Just like most females, I’ve dealt with my fair share of insecurities and body image issues. It started pretty early, when a boy (I’ll never forget your name, Brett) called me a “fatty” at only eight years old. I was running across the school yard towards my mom’s car and explicitly remember the feeling I got when he yelled that word from a tree he had climbed. My heart felt like it sunk to my feet, my joyful run turned into a somber stride, and I tried my best to swallow my tears as I got into the car. The twisted part is I was actually stick-skinny due to a recent growth spurt, so this caused an unknown bout of dysmorphia at a very young age. I started obsessively looking in the mirror and worrying about the clothes I was wearing to school. I started studying other girls who were known as “pretty” or “skinny” and comparing myself to them.
On top of the torture I was putting myself through, I proceeded to (and continue to) face countless threats to my body image and self-esteem. I’ve been bullied for having no boobs, taunted for having big boobs, told I’m too skinny, and told that I should lose some weight. I’ve been shamed for dieting. I’ve been shamed for eating too much. The strange part is, while I have faced some unwelcome criticism from men, I’ve gotten most of it from other women. Up until very recently, I had it cemented in my brain that I could never escape criticism, no matter what I did. But that’s not the case. The truth is: we are the only ones responsible for the way that we feel about our bodies.
We are the only ones responsible for the way that we feel about our bodies.
Yes, you read that right. Sure, other people can be terrible with their words. On the other hand, if we can’t learn how to truly love ourselves, we will have no choice but to listen to and believe other people. The only move that shifted this paradigm for me was when I took the time to learn about and love my own body. Keep reading for some action steps you can take towards building self esteem for that incredible vessel of yours.
Start in the Mirror
When I say mirror work changed my life, I really mean that. When is the last time you stopped what you were doing in the mirror and just looked at your reflection? I’m talking about simply spending time with yourself, looking at yourself as the purest form of you. Sure, it can feel awkward for those of us that have struggled with body image. I promise you: it’s worth the effort. The best time to do this is right when you wake up, messy hair and sans makeup. If you can learn to love yourself in this state, you can love yourself in all states.
What’s one thing you love about yourself at this very moment?
Start with just a couple minutes of quiet and simply check in. How are you feeling? What do you want to accomplish today? What’s one thing you love about yourself at this very moment? Do you love how bright your skin feels before you put anything on it? Do the sweats you’re rocking fit just right? Whatever it is, cherish it. Hug yourself. Smile. Take ownership of this moment. This moment is less about appearance and more about presence, so take time to acknowledge that you are the only one that can have this type of moment with yourself. That’s pretty fantastic. Even if you just stand there like a statue for two minutes, baby steps mean progress. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to this every morning and it will become less like a chore and more like a metaphorical high-five (or sometimes a real one) for yourself.
Remind Yourself of the Miracles
Our bodies intuitively know what they need and give us signals when they need nourishment.
If you’re wondering how to build self confidence, start by reminding yourself of what your body is capable of. Really tune into what your body does for you every single day. We, as women, are truly walking miracles. Without any mental effort, our bodies intuitively know what they need and give us signals when they need nourishment. While we are constantly battling the ups and downs of our hormones throughout each month, our menstrual cycles can remind us of the ability we have to create, nourish, birth, and feed human life. Our bodies can handle a lot. Again, that’s pretty fantastic. Not only that, our bodies are our temples for sacred femininity, and the sooner we start respecting and appreciating that, the more confident we will feel.
Personally, my body insecurity has always been related to my thighs and hips—the size, the shape, you name it. Due to many growth spurts I’ve had in my life, the sides of my hips and legs are also graced with a ton of stretch marks. On top of that, I have cellulite (cry me a river, right?). Now, these are body issues that so many women have; yet, why do we feel so isolated and insecure when we have them ourselves?
Prior to me practicing self-love, I’d constantly try to find ways to hide this area of my body. Now, I think of my legs and hips as miracles. Instead of thinking, What can I do to hide this area of my body? I think, What can I do to embrace and thank this area of my body? Instead of slouching in photos or wearing looser clothing, I find ways to use my legs and hips to feel good. I take tons of walks, I dance and move my hips when I do mirror work, and I find ways to be grateful for this area every day. I encourage you to change your narrative and start speaking to your body insecurities like they are gifts. You are a miracle, so start acting like one!
Nothing kills a positive self-image more than comparison. If you’re guilty of falling into a self-loathing scrolling hole on Instagram, this one’s for you. A social media cleanse may not be for everyone, but it is extremely helpful if you’re working on loving yourself more. Whether you swear off social media for a few weeks or unfollow profiles that make you feel less than, cleansing what you see on a daily basis can make a huge impact on the way you feel about yourself. For example, my feed used to be flooded with bikini Instagrams and fitness models because I was convinced that it would be “fitspo” and keep me motivated to work out and eat well. Sure, it made me keep fitness top-of-mind, but it actually made me start loathing my body and saying things to myself like “I’m never going to look that good”. Every time I scrolled, the feelings of envy, unhappiness, and self-loathing were inevitable.
While social media is a huge part of our lives today, there is another simple way to kill comparison. Try to narrow down what it is that you’re envious of or comparing yourself to and write it down. Once you have that, craft a response to it that includes a fact and a positive affirmation. For example, if you’re insecure about your financial situation and comparing yourself to someone who seems to “have it made,” the exercise could look like this:
Envious Statement: “I’m jealous of how much money that person seems to have. It seems like they can get whatever they want and that will never happen for me.”
Positive Response: “That person may have money or have a great job, but that doesn’t mean I’m not valuable or can’t find value in my surroundings. I enjoy working for the things that I have and I am valuable and important as I am.”
Getting into the habit of counteracting the comparison quickly will not only positively change your self esteem, but it will help shift your negative view of others. The people you’re envious of are most likely envious of someone else. Most of the time, our envy or jealousy is based on our thought patterns rather than the actual reality of the situation. Remembering that we are all on our own journey will soften the blow of harsh comparison and keep you looking within.