I have a secret to share with you. Even the proudest, boldest, no-fucks-givenest person you know has times when their body image does not serve them.* Those bummer feelings may last for just a moment or persist for a few years, but it’s more common than Instagram would have you believe.
I’m an expert on positive body image, and I’m okay saying that I’m having one of those low tide times right now. So far, it’s lasted about a weekend–two days longer than I care for these feelings to last. When I feel icky about myself, feelings of jealousy spike HARD. I have heart-wrenching, tear-welling feelings of jealousy for everyone who can run faster, lift stronger, or wear bold patterns better than I do. Which, of course, seems like pretty much everyone I know. I’m left feeling lower than low.
The good news is that because I’ve been working on my body image for YEARS, I have a lot of tools I can use to bolster myself in these times. Read on for three ideas that can help you when you’re visiting Funkytown:
That’s right. You heard me. Do nothing. Barring any situation in which you require the assistance of a mental health professional,** one valid option for dealing with negative feelings is to sit with them and know they will eventually pass. It’s a big part of my strategy this time around. I know this is a temporary feeling because I’ve been here before and made it through, and I’ll be here again. It’s often hard to sit with feelings, so don’t worry if this seems too daunting and that you’re desperate for some kind of action that will make you feel better. If you’d like to try it out though, here are some ideas for how to sit with feelings.
Take a deep breath. Again. Aaaaaand again. Maybe one more time. I find that a few focused breaths can break a cycle of negative thoughts, which can lead to different and better actions. For example, if I start to feel jealous (and accompanying shame, self-doubt, and sadness) when someone posts a pic of a new PR, a few deep breaths can help me gain some perspective like, “That person worked hard for their PR, and I’m wasting a lot of energy feeling jealous.” Hitting “Like” or sending a congratulatory comment is a much better course of action than, say, beating myself up about not sticking to my running training plan. And letting someone know I’m happy for them has never made me feel any worse about myself.
3. Social media blackout
Oh, the siren song of the timeline to fuel your already heated feelings. I get it. There’s something about doing something you know will hurt you in the end that just really gets to the core of this cycle. It’s like scratching a mosquito bite until it bleeds–causes even more pain, delays healing, but it feels so good. But please, log off. Delete the apps from your phone if you have to. Just stay away. Nothing positive can come from trolling your own timeline looking for reasons to be mad at yourself. “But…but…” you say, “I just need something to distract me from my thoughts!” Okay, you got me. Here’s an extra idea:
4. Watch Pharrell’s “Happy” music video
There are lots of songs and movies and videos that make me smile no matter how I feel, but I recommend the music video for “Happy” for body image blues because it shows lots of different types of bodies moving joyfully. If you don’t like the song (which I happen to love, but to each their own), put it on mute or play another song over it and just watch the video. You might even be tempted to be-bop along…
For extra laughs, check out Weird Al’s parody “Tacky” with some of my favorite comedians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zq7Eki5EZ8o ***
I hope this helped give you some ideas for what to do to start re-claiming your awesome. I’m rooting for you!
*I try to avoid the phrase “bad body image” because I want to avoid binaries like good/bad when possible. Body image is always more complex than that.
**What I’m talking about in this post are typical, run-of-the-mill feelings that impact self-esteem. If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek out a qualified mental health professional. For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline page: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
***I finally saw Weird Al in concert last year, and he recreated the video IN THE THEATER. It was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.