I recently walked by a store with a sign outside saying: "Flaws Make You Real."
This made me wonder, if flaws make you real, then why are so many of us focused on covering up or hiding our imperfections? Human beings are naturally imperfect. We all have distinct blemishes that make us who we are. Why would we wish to be or to look unauthentic?
Being real and accepting of our flaws doesn’t have to equate to weakness. What if we adjusted our view of what having flaws means, especially about our body image? Body image doesn’t refer to what we actually look like. It refers to the subjective personal picture someone holds of one’s body, meaning that body image is how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror or when we picture ourselves in our minds.
Body image, like self-esteem, doesn’t develop over night. Our earliest experiences (with family, culturally, in past relationships) tend to shape how we view ourselves. The specific messages we receive often influence personal body talk (how we speak to ourselves about our bodies). Images in the media also often contribute to unrealistic expectations of what we should look like.
Although there was no way to control the ways in which your body image developed, you hold complete control of your current beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions that relate to your physical appearance. Begin the process of having a positive relationship with your beautiful, imperfect, real body.
Tips for creating a more Positive Body Image:
Ask yourself: What is my personal body image? Write down what your inner voice reveals. In what ways are your current perceptions about your appearance holding you back?
Explore what factors (family, cultural, past & present relationship experiences) influenced how your body image developed.
Set goals for personal change.
Identify healthy habits to incorporate into your lifestyle to align with your goals (e.g., establish a manageable exercise routine, schedule time for taking care of your needs).
Begin to notice your internal body talk (how you speak to yourself in your head about your body). Observe how these thoughts affect your emotions, mood & behaviors.
Consistently monitor and let go of unrealistic and critical self-judgments.
Feed your mind with more accepting positive thoughts. Replace negative thinking with affirmations (such as, “I’m learning to love myself just as I am”, and “ It’s okay for others to see me as I really am.”
Remember that you are not alone in this journey towards self-acceptance. Body image dissatisfaction is extremely common. It can be beneficial to seek professional support for more guidance on this issue.
A book I recommend if you would like to explore Body Image further is The Body Image Workbook by Thomas F. Cash
Dr. Julie Zelig completed her doctoral training in San Francisco California. She is a NY licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan. She provides individual and group therapy to teens & adults with a range of concerns. Her areas of expertise include: anxiety, depression, disordered eating, grief & loss, social anxiety, coping with life transitions, building self-esteem, body-image issues, and relationship concerns.