitória Santos from Pexels

When you walk into a crowded party, a job interview, or an important meeting at work, what are you thinking about? When you stand up to speak in front of an audience, what, besides the inevitable stage fright, do you experience?

One important part of your presence when you enter a room or take the stage is how you feel about your body. I was a chubby boy and have never quite managed to shake the sense that I should weigh about 10 pounds—OK, maybe 15—less than I do.  

As a public speaker, that’s part of the baggage I carry with me on stage. I’m guessing that you may be carrying similar baggage—whether it’s weight, or a lack of fondness for a particular body part, or a sense that you should be taller, or cuter, or younger—the list of ways in which we find ourselves lacking is endless.

Carrying baggage is just the beginning. How you feel about yourself and your body also affects the way you stand, the way you project, and the way you take the stage for a big event. As a public speaking coach, I’ve seen so many variations on the way people walk up to the podium over the years that the variety is bewildering, yet they fall into two main categories: people who love their bodies and people who seek to hide some aspect of their presence.

So that’s what it comes down to: how do you walk into a room or onto a stage? Are you trying to hide something, or are you standing proud?

If you feel like you need to hide something, then a recent study may offer some help. It turns out that if you practice breathing, mindfulness, and body awareness (paying attention to your heartbeat, for example), you can improve your sense of self.

I would recommend this practice highly for those who feel like they have something to hide because it’s one of the biggest detractors to you becoming your best, most charismatic self. Charisma is emotional focus, and it’s very hard to focus on an emotion in order to make yourself compelling if what’s also on your mind is that your bum is too big. That secondary nagging concern pulls you away from your primary focus and makes you appear self-conscious and weaker than you should.

This is not easy work. Self-image and dislike of aspects of one’s body are deep-seated, difficult, and emotionally fraught parts of your psyche. They typically go back a long way and involve shaming or pain in being told that some part of you is less than perfect. So, a few weeks of mindfulness will not cure a real problem. But if the study’s right, then you can help yourself and your stage presence by paying attention to your breathing and heart.

Body image and baggage is a persistent issue and one that you’ll be dealing with most of your life. If you do lose the weight, or work on whatever bothers you about yourself, be prepared for the change not to feel real. If you care about the image you project to the world, then be aware that shedding the emotional baggage makes an even bigger difference than any physical change you could make.