Portland Therapy Blog

Portland Therapy Blog

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8 Ways to Improve Your Body Image

Posted: October 21, 2013 by Jeff Guenther

You know that critical voice that follows you around all the time making comments on how you look? It tells you what to wear, how to style your hair, what your body should look like, how much food you should eat in order to have the body it thinks you should have. The critical voice has an opinion on everything and it never lets up. There is nothing you can do to please it. Nothing! Yet you still take it seriously and try to obey it as much as possible. You fool yourself into thinking that it has your best interest in mind when really it doesn’t. It has it’s own best interest in mind which is to survive at all costs. The critical voice wants to live on and have as much control over your body image as possible. Here are some tips to take control over that voice and put it in the back of your mind where it belongs.

What is the critical voice’s agenda?

Why does it exist? What is it actually doing for you? What’s its mission? The critical voice may be chiming in all the time because it is trying to help you out and make sure you look and feel good about yourself. Ask yourself if it’s actually working. Is the voice really making you feel better? If not, ditch it! Maybe the voice is there to attract a mate. How’s that working for you? Is it doing a good job or is it making it so that you feel anxious or ugly on dates? Is the voice there to make sure you’re skinny? Why do you have to be so skinny? Will life finally be tolerable if you’re a certain weight? If you lose that extra weight will you finally be able to enjoy life? Maybe you can just enjoy life now instead of waiting for the critical voice’s approval.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Do you see your body as a whole or does the voice focus in on all your flaws? What you need to know is that you are looking through funhouse mirror glasses when that critical voice is running. The voice distorts your vision. What you see isn’t actually reality and it definitely isn’t what other people are seeing. Others don’t have access to those lenses that you have on. Everyone else is too busy being critical of their own body image, trust me. What does your own voice say about your body? Try seeing through the lies, deceit and trickery of the critical voice. That voice is not there to help you. It’s only there to make you feel bad.

Are you forgiving of your flaws in your body?

Sure, you have flaws just like everyone else does. Be forgiving of them. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. Nobody is perfect. What you see as imperfection could very well be seen as interesting and attractive by someone else. When we are young we don’t quite have the adult bodies we want yet. And when we are ageing our bodies are continuously deteriorating. Your partner’s body is getting older too. Everyone needs to take that into account when finding a partner. A 40 year old is not going to expect to date another 40 year old that has the body of a 25 year old. That’s unrealistic for them to expect and it should be unrealistic for you to expect of yourself.

Are you aware of the cultural discourse of women’s bodies?

You know that the bodies in magazines look perfect because they are airbrushed, right? Of course you know that! Your critical voice loves to ignore that fact though. It does its best at trying to convince you that that’s what a woman’s body looks like and if you ever want to attract a man you must look like that. Or maybe it’ll tell you that it knows that those bodies are airbrushed but the men don’t so you better look as fit as possible. Well trust me ladies, us men do know that those bodies are all fake and the vast majority of us don’t expect you to look like that. And if you meet a guy that does want you to look like that, you wouldn’t be into him anyway.

What would your advice be to a little girl in this world?

Would you tell a little girl that she must start concentrating on her body to the point where she’ll obsess about it and place all her worth on it? Do you think you’d tell a little girl that most of her value comes from the way she looks? No way! You’d let that little girl know that she has a lot to offer someone else. She has a good sense of humor, she’s smart and educated, she’s caring and supportive, she has a winning personality. You’d tell her that she doesn’t need to worry about impressing others and as long as she is true to herself she’ll feel confident and that confidence will inevitably attract friends. Talking to a little girl with that critical voice would be horrible. You’d never do that.

Has the critical voice convinced you it’s your friend?

The critical voice can be very smooth sometimes and it can trick you into thinking that it’s your best friend. It’s not your friend. It’s plan, motivation and intention is not to be your best buddy. Do you see it as an ally? Sounds like this “friend” is trying to protect you from being close to other people. Not very friendly if you ask me.

Was the critical voice serving you well in the past?

Maybe the critical voice actually had a good purpose in the past. Maybe the voice developed because there was something it had to protect you from. If there was some sort of legitimate reason the voice existed in the first place you can simply thank it for the help and kindly tell it that it is no longer needed. The voice is only causing stress, harm, bad moods and low self-esteem now. You can reassure the voice that if you ever need its help or assistance in the future you’ll be sure to call on it. But for now you’ll be done with its services and you’ll start coming up with other voices that feel nicer and more positive. You can even try to have some humor with it. Give it a silly name and laugh a little every time it tries to get a word in edge wise. Take some pity on it.

Notice how ridiculous and nonsensical the voice is.

You’ve dated people and have had relationships in the past, right? And those people were into you and attracted to you, right? So what happened there? Why is the voice telling you that everyone will think you’re ugly when you actually have proof that other people in the past have been attracted to you? Does the voice tell you that your partner in the past, or the current one you have, is the only person in the world that doesn’t see how unattractive you are? Why is that person so special? Why don’t they agree with the critical voice? It’s ridiculous to think that this one person is the only one that doesn’t think critically of you. How did the voice fail in these situations? I bet the answer it gives you will be incredibly nonsensical.

Go over these questions again and again until you can witness and observe when the critical voice is coming up. Learn its moves and understand its tactics. Study how it works, when it’s the loudest and what’s going on when it falls silent. With enough practice and internal debate you’ll be proving that voice wrong and starting to feel better about yourself. The goal is to have a healthy and realistic body image. If you need a little help and you can’t quite do it on your own, contact a therapist and get assistance.

Tags: mood and feelings, anxiety, addiction and behavior, body issues

Jeff Guenther (he/him)

Licensed Professional Counselor

LPC

I help people who feel anxious in relationships stop feeling anxious in relationships.

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Anxiety, Codependency, Adjustment Disorder, Relationship / Marriage Issues, Self-Esteem
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