Continuing the Body Positivity Project Series, I am very excited to have Roxana Petrus on the blog today! She is a coach, a psychologist, and an emotional health specialist with a background in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. With all this expertise, she is here to talk about different factors that affect one’s body image and how to tackle the same.
What is Body Image?
Body image is essentially how you think, feel and behave in relation to your body. It’s how you see yourself and how you think you look.
What contributes to a negative body image?
The Negativity Bias
Our mind has a default filter through which it predominantly selects negative information. As a result, we give more weight to negative things than we do to positive or neutral ones.
This mechanism is extremely helpful when we are faced with potential psychical dangers and threats, but not so useful in our daily lives or when it comes to how we evaluate ourselves and our bodies.
Early life experiences
Our perception of our bodies is usually modelled by how the adults in our lives evaluated their bodies, how they communicated with us about body image and how they directly express their opinions about the way we look.
For example, if someone in my family had a critical and harsh way of referring to the way I look, had many inflexible rules about how my body should be, I will most likely interiorize those thoughts and transform them into my own rules. I will continue to use these rules as I go through different life experiences, and they will influence my relationship with my body.
Society rules and norms
Society plays an important role in how we see ourselves and how we evaluate our bodies. We become painfully aware of what is generally considered beautiful and what is not. As a consequence, we might set a perfection body goal that is impossible to achieve. This can become an endless source of emotional pain and suffering.
What is unconditional self-acceptance?
Unconditional self-acceptance implies acknowledging the reality of everything about who you are, with understanding and compassion, without judgement or resistance.
Acceptance does not mean that I resign or let go of improving myself, but that I realize that even if there are some things I might want to change, that doesn’t make me a less valuable or worthy person.
When we use unconditional self-acceptance of our bodies, we manage to recognize and appreciate our uniqueness, take care of our bodies through nourishment, sleep and movement and practice forgiveness towards ourselves. We are also able to understand that perfection does not exist and that our worth is not based on the way we look.
How can we move towards unconditional self-acceptance?
Negative thoughts about our bodies: Self-criticism
Our thoughts about our bodies are extremely important. Too often, we find ourselves overanalyzing our perceived flaws, using labels and self-deprecating language, or being mean and harsh toward ourselves when it comes to how we see our bodies. The way you speak to and about yourself matters!
How can we manage self-criticism thoughts?
Notice what you are thinking
Increase your self-awareness and try to observe your negative thoughts. You can use journaling to help bring some clarity in your thinking patterns and get some distance.
Challenge your thoughts
- Is this really true what I am saying to and about myself right now?
- What are some reasonable arguments against these thoughts?
- Is what am I thinking logical?
- Is it helpful? Does it bring me any value?
Just because we have these negative thoughts, that doesn’t make them true, logical or applicable. And they are certainly unkind. Our inner dialogues are meant to be constructive, supportive and motivating.
The Loved One Technique
If you wouldn’t say that to a loved one, do not say it to yourself!
Ask yourself: Would I talk like that to my partner? Or to a parent? To my friends? If the answer is no, then I need to replace it with a more compassionate and understanding sentence.
Show gratitude and appreciation towards your body
Think about these important questions and try to find answers to them.
- What do you ask of your body?
- What does your body allow you to do on a daily basis?
- What has your body been through (e.g., sleepless nights, stress, days without enough movement, scars, bruises, pregnancy and birth)?
Stop and thank your body for being able to recover as best as it could from all those difficult experiences that it went through. These all represent the battles your body has been through for you and they have become a brave testimony of your body’s fighting spirit.
Moreover, be grateful to your body for allowing you to not only function but thrive; for supporting you in all your daily activities and in your journey towards achieving your goals.
Your body speaks – Listen carefully
We know that our minds, specifically our thinking, influence our bodies, physical sensations and symptoms. But does it work the other way around as well?
Have you heard about embodied cognition?
It’s this theory supported by studies that shows that our body might influence our mind: the way we experience the physical world through our bodies shapes the way we think.
And it takes into account the importance of the environment, the movement of our body, posture, tactile sense and how these components can shape the way we evaluate a certain situation. Interesting, right?
Your body speaks to you. It tells you what it needs when it needs it. All you have to do is try to listen to it. Don’t dismiss or ignore your body’s needs and don’t avoid or postpone your actions to support it.
And your body will reward you for it. When we are connected with what is going on in our body, it is easy to fulfil those needs and we get immense physical and emotional satisfaction when we do.
Practicing unconditional self-acceptance is a process and it takes repetition, patience and understanding. But the rewards are so worth it!
Acceptance can lead to a deeper, healthier and more positive relationship with your body, as well as to unconditional body-love and self-worth.
Be gentle and kind to yourself as you try to put these strategies into practice and try to find meaning in connecting with yourself and your body.
Apart from being a coach, a psychologist, and an emotional health specialist, Roxana Petrus also helps amazing women manage their difficult emotions and develop their skills so they can be more confident in their professional and personal lives. She combines evidence-based practices rooted in psychology with clear strategies with an empathic, supportive and authentic attitude.
Connect with Roxana:
Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for more of our March posts, cuz “self-love” is in the air. Stay tuned to read more about body positivity, turning 50, ex-pat resources, and travel diaries.
To read posts from February, click here