Are you your own worst enemy? In our culture of celeb-worship and body snarking, it seems impossible that anyone has a healthy body image. But, are you more critical of your body than anyone else? If so, I have a self-esteem-building challenge for you—the next time you have a negative thought about your body, write it down. Feeling fat or ugly or feeling the need to compare yourself to the woman next to you at the gym? Write it down.
Then, read it out loud to yourself.
Hearing yourself actually say the words, “My thighs are disgusting” or “I could never have as flat a stomach as her” can be quite a wake-up call. And here’s the message waiting for you on the other line: “You’re being way, way too hard on yourself. You don’t deserve this treatment from anyone—not even yourself!”
Why is it that so many of us treat our bodies and ourselves with so little love or compassion? We would never say these things to a friend or to our mothers. But in our minds, we let the self-hate fly free and the results can be destructive.
It’s called self-sabotage. It’s something many of us partake in and something we need to start working on eradicating. Here are a few of the most common types and some possible solutions include:
Self-sabotaging behavior #1: Comparing ourselves with other women. Whether they‘re celebrities or a woman standing in front of us at Starbucks, we’re guilty of doing this. I hardly ever turn my head to look at a man on the street, but other women… watch out! Many of us size ourselves up to other women, even if they have wildly different body types (i.e. stick-thin model type on the streets of New York, the curvy and voluptuous celeb chef on TV, our buff trainer at the gym). This will always make us feel badly and, in some cases, will even lead to bashing of other women. (Picture yourself walking down the street with a friend and a woman walks by with an incredible figure. You and your friend look at each other, roll your eyes and say, "Hate her!" It happens to the best of us.)
How to save yourself: It’s unrealistic to think we can simply stop comparing ourselves to those around us. How about flipping the script and complimenting the other woman with the toned yoga shoulders or the gorgeous purse or the strawberry blond hair? Research shows that complimenting someone—whether it has to do with their looks or not —improves her mood and I’m willing to bet it’ll make you feel better, too. Try it. I do this at least once a day, and it does feel great.
Self-sabotaging behavior #2: Body checking. This is basically the over-evaluation of one's shape and weight via any number of methods, such as:
- Looking at ourselves in the mirror (to obsess over a body part—not simply to groom).
- Hopping on the scale numerous times a day to track our weight.
- Trying on a pair of jeans or other item of clothing to see if we "still fit" into it. (Yes, many people like using their clothes as a measure of whether they’re gaining weight, and I really like the idea of doing that versus scale-hopping, but this is different. This is "I'm going to try on my skinny jeans and see if I can still button them. And I will do it every day, especially when I'm PMSing or feeling bloated.")
- Pinching fat on our bodies.
How to save yourself: Of course you need your mirror! To make sure you don’t poke your eye out with the mascara wand, or to check and see if your skirt is tucked into your pantyhose. But the mirror turns from friend to foe when you look into it expecting to see something bad. If you use it to constantly monitor your belly or breasts or thighs, you are just looking for trouble. Try limiting the times you check yourself out—even if it’s little by little. You may find your stress levels decrease. Also, remember that you are more than a collection of body parts—there’s a whole body there, not to mention a beautiful mind. You are not your arms or your calves or your butt.
Also? Don’t pinch fat or skin, or really anything on your body. Pie crusts are for pinching, not your waistline.
Self-sabotaging behavior #3: Eating like a bird on a date. Why do so many women think the words, “I'll have a diet coke and salad, no dressing, please" makes them more appealing? Here’s why: In the journal Sex Roles, a recent study showed that when subjects read phony food diaries—some were of women who ate small meals, while others were about women who ate larger meals—the small eaters were perceived to be more feminine, more concerned about appearance, and better-looking than the larger eaters! So basically, we've got these cultural notions that women should be eating less, and we’re totally buying into it by forgoing the steak au poivre for a salad. And besides sabotaging your body (um, hello, aren't you hungry?), you’re also starting off a potential relationship on a false note.
How to save yourself: Eat. Ordering a low-cal entrée will leave you unsatisfied and seeming anxious, and is the perfect setup for a binge later on. This doesn’t mean you should order deep-dish pizza every night, but do try to listen to what your real gut is telling you. If you need protein, steamed broccoli ain’t gonna cut it.
We all know it’s tough, but you have to start somewhere. I hope you find these tips to be helpful. To love yourself, you must learn to love your body—big, small, wide, thin, we’re all beautiful, you just have to believe yourself.