Developing a Positive Body Image

Reflections on the Body Positivity Workshop, hosted by Tanya Sturges, Adonis Blue Coaching and Michael Mclaren, Personal Trainer and Coach.

Having attended a couple of Tanya Sturges’ events this one particularly caught my attention since, for pretty much as long as I can remember, I have not been 100% comfortable in my own skin and have developed a bad habit of comparing myself to others.  Like all people, I’ve seen my body go through some major changes, childbearing and ageing being probably the most difficult experiences for me so far, what with the appearance of stretch marks, wobbly bits, fine lines, etc. (showing that I too have absorbed messages that these particular features are to be hidden away, covered up and even eliminated!)

It’s not only the criticism that I direct at myself that impacts the way I see my body, I am also sometimes haunted by those throwaway but cutting remarks that people have made about my appearance over the years; feeling the pain and humiliation of being on the receiving end of hurtful comments from those who choose to appoint themselves as arbiters of fashion and the ‘perfect’ body image (whatever that means!)  We all know these people and occasionally, if we are completely honest, we even find ourselves judging others, either silently or explicitly, if they do not match up to our personal standards or what we consider to be acceptable ways of living.  I think being judgemental is just one of those traits that lurks within us all and that learning to recognise it within ourselves, to challenge our assumptions, and then to cast them aside is truly a gift.

So, how do we possibly begin to heal the wounds that have been created from the hurt caused by other people voicing their opinions about our bodies, especially in the context of a society where we are constantly bombarded with contradictory messages about how our bodies should look and unattainable images of so-called flawless bodies and faces? Michael Mclaren generously shared his expertise and personal experiences to give us some tips on how we could be more body confident:

  • Practise gratitude – be thankful for what your body does for you every day and think about how you can start, or continue, to nurture it!
  • Be kind to yourself – would you be so critical of someone else (like your closest friend)? Hopefully not! Talk to yourself with compassion, give yourself a break, and plan in some enjoyable activities that will re-energise and nourish your mind and body.
  • Are the beliefs you have about yourself and your body image helping you to live a happy and fulfilling life? If the answer to that question is ‘No’ then now is the time to start confronting those limiting beliefs and to re-frame them into statements that help you to build a more positive mindset (such as ‘I am learning to love and respect my body’, ‘My curves are beautiful’, ‘I am wonderfully unique, there is nobody else like me’, ‘My smile is warm and friendly’ etc.)
  • Stop trying to mind-read – do we really know what someone is thinking when they as much as glance in our direction?
  • You don’t have to accept all opinions and criticisms as truth – when faced with such comments/messages, explore them with a more curious and critical eye and ask yourself questions such as ‘What do I think about this?’, ‘What are my values?’, ‘What do I believe to be true?’, ‘What does having a ‘positive body image’ mean to me?’, ‘How do I want to feel?’, and ‘What do I want for myself?’

As I reflected on our discussions, I also realised that people often project their insecurities onto others and their comments say so much more about them than the person they are criticising.  If someone starts commenting on your appearance it may well be their own insecurity or fear that is revealing itself and their personal (and highly subjective) viewpoint of how things should be.

Another key takeaway for me was that I was not alone in being uncomfortable with my body image.  As isolating as this feeling of discomfort can be it is also incredibly common and all of us around the table had a story to share about how we had been ridiculed or had felt ashamed about the way we look. Tanya and Michael provided a truly open and supportive space where we felt able to express our insecurities and vulnerability. Summoning up the courage to share our thoughts around body image proved to be a very therapeutic and cathartic experience.

I’m not saying that I am now fully confident in my appearance (that is going to take an awful lot of practising the techniques outlined above!) but I am gradually getting better at identifying the things that I do like about myself and appreciating the body that I have right at this moment. I know how to respond to my insecurities, whenever they surface, in a more positive way, to just stop and think twice about any critical thoughts that I direct towards myself, and to begin to question any unkind comments that have come my way.

Note: This post contains no sponsored material or affiliate links and is based on my own opinions, views and experiences of carrying out the personal development activities described above.