Journaling to Improve Your Body Image
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Are you thinking about the things you love about yourself, such as your contagious laugh and compassion towards others?
Or, are you simply noticing your appearance and all the things you want to change about the way you look?
If you said yes to the latter, you’re not alone. So many of us struggle with having a positive body image in this world that constantly glamorizes an unrealistic body type.
Despite these unrealistic and superficial standards society has bestowed upon us, we can develop a positive body image regardless of the small voice at the back of our minds that tells us to change who we are.
What is Body Image?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how you can tackle negative beliefs about your body, let’s first define body image. Your body image is how you picture yourself in your mind. It is the beliefs you have about your body and appearance. Depending on the experiences and scripts you’ve collected along the way, you can have a positive or negative body image.
Positive body image can be characterized by one who honors their body’s holistic needs. What I mean by this is that the individual respects their body enough to eat when it is hungry, sleep when it needs rest, and move it in a way that caters to its abilities. Having a positive body image doesn’t mean you don’t have insecurities now and then. Rather, it’s about honoring your body regardless of what the media, others, or even yourself says about what a body should or shouldn’t look like. It’s about accepting, acknowledging, and respecting your body for all that it is and all that it can do.
Intuitively, a negative body image is the opposite of this. One who has a negative body image has poor beliefs about their body as a result of comparing their body to unrealistic standards. A negative body image can create the following behaviors:
- Body shaming around others, creating distance in your relationships
- Inhibiting you from going to certain places, like work, the gym, or the beach
- Covering up from a place of not wanting to be seen (i.e. putting on excessive make-up or wearing baggy clothes)
- Restrictive eating or over-exercising
- Saying negative things about your body such as, “I need to lose weight” or “I’m so ugly”
In extreme cases, a negative body image can cause one to have an eating disorder. It is essential to combat this narrative that the media promotes about what we should and shouldn't look like so we can feel confident in the skin we're in. Unfortunately, we can't change the media. But we can rewrite this story within ourselves.
Your Beliefs Create Your Reality
Your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings ignite your behaviors, and your behaviors produce the results you get. In the previous section, I discussed the kind of behaviors a negative body image can cause. These behaviors are driven by the thoughts we have about our bodies.
For example, you may believe:
- “If I don’t cover up, others will be disgusted”
- “If I don’t change my appearance, no one will ever love me”
- “The more attractive I am, the more I will be liked”
As a result, these thoughts can cause you to:
- Wear excessive make-up or baggy clothes
- Engage in restrictive eating or over-exercising
- Avoid places and consistently say negative things about yourself
You see, what you think about your body matters. It affects your relationships with others and how you experience this world. Our beliefs can hold us back from doing so many things. A simple thought such as, “I don’t have a beach body” can prevent us from having an incredible experience with our friends. Or, a thought like, “I can only eat 1500 calories today,” can prevent us from going on the dinner date that we’ve been putting off for so long.
It comes down to us doing the inner work to see how these thoughts are keeping us stuck and challenging them so we can create new ones that support our wants and needs.
Improve Your Body Image Through Journaling
Journaling is an incredible way to fully express your thoughts without having to fear that you will be judged by someone else. Your journal is for you, and you only. You do not have to cover up or mask who you are when you write.
Journaling allows you to see what thoughts are holding you back from living the life you want. When it comes to negative body image, it may not be clear at first how it’s impacting your life. But as you continue writing, you will begin to see patterns and how these thoughts are getting in your way.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few prompts for journaling about body image:
- Recall the first time you ever had a negative perception of your body. What happened? How did it make you feel? How did it affect you going forward?
- How have the media and societal standards affected your body image?
- How does your body image impact you now? What’s it stopping you from doing? How might you shift these beliefs?
- How does your body support you every day? How has it allowed you to achieve certain goals?
- What is one thing you like about your body?
- What things, outside of your appearance, do you love about yourself?
- What kind of relationship do you want to have with your body?
Additional Ways to Improve Your Body Image
Outside of journaling, here are a few final tips to help you improve the relationship you have with your body:
- Assess your relationship with social media and consider doing a detox
- Fill your feed with diverse bodies and accounts that are not centered around appearance (for example, follow fewer celebrities and more nature-based accounts)
- Spend time with people who use body-positive language and embrace you for who you are as a whole
- Buy clothes that fit you and make you feel comfortable
- Do physical activities that you enjoy and thank your body for giving you the gift of doing them
In today's day and age, it can be hard to develop a positive body image. We are constantly fed images and stories by the media that are not even close to being realistic. We can choose to consume, or we can choose to challenge the media and make changes ourselves.
Remember, true beauty is not skin deep. Don’t let the least interesting thing about you—the way you look—dictate your life. If anything, the only thing you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday and to the person you want to be.
It is up to you to envision a new and healthier relationship with your body. It is up to you to appreciate it for being your vessel to breathe, achieve, and overall, BE. It is up to you to embrace yourself as a whole and develop a positive body image.
Written by Guest Author, Hailey Rodgers