Things are easier said than done when it comes to cultivating body acceptance. When you've spent a good amount of your life picking yourself apart or comparing yourself to others, changing those views doesn't happen overnight. That said, according to therapists practice makes perfect and you can actually learn how to feel good in your own body, even when it seems like your self confidence is shot.
How you feel about the skin you're in can be affected by a number of things, but the positivity you received (or didn't receive, as the case may be) at a very young age from your parents, siblings, or peers can be especially impactful. Many therapists believe the way some people see themselves is set into place early on, which probably explains why the beliefs you have about your body — particularly when they're negative ones — can seem so resistant to change. And the representation of beauty seen in television and movies, fashion, and even social media can weigh in heavily as well, often reinforcing those beliefs.
The good news is, things are changing. In addition to the fact that more brands are embracing size inclusivity, more and more women are speaking out against body shaming and calling for more acceptance and representation. But it's also important to look for that acceptance from yourself first and foremost, and Washington DC-based psychologist Dr. Rebekah Montgomery has gathered some suggestions to help you do exactly that, from ditching old clothes for ones that make you feel confident to finally finding freedom from body standards. Find them all ahead.
First and foremost, Dr. Montgomery acknowledges a need to build up gratitude and compassion for your body. And according to her, one of the best ways to do that is by creating a list of reasons to be grateful for it. "Your body gives hugs, dances, makes love, carries things, gets you places," she explains. "To build love, identify parts of your body that are your favorite. Consider its value beyond appearance — here is a good place for affirmations."
Let Go Of Unrealistic Standards Of Beauty
It can be hard enough not to compare yourself as is, but you could be making yourself feel a lot worse if you're obsessively scanning social media (or other) accounts that glorify beauty and body standards that don't feel like they include you. If that's the case, it might be time to click unfollow or unsubscribe.
Instead, surround yourself with people and images that make you feel included, and acknowledge the breadth of beauty in all shapes and sizes. "Make efforts to notice all the ways different bodies are beautiful around you," says Dr. Montgomery. "Notice all the beauty that doesn’t meet the standard of beauty we are all taught. This is a way to be mindful of how varied beauty can be."
Don’t Compare Yourself To Others — Or Your "Old Self"
Apply the Marie Kondo approach when it comes to your closet: If it's not making you feel good about yourself, it's time to let it go. "Embrace and accept the way all our bodies change with time," explains the therapist. "Look forward not back with your body."
Spend More Time Naked
When you don't feel totally confident in your body, stripping down can seem totally terrifying. But Dr. Montgomery suggests that with a bit of practice, doing so can actually help. "Put on awesome music and navigate life in your apartment naked," she advises. "This is a way to get comfortable in your own skin. Practice moving with ease and comfort naked."
Change Your Lingo
Being kinder to yourself and your body might include a little revamping of your vocabulary as well. "Let go of [words like] skinny, thin, diet, etc.," Dr. Montgomery says. "Instead think of [words like] healthy, strong, and capable."
Try Being More Present During Intimacy
Getting intimate can be a struggle when you're feeling less-than-confident. But according to Dr. Montgomery, hiding or numbing yourself isn't helping. She suggests stripping down with a partner without the assistance of substances that lower your inhibitions — and leave the lights on. "Practice being present and fully aware when someone is loving your body," she says. "[It] can build greater self-love and acceptance."