4 Women on Dealing With Negative Body Image—and Learning to Love Themselves
You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that body positivity is a hot topic. From curvy influencers embracing their physiques on social media to brands like Nike introducing fuller-figured mannequins, there have been major cultural strides in accepting women of all shapes and sizes. This is a really good thing. But it can also create a tricky dynamic.
Traditionally in the United States, there has been just one body-type ideal—and that ideal is thin, explains Kathleen Bishop, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Body Peace and Liberation in San Jose, California. Women who don’t meet that standard often feel like they’ve failed. So as nice as it is to be told you should love the way you look, it’s hard to simply shake off years of negative thoughts about your body. In fact, now there are lots of women feeling like double failures—feeling like they’re failing because they aren’t that cultural ideal and failing because they aren’t feeling body-positive.
The good news: There is a solution. Some experts say rather than body positivity, we should all be striving for peace. “Body peace is more about coexisting with your body and viewing it as more functional than aesthetic,” says Bishop. If body positivity is the finish line, body peace is the marathon course—it’s a process, and one that has a lot of twists and turns. “Body peace isn’t loving your body every day,” adds Kristina Taylor, a licensed mental health counselor with the Growth & Recovery Counseling Center in Trinity, Florida. “It’s recognizing that our bodies are a minute part of who we are as a whole person—and not letting them take up more space in our minds than they deserve.”
Like anything else, the bond with your body takes nurturing, but with effort, it can be a healthy one. “The goal is for it to be a peaceful relationship, and free of conflict and hostility,” says Meredith Bauer, a licensed professional counselor with Modern Therapy in Houston. To move you toward that place, we asked four women to share their own journeys, and are offering up expert-approved tricks that can lay the foundation for your own body peace.
Here’s something you should know about me to understand the journey I’ve been on. I have cerebral palsy, which means, among other things, that I walk with a limp and have a right hand that balls into a fist and lifts itself in the air involuntarily. People stare at me everywhere I go. Because of this, I used to hide away and apologize for the space I took up. I would even use the sleeves of my shirt to cover my right hand... [Read more]
My light- bulb moment was realizing there wasn’t a diet in the world that could fix the emotional pain I was in. I didn’t know what would heal the hurt, but I had to do something different... [Read more]
As women, we have become conditioned to compare ourselves to impossible ideals, and our insecurities have become the norm. No one’s immune to it, not Olympians, not the pros, and definitely not the people—like me—who dish out fitness advice... [Read more]
Then one day I wrote in my journal, “Don’t wait on your weight to live the life you want.” I began to say it in the mirror each morning. My confidence balloon started filling back up. Once I began to focus on how I felt instead of how I looked, the world opened up to me... [Read more]
For more real talk on everything health and wellness, subscribe to our WomenIRL newsletter