“I’m not good enough.” “I’m ugly.” These are phrases that have been said by girls and women to ourselves. But what does it do for us? It tricks our brains into thinking there’s a reason for our unhappiness, our feelings of inadequacy. We tell ourselves these things because we want to be accepted, but the sad truth is that negative self-talk just reinforces these negative body image issues and low self-esteem.
In order to have a healthy, positive body image, you need to work on the way that you talk to yourself. The way that we speak about ourselves is often the most damaging of all and can lead us down a path of self-doubt. When we get in touch with how we feel about our bodies by paying attention to what we tell ourselves every day, then it becomes easier for us to change those thoughts into something more positive.
Keep scrolling to read more about developing a positive body image by using positive self-talk.
How Do You Develop a Positive Body Image?
The first step in developing a positive (or even neutral) body image is to become aware of the negative self-talk that you are saying to yourself. You can change your thinking by changing what you say in your mind.
When you think, “I’m ugly,” try replacing that thought with something more positive, such as, “I’m healthy and strong.” Just having this one new healthy phrase can benefit you greatly.
Another healthy self-talk that you can try is by repeating certain words or positive statements over and over again throughout the day. These statements do not have to be about body image; they can be anything from “I am ambitious” to “I am strong.” It may seem unrelated, but this technique can really help boost your self-esteem, which then rolls over into a positive body image.
What is Self-Talk?
Self-talk, as a concept, was explored by Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), to refer to a person’s internal dialogue. REBT theory suggests that self-talk plays an important part in how we feel and act. This is because our beliefs about ourselves are heavily influenced by our self-talk, and our emotional experiences affect the kinds of self-statements that we make.
Imagine a situation where you are walking down the street and an acquaintance you’ve never met walks by. You do not know them, but they say something to offend you. This will probably result in a negative experience; however this experience becomes more significant when you react to it by saying something about yourself through self-talk.
Meaning, it was not the initial event that was negative, but your reaction to the thing that was more impactful. In addition, when the things we tell ourselves about a particularly negative event are irrational.
(So when you say something negative about yourself that’s not rooted in reality, it does double the damage to your self-esteem and body image.)
How Should You Use Self-Talk?
Using healthy, rational self-talk is not only a healthy habit; it can also become part of your everyday life. Once you have decided which healthy positive statements to use, continue saying them over and over again until they are second nature to you. The more that you practice healthy self-talk the more healthy your responses will be.
Self-talk can serve many purposes, depending on the situation. A healthy self-belief can influence how you feel and act in situations where:
* You make a mistake;
* You are feeling anxious/stressed;
* When you are learning something new , or trying a new task;
* You have healthy goals for yourself, and you want to achieve your healthy self-goals.
There are healthy, positive affirmations that can be used in any situation where you need to give yourself the confidence or motivation to do something healthy.
You can practice using healthy self-talk by being prepared for any healthy challenge that may come your way. You should practice healthy positive thinking to give yourself healthy encouragement, and remind yourself of the healthy self-beliefs you have about yourself. Healthy self-esteem can help you to avoid thinking unhealthy negative statements when under pressure.
You can use healthy self-talk by choosing healthy positive statements that are relevant to the situation. The more you practice healthy self-talk the easier it will become for you to think these healthy thoughts about yourself.
7 Ways to Use Self-Talk for a Healthy, Positive Body Image
1) Tell yourself the things you like about your body.
There are healthy positive self-statements that you can use to remind yourself of the healthy things about yourself. For example, you can say healthy body statements like “I have healthy hair” or ” I have healthy nails.” You could also say something specific about your body such as, ” I enjoy swimming.”
These positive and neutral statements help you to see your body in a different light without criticism. If you love your skin but you hate your thighs, whenever you find your thoughts drifting toward the hatred of your thighs, think about your youthful, radiant skin!
2) Give yourself a compliment.
When you are starting out, healthy self-talk can be difficult. It is common for people to have difficulty thinking of healthy things to say about themselves. When you do not have healthy self-esteem it may be hard to think of healthy positive thoughts about yourself.
You might also avoid saying healthy things about yourself because you don’t believe them, but healthy self-esteem can help you to avoid healthy negative thinking. In other words, start by saying something positive, and the belief will come later. (“Fake it ’til you make it.)
3) Recognize when you compare yourself to someone else.
When you compare yourself to someone else, you’re setting yourself up for failure. As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. It really is. When we compare ourselves to someone else, we’re setting a standard for success that’s pretty much impossible to live up to, and it can lead to a lot of unhealthy comparisons:
– I’m fat. She’s skinny. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be more like her?
And the reality might be that you’re not even that much bigger than her. But because your brain has drawn these comparisons and deemed that she is better than you, you’ll keep beating yourself up about it. Even just recognizing these comparisons is sometimes enough to stop them.
4) Avoid using excuses.
When we make excuses, we undermine our healthy self-talk. We have control over what we say, and if you use something like an excuse to explain your bad eating habits or your failure to exercise, this reveals that you don’t really believe the healthy, positive self-talk on a conscious level.
If we eliminate excuses out of our lives as much as possible (and for good reason), we are also eliminating excuses out of our healthy, positive self-talk. If you can’t make it to the gym today because you have a headache, say “I am not exercising today because I have a headache” instead of “I’m too tired”.
If you tell yourself “I can’t eat healthy food because they’re too expensive,” you are using an excuse, and that is a healthy way of thinking. The healthy self-talk response to this example would be “Eating healthy food is more important than spending money on unhealthy food.”
5) Turn healthy negative thoughts into healthy positive ones.
When you turn healthy negative thoughts into healthy positive self-statements, it is necessary to use healthy self-talk to avoid living in an unhealthy state of mind. You can question your unhealthy negative statements by asking yourself healthy questions about the situation and finding the healthy positive answers.
Question health-negative statements such as “I have to lose weight,” by asking healthy self-talk questions like, “Why do I want to lose weight?” or “What benefits will I see if I lose weight?”
It’s okay to be realistic and body neutral. This still can bring us to acceptance and relief from the negativity.
6) Avoid thinking unhealthy negative thoughts about yourself when you are stressed
We all get stressed out. Unfortunately, typically all our good habits go right out the window when we’re under stress.
Stress puts us in survival mode. When we are in survival mode, our minds stay rooted in the anxiety you are feeling right now. It’s impossible to plan ahead or make healthy choices, because your body is telling you that it’s not going to matter. Stress says that you’re in a life-threatening situation and you need to do what feels good right now.
Often, what feels good isn’t actually good for us. Like that entire bag of potato chips (been there), or sitting on the couch all day with the curtains drawn (been there too). Then we beat ourselves up about it. Don’t let yourself feel guilty. Stay grounded in the reality of the situation, that you needed a way to come down off the stress. Allow yourself to make an unhealthy choice, then try to make a better one next time.
Learn more about the stress response, seeing life threats, and judgment, by reading How to Practice Non-Judgment.
7) Appreciate your body.
Gratitude is a healthy practice that can help you feel healthy self-esteem, and healthy self-talk can also help you to feel healthy about yourself. You could say healthy body statements like “I am grateful for my healthy heart” or “I love the healthy way that I eat.”
Maybe you have given birth to three babies and feel like a powerful mother. Maybe you’ve climbed Half-Dome in Yosemite. Whatever it is, celebrate the power of your body.
Our brains can be our own worst enemy when it comes to self-talk and body image. When we compare ourselves unfavorably with others, or tell ourselves that we are not good enough or don’t deserve love because of how our bodies look, this perpetuates a vicious cycle of negative thoughts about the self.
The reality is that our brains are much more powerful that we give them credit for, and when we talk to ourselves in a positive way, we’re able to utilize that power for good.
Using self-talk for a healthy body image might take some practice, but it’s worth trying, to love and appreciate the body that you’re in. After all, this is the only one you get!