I think that one of the worst lies that the body-positivity movement sells us is this one, only two words long: “Love Yourself!”
Like, yeah, thanks. If that worked, I would have done it ages ago, and I’d never be stuck in a bad body image day again.
But unfortunately, without the “how” to go along with that “what,” we end up clueless in regards to where to start when we wake up feeling awful. And to make matters worse, and especially if we’re body image activists ourselves, we get down on ourselves for getting down on ourselves — because don’t we know better?
So the next time you’re having one of these negative spells — and before you start hating yourself for hating yourself — try one of these actual potential solutions. No cure-all “Love Yourself” Band-Aid required.
1. Sit With It
Even I’m making an “are you serious?” face at myself right now.
For most of us, our go-to attempt at dealing with bad body image is to straight-up ignore it. But here’s why that’s never going to work: Umm. . . . has ignoring your problems ever made them go away?
The truth is, this is our body that we’re talking about. And we can’t exactly ignore the vehicle that carries us through this world. So stop trying to distract yourself. Instead, really let yourself feel it.
Actively think about the fact that you’re unhappy with your body. Force yourself to really think about that. Approach it the same way that you might with any other kind of bad day: Remind yourself that a day is only 24 hours long, and tomorrow might be different. Accept what you have no control over, and then focus on what you can change about your outlook.
Address it. Stare it in the face.
2. Look At It
This goes back to the question of whether or not ignoring your problems has ever helped them dissipate. And I think that when we try to avoid mirrors, it makes them all the more tempting – and that’s the opposite of what we need.
Just like sitting with your negative feelings, looking at the body that you’re unhappy with puts you in the position of being the boss of your situation. It’s a way of reminding the voices in your head that you are the one in charge here — and that the smallest shift in thought or intent can turn your whole day around.
Do it fully clothed if you want to, but also feel free to do it naked. Run your hands down every part of you. Jiggle your jiggly bits. Show off your musculature (or lack thereof). Hit your hand against your thigh to hear that smack sound. Twist and turn and watch how gravity affects where your skin lies.
Look at it.
Saddle up to your vanity or your full-length and do the one thing you’re dreading — because once you face that fear, it has less control over you.
3. Journal About It
In eating disorder recovery work, we talk a lot about the concept that “fat is not a feeling” — and for good reason. A lot of people who are working through eating disorders are still under the impression that fat is a bad thing, and so all of those bad days turn into “I’m fat” days.
But what’s underneath that cover-up? Usually something very real: a negative emotion caused by an unfortunate event. More often than not, when we feel bad, we feel bad for a reason.
And it would serve us to get to the bottom of it.
So put your thinking cap on, grab a pen and a piece of paper, and write, write, write.
Ask yourself: What am I feeling right now that’s making me unhappy? Is it stress, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed? What happened, or what am I worried about, that’s making me feel this way? What kind of a long-term solution can I put into place to change the thing that’s bothering me? And what kind of short-term self-care plan can I design in the meantime?
Allow yourself time to reflect on your feelings. Because your bad body image day is coming from somewhere, and (spoiler alert) it most likely doesn’t actually have to do with your body.
4. Engage With It
I practice yoga every single day — either in the form of a full-length class or a quick vinyasa at home — but nothing makes me want to skip out on it more than a bad body image day.
Know what else? There’s no day that I need yoga more than on a bad body image day. Life is funny like that.
Although, for me, yoga in particular has been a helpful way for me to get in touch with my body and my spiritual connection to it, I don’t believe that it’s a one-size-fits-all solution.
What I do think is that engaging with your body in some way that feels fulfilling to you is. Because it puts you in a situation where you’re thinking about how awesome (or even delightfully challenging) your body already is.
So whether that’s something active, like a hike or a swim, or something a little more passive, like a bubble bath or self-massage, engage with your body in a way that feels good. Because it’s clear that right now, your relationship with yourself is suffering, and your body needs a little love.
So go ahead. Make friends again.
Because that’s how I try to think of my bad body image days, anyway — kind of like having an argument with a friend. My body is something that I know I need to love unconditionally, even if it frustrates me sometimes, and sometimes that means putting in the effort to move past my bad mood.
And just like making up with a friend, the result is always worth it.