“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
We’ve all heard the phase, but how often do we actually reflect on it? When it comes to body image, our thoughts have a powerful impact on our ideas of how we perceive ourselves and others. One study of college students at Brown University found that 74.4% of women and 46% of men with a normal body weight thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.”
Let’s face it, we all have self-doubts from time-to-time, but this type of obsessive behavior can often result in dissatisfaction, frustration, anxiety, and depression. College is already stressful enough, so practice these four strategies to “redefine beauty” in your life and help improve your body image.
1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Our society loves to focus on physical appearance, so this may be easier said than done. Mass media, and social media in particular, constantly bombards us with images of the “perfect” body. For the majority of people, efforts to achieve this standard are unrealistic and exhausting because their genes simply don’t allow for it! To eliminate these thoughts, try to accept your body and realize that you are not defined by your looks, but by your personality, actions, and ambitions.
2. Create a Positive Environment
Surround yourself with happy, supportive people. This may include friends, family, classmates, or even positive body role models! Make a list of positive things about yourself that have nothing to do with your physical appearance or hang your favorite inspirational quotes on your wall. Keep a list of these quotes on your phone to motivate you when you’re feeling down or discouraged.
Stop obsessing about the scale or scrutinizing yourself in the mirror. Better yet, ditch them both! Kjerstin Gruys, a young body image activist, decided to live without mirrors for an entire year! During her journey, she questioned the idea of beauty and decided that for her, feeling beautiful “involves calmness, confidence, pride, happiness, and peacefulness”.
3. Use Positive Self-Talk
You wouldn’t criticize someone for his or her body weight or shape, so why talk to yourself in that way? Start to adopt practices of positive self-talk. If you begin to have a negative thought, such as “I am a terrible person for eating this slice of pizza,” challenge that thought, figure out why the thought is occurring, and find ways to put a positive spin on it. “This slice of pizza has no effect whatsoever on my personality or self-worth.” This may be difficult at first, but keep trying! With the right outlook you can boost your self-confidence, happiness, and overall mental wellbeing.
4. Feed Your Mind, Body, & Spirit
In other words, engage in activities that make you feel good about yourself and your body. Cook a healthy meal with a friend or roommate, perform a charitable service or donate to a cause that’s close to your heart. Exercise often!
At the end of the day, reflecting on all that your body can do for you will strengthen the connection that you have to your body. Listen to it, love it, and just remember that physical beauty does not guarantee happiness.