In Do You Have a Low Body Image? we talked about why women seem to struggle with our bodies while men confidently walk half naked on the beach. We also discussed why a low body image negatively affects your marriage and sex life. As promised, following are 6 tips gleaned from Dr. Patricia Love’s Hot Monogamy and my own experience for improving a low body image:
1. If you’re careless about your appearance—wear mostly sweats and a ponytail, baggy pjs to bed and don’t take the time to get your haircut and groom yourself, you may be communicating to your spouse and yourself that you aren’t worthy of the effort to look good. Make the most of what you’ve got; wear clothes that accentuate your positive attributes and make you feel good about yourself. Invest in a nice haircut. Get a massage if it makes you feel good.
2. If you’re obsessive about your appearance and spend hours each week at the tanning salon, hair salon and making sure your hair and makeup are perfect, it’s time to pull away from that focus on your appearance. What do your friends like about you? What does your spouse appreciate and enjoy about you? Focus on those attributes and spend your energy elsewhere. Spend energy on activities you enjoy.
3. Make fitness and healthy a part of your daily life. I feel better about my body when I’m exercising a few times a week. It may not change my body that much, but it shapes my frame of mind that I’m strong and capable, and I think we project that positive energy to others. Taking the time to plan and implement a fairly healthy diet for yourself and your family also shows you and they are worthwhile.
4. If your spouse has a lower-than-ideal body image, there are ways you can help. First, don’t point out your spouse’s faults, even if you think they need to lose weight or get in shape. Criticism about their body will only make them feel worse and probably won’t lead to any positive change. Instead, send out a continual message of acceptance. Support a healthy lifestyle yourself, and invite your spouse to participate with you. Compliment your partner on physical attributes you find attractive, and regularly share other characteristics you enjoy about him or her.
5. Visualize Body Acceptance. For many women, a healthy body image is not a matter of their appearance at all, it’s a matter of their perception of their appearance. Dr. Love has a long script in her book that includes language you repeat to yourself allowing you to become comfortable with your body and appreciative of its function and beauty just as it is. She also suggests viewing your body in the mirror while thinking positive thoughts about it. “This is my body. I love my body.” Repeating these exercises replaces some of the negative self-talk you may have been feeding yourself. I’ve heard women casually say, “Well, I’m a fat cow, so…” If you heard these comments from someone else, you would call them hurtful. They are still hurtful coming from you. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones like “I”m getting stronger.”
6. Don’t compare your body to others. Instead, think of all the things your body can do—dance, swim, jog, give birth, nurse children, walk through the woods, lie on the beach. Think of how much joy it gives your spouse. Think of all the older people who would trade places with your healthy body in a heartbeat. Listen to your husband when he compliments you. Repeat the compliment in your head, smile, and say thank you. See Loving a Woman’s Body for insight into how your man views you. Some husbands expressed their frustration at not being able to convey to their wives that they love their shape.
The key is loving your body the way it is right now, not after you lose 10 pounds and fit into your skinny jeans. Not after you’ve had plastic surgery to correct your “flaws.” Today. Just as you are.
For your homework assignment, write “I love my body” on a sticky note for your bathroom mirror. Compliment yourself while you get ready in the morning. Carry yourself with poise and exude confidence.