Dress Yourself With Kindness
With many of us having put on some weight during the past 2 years due to the stress of living through a once in a 100-year pandemic I’ve been getting swathes of emails from women who are dissatisfied with their bodies and feeling “less than” or “not good enough” or somehow their body is failing them and their sense of style. What I noticed in these emails is just how easy it is to be negative about ourselves and our bodies and thought it was a good excuse to bring up the topic of body image, self-acceptance, and kindness, because we can all do with more kindness, whether to and from others as well as being kind to ourselves.
1. Ways to Improve Your Body Image and Become More Self Accepting
Start by thinking about how you can have a positive relationship with your body instead of a negative one
Even starting to notice that you are criticizing yourself is a great first step. So much internal dialogue goes by almost subconsciously, yet we need to start to bring those thoughts into our conscious and then question ourselves and ask “Would I speak this way to a friend? Would I say this to someone else about their body?” If the thought of saying to a friend about their body, what you are saying internally to yourself horrifies you, then it’s time to stop saying those things to yourself.
2. Be kind – stop criticizing yourself!
It’s time to also relinquish the idea that not having a model body or the body you used to have will make your life perfect. Nothing in life is perfect. Accept imperfection as beautiful (I love the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, where the flaws of something broken are embraced and celebrated with some gold leaf creating an even more beautiful piece). Why not start to see how you can apply this concept to yourself and your style and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. I loved the comment I read once on my 7 Steps to Style program forum about how seeing a wide variety of women and bodies had helped this member feel better about herself as she could now see that all women were beautiful in their own way and that this idealized “model body” is actually no longer what she saw as the only beautiful kind of body.
3. Remember you deserve to be loved and accepted in the body you have today
You are an amazing human being. You are perfect just as you are. You should not be contorting or twisting yourself into knots to try and be someone or something that you are not. The best people will love you just as you are and don’t want you to change. Your body deserves to be loved just as it is. You are alive! Your body is doing amazing things to let you have the life you have and do all the things you do each day. It should be appreciated for what it gives you and what it allows you to do. Love your body just as it is. You have no flaws, everything is an asset!
4. Stop Judging
Stop judging other people’s bodies – if you criticize others then you are criticizing yourself – we all deserve to be loved and accepted just as we are. If you’re criticizing others’ bodies, this will have a negative impact on your own self-esteem and body image. See if you can start picking up on when you do it, and instead reframe your thoughts to find something beautiful and accepting about that person’s body. Find the assets don’t focus on “flaws”.
5. Get rid of the SHOULDs
I really hate the SHOULDS, it’s another way of criticizing yourself and as we’ve just discussed, this is not good for you and your mental health. Who says you SHOULD be anything other than exactly who and what you are? Wo says that they in the right and you in the wrong? You should not be younger, slimmer, firmer, prettier than you are as there is no age or size limit to style.
6. What Do You Consume?
This is not about what you eat, but what media you consume. There is much research that has found mainstream and social media can have a negative effect on your body image. So cleanse your social media of unrealistic bodies (airbrushed anyone?), avoid the fashion magazines if they make you feel “less than”. Stop following people who have an unrealistic body type. Look instead for people who are more like you and be inspired by the wonderful array of amazing and stylish women who look nothing like supermodels.
7. Appreciate your body for what it can do for you
This is a great one for helping you to start appreciating your body and improve your body image. Write a letter to your body (instructions here) and print it out, put it up somewhere you can see it, and read it daily until the message really starts to sink in about how amazing your body really is. Mine grew two humans – how amazing is that! That’s just the start of what it’s done for me. It’s been around the world with me, it’s taken me to all sorts of places and let me taste all sorts of delicious foods and drinks, and every day it cuddles my family. I wouldn’t be without it. How about you?
8. Practice gratitude for your body each day
If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere you may not have learned yet that practicing gratitude has huge mental health benefits. So why not add in 3 things your body has done for you each day to that gratitude practice so that you start to really appreciate daily how truly amazing you and your body are! Learn to say I love you to your body (tips here).
9. Dress Your Body With Affection
Dress your body with affection – focus on highlighting rather than all about camouflage – treat it as worthy of love and attention. Find the clothes that harmonise with it, the beautiful colours that make you shine, the fabrics that feel great on your skin, the cuts that highlight your beauty. Style can be a form of self-care. Taking a few minutes each day to appreciate your body by selecting stylish outfits that express who you are from the inside out, that make you feel authentic and the best version of yourself is so worth the time and effort.
10. Snap to Attention
Speak to your body in a positive way, if you find it hard to stop, try this little experiment for a week. Get a large rubber band that fits around your wrist comfortably (one of those thick ones) and then every time you catch yourself having a negative thought or self-talk, snap it against your wrist. Yes, it hurts, but so do those thoughts, and you will find you start snapping yourself out of those negative thoughts quickly as you then reframe them into something positive (as I talked about a little earlier).
11. Practise Self-Acceptance
You may have noticed in the video that I started to cry and I decided not to edit it out. I was surprised by my emotions and I started to into “fight/flight/freeze/appease” mode and very nearly turned off the video and wanted to delete it, felt totally helpless and wanted to apologise profusely for crying, but then I took some deep breaths (I was feeling like I’d start wailing and lose complete control) and managed to keep going with a pause. My thought pattern went something like this …
“OMG DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, SHUT THIS VIDEO CAMERA DOWN NOW IMOGEN!
Crying is a sign of weakness and you are supposed to be the strong one guiding others…
Oh no, you’re going to start ugly crying, that’s not a great look…
Wait a minute, here you are talking about self-acceptance and you need to accept yourself first, you have to practice what you preach
Just breath deeply and look up, you have been told looking upwards helps to stop tears
Yes you can do this, you can get it together and you are being authentic, true to your emotions and how you’re feeling, you’ve had a tough couple of years and this is a tender subject
Talking about this topic is more important than worrying about a few tears … everyone cries, you’re a human and you’re OK being imperfect and not always in control is a normal part of being a human.
I got this… I can keep going now”
As someone who has a deep psychological need to be in control and charting my own course, having emotions rip through me and throw me off balance in a public forum like making a live video is really uncomfortable but I also believe that vulnerability is an act of strength and courage and showing your human side helps others to show theirs as well.
How are you going to be kinder to yourself and practice self-acceptance and improve your body image? I’d love to know. Share in the comments!
More Tips on Improving Your Body Image