Tips for Body Positivity: Ways to Feel Better About Our Bodies
By Lauren Krouse
Body image isn’t about how your body looks; it’s about how you think and feel about your body. These thoughts and emotions are deeply influenced by a culture that creates an endless feed of bodies filtered and edited to look impossibly thin and fit—messages are echoed by personal experiences like the words of bullies, thoughtless weight-loss praise or encouragement from our own doctors, or how our loved ones talk about their own bodies.
With all these pressures to fit the mold, a lot of us struggle with negative body image—even those who may be very close to the supposed ideal—and that can have a major impact on our mental health and quality of life.
When you’re preoccupied with your looks or feel like your body isn’t good enough, you’re more likely to feel down about yourself, struggle with depression and anxiety, pass up social events, and distance yourself from others. Negative body image is also one of the best-known risk factors for developing an eating disorder.
Since body image can have such a significant impact on your life, working toward a healthier relationship with your body—just as it is—is worth the effort.
How Do You Improve Body Image?
Despite all the messages that you’ll feel better about yourself after you lose weight or build muscle or get certain curves, you do not have to change your body in order to change how you feel about your body—and it’s much easier to live well when you care for yourself unconditionally.
Improving your body image starts with shifting your focus away from changing your body to changing your relationship to your body. Body positivity and body neutrality are two strategies that can help you begin to change your perspective and heal your body image.
What Is Body Positivity?
The basic idea behind body positivity is that all bodies are beautiful regardless of what they look like. It argues that people should feel good or have a positive view of their bodies exactly as they are. Giving yourself permission to love and celebrate your body—especially for those whose bodies fall outside the cultural beauty ideal—can feel joyful, radical, and freeing for many people.
For others, body positivity may feel limiting because it still connects personal value and happiness to appearance, and it can feel virtually impossible for those with severe body dysmorphia, or a focus on perceived flaws in your body. That’s where body neutrality can come in handy. (More on that later!)
Body positivity can look like:
- Taping love notes to the mirror. Put notes to self on your mirror about what you love about your body. When negative thoughts and feelings about your body bubble up, challenge them with positive affirmations.
- Scrubbing your feed. Heavily edited and hyper-unrealistic images of bodies and faces can be toxic for your health, and they also don’t reflect the vast majority of real-life experiences. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about your body and replace them with accounts that emphasize body positivity, body acceptance, and honesty.
- Wearing what feels good. Ditch wardrobe items that make you feel uncomfortable or activate your insecurities, and spend more time in pieces that make you feel more comfortable, confident, and proud of your body.
If none of that feels within reach, consider body neutrality.
What Is Body Neutrality?
With body neutrality, you reframe your relationship with your body entirely. It’s not something to hate or love—it just is. Like body positivity, body neutrality pushes back on traditional beauty standards, but it goes further by challenging the idea that our appearance matters at all. Instead of focusing on embracing what you love about your body, you work toward not thinking about your body much at all.
This approach can be especially helpful if the idea of loving your body feels like too tall an order or you’re recovering from an eating disorder—especially if you’re at a higher weight than you were before your disorder. For many of us, feeling positive about our bodies is an unrealistic and unnecessary goal.
Body neutrality is helpful since our bodies change throughout our lives, and the project of loving and being happy with our bodies may be overwhelming in the face of those inevitable changes. That’s where body neutrality can be an empowering alternative to body positivity.
Body neutrality can look like:
- Writing a letter of gratitude to your body. List what you’re thankful for when it comes to how your body works for you every day rather than your looks, such as your ability to breathe, laugh, sing, play sports, or dance.
- Accepting body image distress as normal. Stop the spiral of negative body talk by acknowledging that this ebb and flow is expected: “I am having a thought X.” Remind yourself that these feelings or judgments about your body are simply random synapses firing in your brain and don’t have to mean anything at all, let alone affect your ability to see yourself as worthy of love or respect.
- Focusing on other values. Negative body image can convince you that what you look like is all important. In reality, however, your appearance is the least interesting and relevant thing about you. To reconnect with what you value overall—and in yourself—try a new hobby to develop a new skill, dedicate yourself to a cause you care about with a club or organization, or carve out more quality time with loved ones doing activities focused on creativity or connection instead of things that bring your focus to your body.
- Getting professional support. Look for a therapist or counselor who specializes in body-image issues or eating disorders who can help you work toward ways of observing and talking to yourself about your body. You are far from the first person to struggle with negative body image, and there is a whole world of experts who have come up with helpful ways to reframe your thoughts and reclaim your life.
Standing up for your inherent worth against a barrage of messages that tell you there is something wrong with your body or appearance is ongoing, challenging work, but you can begin to grow a sense of body acceptance—and even find peace with your body—with time and practice.
If you think negative body image is taking up too much space in your life or could be a sign of an eating disorder, learn more about body image, symptoms of eating disorders to look out for, and how you can get help. Your body is the only one you get in this life, and it deserves to be treated well by the person who matters most—you.
Learn more about body image, eating disorders, and how to get help, check out:
- What Is an Eating Disorder?
- What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder?
- Body Image and Eating Disorders: What’s the Connection?
- What Is Bulimia Nervosa and How Do I Get Help for It?
- What Is Anorexia Nervosa and How Can I Get Help for It?
- What is Binge Eating Disorder?
- How to Help Someone with an Eating Disorder
- Do Eating Disorders Increase the Risk of Suicide?