Overcoming Body Image Issues With Self-Compassion

Studies have long linked the relationship between one’s social media presence and their mental health. A recent study looked at photo- and video-based social media platforms and the users’ susceptibility to developing eating disorder-related behaviors. 52% of girls and 45% of boys opted to skip meals and exhibit behaviors associated with eating disorders, and the study outlined the impact of platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, in promoting inaccurate body perceptions among young adults and adolescents.

But these negatives aren’t strictly bound to social media. In a previous post, we discussed the risk of rejection in online dating apps such as Tinder, and how ill-meaning users may send hurtful messages to get your attention in a sea of thousands. With so much negativity brewing on the Internet, it’s no surprise that people of all ages develop body image issues and harmful misconceptions of what they should look like. Today, we’ll talk about self-compassion, and why working on being kind to yourself can help overcome negative self-perceptions:

Self-compassion promotes healthy habits

Body image issues or not, getting fit is a common (and generally positive) goal among many people. When first shifting to a healthier lifestyle, however, it can be difficult to face occasional obstacles, like the discouraging feeling of skipping exercise on a weekend, or binge-eating at a party. WeightWatchers’ guide to motivation and losing weight explains how self-compassion is actually an effective tool against this problem. By treating yourself with kindness and acceptance, rather than judgment or criticism, you support yourself through the challenge of staying fit — so you accept what happened and get right back on track. It can be challenging to stay kind to yourself, so a useful tip you can try is treating yourself like a close friend. Reassure yourself with the same things you’d tell a friend who is feeling bad or struggling with their own body image. If you can be kind to others, you deserve to be kind to yourself.

Self-compassion supports positive self-talk

Improving your own perception of your body image doesn’t have to rely on external sources, and it’s ultimately a process that starts with you. A good stepping stone is recognizing how you word your self-talk — or the way you talk to yourself. While most times this comes in the form of your inner voice, some people do vocally voice out their positive affirmations. Whichever way works best for you, Psychology Today emphasizes that self-talk should focus on optimism to help you achieve your goals. In line with practicing self-compassion, how you frame your self-talk can drastically impact the outcome. Stressing yourself with negative self-talk can weaken your immune system over time, and even accelerate aging. Instead, center your self-talk on imagining good outcomes, which can ease feelings of anxiety and improve your general well-being. 

Self-compassion gets you the help you need

While most of the journey to self-compassion and the overall acceptance of your body image primarily involves working within yourself, being compassionate with yourself also means acknowledging when you may need external help. Turning to your friends, family, and loved ones is a good start; they can support you in working through these issues, hold you accountable for healthy habits, and encourage you when you’re not feeling too great about yourself.

In some cases, however, looking into professional mental health care may be just the thing to propel your self-compassion practice. However, professional care may be inaccessible to many. A Wall Street Journal article on the shortage of mental health professionals notes how this is depriving more than one third of the US population from appropriate care. If you think you need professional assistance for body image issues or other mental health concerns, Avalo can help create a safe, supportive environment for you to get the care and affirmation that you deserve from a non-judgmental community of qualified mental health professionals.

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