How to deal with negative body thoughts
The way that you feel about your body is largely a product of the way you think about it. If you have a negative inner voice that is constantly saying unpleasant things about your body, it’s difficult to feel body confident.
An awareness of your thoughts is one of the first steps to feeling more comfortable in your own skin. You can’t start to change your thoughts until you know what they are.
I recommend that for a period of at least 2 weeks you write down or record your body thoughts. At the end of this time, you’ll have a pretty good idea if your voice is what I call an ‘inner bitch’ or an ‘inner friend’.
It can be really hard to tune into your inner voice, particularly if it isn’t very kind. That’s okay, and that’s to be expected. This is not easy work.
Changing that inner voice isn’t something that happens overnight. There aren’t any quick fixes. Remember that this is a process. If you’ve spent most of your life thinking these kind of thoughts, they won’t instantly disappear.
When I’m working with women, I spend a lot of time helping them with their mind-set. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this work takes time and patience. But, it is possible to begin to turn the tables on your thoughts, so you can create a friendlier inner voice.
Once you’re aware of your negative thinking, you can challenge and re-frame your thoughts. Here are four things that you can try:
Remember that just because you think something, it doesn’t make it true. Thoughts aren’t facts or reality.
There’s a great quote by Tony Robbins, “Our brains are made to keep us safe, not happy.” This is the reason we have negative thoughts. Our brain is constantly alert to dangers, trying to keep us safe.
Although we’re no longer cave women being chased by dinosaurs, our modern society does have ‘social’ dangers. We’re taught that to be valued and loved we need to look a certain way. To avoid rejection, our brain sends us messages about supposed dangers that may lead to rejection.
Being rejected, and not part of a group has always been a concern for humans. When we tell ourselves we look ugly or old, our brain is alerting us to the possible risk of rejection. What our brain isn’t doing in that moment is seeing all the other reasons why we are a valued member of our family or community.
Just being aware of our brain’s tendency to focus in on the negative, can help you move past these thoughts. In these moments, you might want to say, “Thank you for trying to keep me safe, but I’m choosing another way.”
Whose voice are you hearing?
In your head, it may sound like your voice, or it could be someone else’s. Perhaps a critical family member, partner or other person.
Our thoughts are largely determined by beliefs, which are a product of what we’ve been exposed to. Few of our beliefs are original (sorry!). Ask yourself if that thought is someone else’s belief rather than your own? It could be a societal view, something you’ve picked up from your family or peer group.
Then question the motivation behind the view. What was the motivation for that belief? For example, if you’ve bought into society’s view that people that don’t look a certain way are fat, it’s likely you’ll call yourself fat. Who benefits from this belief? The diet industry for example. Doing this will help you to question any thought that isn’t your own.
Don’t let the voices of others take up space in your head.
Would I say this to a friend?
Would you really say to a friend that they’re fat, ugly? I hope not! If so, what makes it okay for you to talk to yourself in this way? If we spoke to our friends the way we spoke to ourselves, we wouldn’t have any friends.
When you have nasty body thoughts, put them through this filter. You can even buddy up with a friend and talk about the thoughts you’re having, help each other to get some much needed perspective on what is likely to be very black or white, irrational thinking.
Sometimes, when you’re trapped in negative thinking, it can feel impossible to get out of it. Don’t beat yourself up or criticise yourself for these thoughts.
Simply let the thoughts in, and be compassionate to yourself. Acknowledge the thought and that it is difficult to feel this way about yourself, while also reminding yourself that at times everyone feels this way, and you know that as you move through this process, you will begin to feel better.
Put your hand on your heart and say:
“It’s really hard to feel this way. Even though I’m having these negative thoughts about my body, thinking that it looks old, or is ugly, I know this is part of being human, and we all feel like this at times. I know that working through this process will takes time, and will be patient and kind with myself.”
What you think about on a daily basis determines the way you feel about your body. When you are able to acknowledge, challenge and re-frame negative body thoughts, you have the solid foundation you need to move towards better body confidence.