Show of hands, ladies. How many of you are less than 100% happy with the gal you see looking back at you from the mirror? If you’re like many American women (and a few guys), you have grown up your whole life with body image issues. My chest is too flat, my rear end is too big, my ears stick out. The woman you think you see in the mirror is actually distorted by years of self-talk, family expectations, schoolyard teasing and a barrage of airbrushed images in the media.
You can bring your body image back into clear focus with a few simple tips:
- Recognize the forces that distort your image in the first place, and take back the power. Look at before and after photos of airbrushed models, like this one of Brittany Spears, and see that you’ve been holding yourself up to a false standard. Realize that the six year olds who called you “Tubby” were just dumb kids with no manners. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and standards of beauty vary across cultures and eras.
- Focus on the positive. Nobody’s perfect, but if you always focus on the negative, you quickly lose sight of the positive. So maybe your butt’s a little bigger than you’d like, but isn’t it great how it accentuates your tiny waist?
- Work on what you can change, and get over what you can’t. I’m 5’2” tall, with really short legs relative to a longish torso. At some point in my 20s I finally realized that I would never achieve the long, lean, leggy look of a long-distance runner. I will always have short legs. Between short chubby legs and short muscular legs, I choose short and muscular. I’m happy to be the best I can be, and I’ve stopped worrying about trying to change something that’s outside my power.
- Exercise regularly. This is the magic fairy dust part of the equation, and I’m sharing it because it happens almost every time I work out. At the beginning of the workout I look in the mirror and see all my flaws: short legs, saddlebags, a bit of a tummy. By the end of the workout I see a completely different woman: three inches taller, lean, strong, curvy, sexy. It’s truly a miracle. I don’t know whether it’s the endorphin rush changing my brain chemistry, or if it’s just the sense of strength and satisfaction from accomplishing a challenging workout, but it happens almost every time, and it’s powerful stuff.
Working out regularly (and particularly resistance training for women) can be an incredibly empowering experience. Sure, it’s good for your heart, your muscles, your bones, but give it a try and see how it works on that blurry mirror of yours. You and your body image will be glad you did.
(photo credit: Duncan)