Building a Better You, Week 3: Re-Inventing Yourself with A New Body Image

By Martin Brown

pic1In recent years, the term “body image” has become entangled in the psychological issues both men and women face when attempting to objectively access the positive and negative aspects of their appearance. Sadly, it is women, particularly those experiencing the difficult years of adolescence, that most frequently suffer the burdens of a negative body image.

One recent study conducted by the University of Delaware, revealed that high school girls on average see themselves as 11 pounds overweight, whereas their male counterparts see themselves as being approximately the same weight as their male friends. An additional study out of the University of Missouri-Columbia found that women of all sizes felt more negative about their appearance after viewing models in a magazine.

Our mass media, glamour-driven society, often distorts what might otherwise be a healthy body image. Negative perceptions about our appearance can lead to anxiety, depression, and, particularly among teenage girls, suicidal thoughts.

Sometimes what we would like to change about ourselves is totally unrealistic. Changing the shape of our ankles, or the width of our fingers, or our height, are all examples of unrealistic expectations. What I have found in talking with dozens of women about their body shape, however, is two persistent problems: one, is the focus on what they don’t like about themselves versus what they do like, and two, is not accepting responsibility for those things that they can change.

Both of these factors are rooted in our attitude, so let’s focus on how we can change that:

First, ditch the unrealistic expectations.
You can wish all day that you were four inches taller, and that’s not going to wake up tomorrow and find that you’re 5’8”. Instead of focusing on perceived negatives turn that attitude around by focusing on the things you do like about your physical appearance. Your eye color, your smile, or perhaps the shape of your shoulders, are aspects you admire.

The simple truth is that our physical traits are invariably a mixed bag. We can choose to focus on the negative or the positive. As corny as it may seem to you, looking in the mirror and admiring your eye color really does help to change your body image. Therefore focus on the positive aspects of your appearance and you will tone down those nagging negatives that are not going to change regardless of how depressed you make yourself thinking about them.

Second, there is so much we can change for the better. Don’t wish it, DO IT!
Weight can come-off, bodies can be toned and improved, with the application of modest amounts of desire and discipline. What do you want more: to feel good about your appearance, or continue to dread taking your body out for a social function? Those ten, twenty, or thirty extra pounds cost you days of thinking about what you’re going to wear to the holiday party, the bridal shower, that big date. It’s not worth that amount of time, not to mention all that stress.

You can eat well, and eat delicious meals, but you have to be willing to get serious about eating well and sticking with those good, healthy foods. As for exercise, there is a good chance that while you may hate biking, you might love walking. The bottom line is that there are so many different types of exercise that there is a good workout program for you if you are willing to take the time and show the patience to both investigate and try different things.

I see it happen time and time again. Women who are just disgusted with their appearance in six months or less are suddenly looking for opportunities to wear that new outfit and show off their redesigned and redefined bodies. Women who hated clothing shopping are suddenly watching for sales because it is such a joy to feel good about the clothes you not fit into. You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and wonder: “Why is that not me?”

You can re-invent yourself and build a new, and better body image. It’s a gift that you give yourself. So go out and make it happen, you’ll love the results and be so glad that you did!


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