By. Danielle Husband
Mindfulness may not seem like a tool to help with body image, but it can be if you practice it often. You won’t suddenly realize that it’s great to be in the skin you’re in, but grounding yourself in the present on a regular basis can help you realize all that your body does for you. Not only that, but you may realize that your body is not holding you back as much as you think it is.
Being critical about my body is something I’ve done since childhood, which is a normal experience for young girls. Even though I was a slender child, I still felt like I was too heavy and not pretty enough. To live the life I wanted, I would need to be better.
Growing up, my body developed faster than most girls, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to be a size zero. The girls I saw in the magazines or on television doing the things I wanted to do were all thin. I would be alone in my bedroom trying to bend into yoga poses or trying to learn belly dancing, fearing that I didn’t have the right body to truly be a part of these communities.
While my weight has fluctuated over the years, I’ve never been “thin.” Even as a high school tennis player who worked out every day, I had a curvy figure. Whether I’m at a healthy weight or overweight, my body still has squishy parts. It’s hard to maintain a lower weight, so I usually hover a little higher on the scales. My body size is average, but it doesn’t feel that way.
Notice how teenage me expertly covered her stomach area:
My body image swings back and forth. Some days, it’s easy to look in the mirror and focus on the attractive parts of my body, forgiving myself for not being “perfect.” At other times, I’ve found myself questioning if I can even enjoy my day because my body image isn’t up to par with what society has deemed beautiful.
One of the reasons that ads and images featuring a single look are so harmful is that they creep into our minds and become fixtures about how “living well” looks. It’s similar to how movies and television shows influence how we think about major life events, such as going to high school, becoming a college co-ed, or getting married. Regardless of whether or not these scenarios are what people commonly experience, they become ingrained in our psyches as typical.
The same thing happens with body image.
Being with yourself in the present can help you improve on your body image because it allows you to focus on the positive aspects of your body and the ways that it helps you rather than holds you back. Overtime, you can replace the associations you have between media images about the life you want with your own memories of living that life.
Want to try it for yourself? Here are a few ways to get started:
- Engage in an activity that allows you to be mindful, like walking or yoga. Notice what you feel in your body, how your body moves, and how your body helps you do the activity. Be with yourself in the moment.
- When you’re doing something you enjoy, employ your five senses to help you stay in that moment. If thoughts enter your head about whether or not you’re right for that activity or fit in, acknowledge them. Then remind yourself, “I’m here, and this is something I enjoy doing. It’s part of who I am.” Over time, this will help you shake some of the limitations you’ve put on how you see yourself.
- When the negative thoughts creep in, notice them and ask yourself why they are there. Are you feeling insecure? What happened to make you feel that way? Is something else happening in your life that is triggering the critical thoughts? Are you afraid of failure? Let yourself discover how you feel and why you feel this way so that you can start to shift those thoughts.
- Ask someone you care about to have a mindful moment with you. Join each other at a park or event, and then be in the moment separately. After a period of time, discuss what you’ve each felt and experienced during that time. You will likely find that you have experienced some things the same but others differently. This can help remind you that we are all creating our own worlds inside our own minds. Make yours a place you want to be and remember that others aren’t locked in the same bubble that you are.
Mindfulness won’t change you in a day, but it can help you over time. Be kind to yourself. You deserve acceptance, especially from yourself.