Body image is something that can be a tricky thing to grapple with. It affects many of us, the media and photoshopping don’t help us. And now that even every movie and video clip you see can be digitally edited (bodies changed and slimmed down – I kid you not, I’ve seen a video editor do this to Julia Roberts in a movie, plus they now digitally manipulate skin to look flawless and wrinkle-free – seen this too), it’s hard to know what is real and what is not anymore. So many of us compare ourselves (and find ourselves lacking) to those Instagrammers and actors and celebrities that we see living the so-called perfect lives with the perfect wrinkle and fat-free bodies and faces). And comparison is a nasty virus that strikes most of us if we are not diligent and careful (like seriously, it’s so hard to avoid).
By talking about body image, you open up yourself into a space of sharing so you can feel that you’re not alone.
Style Dissatisfaction and Body Image
Style dissatisfaction can mask body image issues. You think if you just figured out your body shape and what works, then all your style problems would disappear.
Yet sadly, this is rarely so. And I’ve discovered in my work that women of every size and shape have body image issues, nobody is immune to the media messages we are constantly bombarded with. Knowing that these images are completely unattainable as they are actually not real (as mentioned before that most of the images you see are not actually real) can help you get a more realistic perspective on your own body. If the models, those genetically blessed, are still photoshopped, then nothing is real!
Even if you’re trying to avoid many of these media messages about women’s bodies, it’s still hard to avoid them even in passing as headlines on the covers of magazines that sit at the counters of your local supermarket checkout are subliminally sending messages even if you are not aware.
So much of style is about your personality and how you want to express this in an authentic way. Style is so much more than body shape and figure flattery (though they are not to be ignored). There is a big picture, the whole style puzzle matters, which is why 16 STyle Types has been developed and my 7 Steps to Style program focuses first on personality, before you even start thinking about the physical parts of style (body, colours etc.), as I know this is the key to unlocking your style and feeling satisfied.
Style Can Help You Dress the Body You Have
It may not get rid of your body image issues as this may stem from messages you’ve received over your lifetime. Something someone once said that has stuck with you. A lifetime of taking in negative messages about women’s body shapes and weight. All these things impact upon your own body image and you may find that what is most effective is getting some professional psychological help if it’s something that is making you feel ‘less than’ or ‘unworthy’ in some way.
When I learned that the way my skeleton was put together meant that I’d never have a defined waist, it was massively freeing to me to know this. I no longer thought “if I just lost some weight I’d have a waist” instead I learned that my skeleton precluded me from this and so I just learned how to dress my body in a way that flatters it, rather than trying to change it (or feel like there was something wrong with it).
You Often May Feel Better About Yourself When You Look More Stylish
There is research that shows when you look good you feel better about yourself.
But it won’t ‘fix’ underlying issues.
The emotional content of these messages that we’ve received are still inside us and can be triggered easily if the root cause of them is not dealt with. Style is a bandaid, not a cure for body image issues.
Jill Chivers from 16 Style Types and Shop Your Wardrobe feels that it’s important to deal with your issues. The way forward for you may be different from the next woman’s, but it’s worth looking for your own pathway.
Certainly learning what suits you and how to express your personality through your clothing and image, so that what you’re presenting to the world is authentic and true to you can help, as research does show that this information can improve your self-esteem and confidence. This may then help you discard negative messages you’ve been holding onto as you see they are not true for you.
If you learn to embrace and dress your body, the body you have today, in an authentic and flattering way, you may start feeling better about yourself. Knowing how to dress your shape and unique features, in colours that flatter, can help you look 5kg (12 pounds) lighter and a whole lot better, but it’s not going to magically make you look of 2okg (50 pounds) lighter if that’s what you’re hoping for.
Being able to manage your own expectations is an important part of dealing with your body image issues. That there is no magic cure with clothes, thinking that if you find the perfect item suddenly everything in your life will become fairytale ending perfect. It could be worth asking yourself: are my expectations outside of reality?
There are many women who find it very difficult to look in the mirror. If your body image is stopping you from accepting invitations or going out and enjoying life, then it’s important to understand how you can change this. If this is the case for you, it would be well worth finding a really nurturing therapist who you can talk to about this with, to help you gain a more balanced perspective on your body image.
What I’ve learned is that others aren’t making judgements about you, in the same way, you make judgements about yourself.
You are, most likely, your own worst critic.
Taking the first step to get some help (or even just acknowledging that this issue is impacting on your life in a negative way) is an act of courage, particularly if body image issues are stopping you from living your life, or making you feel so bad about yourself in some way.
Your first step may be:
- Doing online research
- Reaching out in a forum where you feel it’s a safe space’
- Sharing with a trusted friend or family member that you’re having a problem
When you recognise that something is disruptive and out-of-kilter in your world can make you feel like the weight of the world is on you. From recognising there is a problem then you can take one small step at a time.
Thinking about reframing how you see yourself. For me, writing a letter to my body really helped me see the positives rather than focussing on the negatives.
If you’re hiding the thing that makes you feel bad, sharing this can feel hugely vulnerable. But remember that being vulnerable is an act of courage and strength, and it’s important to make sure you share in a safe space. There are likely to be others who feel the same way as you do, and sharing can help you feel less alone and like you’re the only one with this problem.
If you have any strategies that have worked for your regarding overcoming your body image issues please do share with us here in the comments as I’m sure your ideas can help others who are also struggling.
Why Living with a 3D Body in a 2D Fashion World Makes Shopping Such a Nightmare
A number of years ago I realised how much my internal critic was influencing my feelings of self worth. I started a daily practise that involved starting the day by looking in the mirror and smiling at myself – yes it was difficult to do at first but over time that voice inside my head stopped being critical and I stopped seeing the wrinkles and flaws. When you are smiling it is hard to have negative thoughts. This process moved me forward in a way I could not have imagined.
Thanks for this tip – and I’m really glad something as simple as this can have a positive effect!
A great honest conversation. Mindfulness Self-Compassion is helping me to accept that I am a vulnerable imperfect human being. We can’t be perfect or have perfect bodies and I benefit from being kind to myself about that but Self-Compassion is a process that you practice for life. In relation to digital editing I love old movies for the simple fact that they have the best characters, real characters that aren’t slimmed down and fixed up.
Excellent recommendation – so important to have self-compassion – we are often so compassionate to others and hard on ourselves!
I realized by age 30 (after decades of food-disordered eating) that there was something seriously wrong with me. I got help in Overeaters Anonymous and healed from the inside out. My weight is healthy now but better than that my thinking is healthy!
I tried, was condemned, thrown out and judged. Who I am, who I was, was not acceptable. Now there’s a new group that explores the personality types and how they dress. Everything written on that site says that there are differing personality types and explores who you are and how to be authentic in a “nurturing” environment. Yet, I was judged so harshly for who I was. I cant correlate the kind words I read and the reaction I got in person and by email… so, I read from afar and work on issues that were programmed into me by a very negative upbringing and environment and extremely jealous sisters (yes, there is that factual, actual word). I had to find another stylist group that did care and then began to work with it. Success is beginning to come.