We all have those days when we don’t love certain things about our bodies, and often, we become our worst critics.
And while pressures from advertising, pop culture and so-called “perfect” bodies in the media have been around for decades (as well as the fat-shaming, ideal beauty standards and bullying that comes with it), life coach and relationship expert Christina Jay of Toronto, says the rise of social media also makes it difficult for some to accept their bodies as is.
“Images on Instagram with people posting ‘perfect’ bodies make it difficult to keep up,” she tells Global News. And while there is nothing wrong with posting images of your body on social media sites, Jay says it can become unhealthy when we start comparing ourselves to others.
Studies have shown Instagram in particular (for women between the ages of 18 and 25), can increase self-objectification and body image concerns, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
Another 2017 report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K., found Instagram was the worst app for a young person’s mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, loneliness, and issues with sleep, body image and bullying.
Not loving your body or yourself, in general, can also impact how you feel about being in relationships, Jay adds.
According to a 2016 study published in the journal Body Image, people who were happier with their bodies had happier lives and relationships too, Refinery 29 reports.
“Body dissatisfaction and anxious attachment styles can lead to an out of control spiral and fuel each other,” author David Frederick of Chapman University said in a statement. “People who are less confident in their appearance become more fearful that their partner will leave, which further fuels their worries about their appearance.”
And while loving every curve from head to toe isn’t an overnight fix, accepting yourself is possible with the right steps, Jay says. Below, Jay shares five things you can do to accept your body as is.
Limit your social media use
While you don’t need to delete every account, it may be useful to scroll through the accounts that make you feel negative about your body in the first place — this could be anything from celebrities to brands.
But Jay says this also comes down to obsessing over how your friends look.
“Stop constantly looking at what other people are doing and look like. A lot of these photos are altered and many people have the help of plastic surgery to make them look the way they are. Social media is not real,” Jay says.
Instead, follow accounts and people that share positive messages about body image, including users like Bishamber Das and Megan Jayne Crabbe.
Make time to workout
No, this isn’t about creating the ideal body size, but learning how to strengthen your muscles, be healthy and overall more confident.
“The endorphins from working out will increase your dopamine levels which will, in turn, make you happier about yourself,” Jay says.
One small study found 30 minutes of exercise can have a positive effect on a woman’s body image, Huffpost U.K. reports.
Wear what you want
There have been so many times we have hidden our figures or avoided going to places because of the way we look, and while it takes steps to embrace every outfit you’re coveting, Jay says to start choosing outfits or accessories that accentuate the things you like about yourself.
“Maybe have someone at your favourite store help you with this, and pick outfits that make you feel and look good in them.”
Stop comparing yourself to others
“Everyone is unique in their own way and all shapes and sizes should be embraced.”
Comparing yourself to others can turn into a deadly cycle. According to Lisa Quast of Forbes, practice celebrating your uniqueness and being proud of your accomplishments, wherever you are in your own life.
Know when to seek help
“If it’s really bad and your body image is interfering with living a happy life, maybe it’s best to speak with a professional therapist and find out the underlying reason why you may be feeling like this,” Jay says.
Being critical of your body can lead to eating disorders, mental-health issues like depression and anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder, Eating Disorder Hope notes.
Therapy can help uncover things you may not realize about yourself and eventually, help you take steps towards the direction of accepting and loving yourself.