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When Obsessing with a Perfect Body Image Becomes a Disease

When Obsessing with a Perfect Body Image Becomes a Disease

It’s no secret that men and women struggle with body image. We are constantly bombarded with ideas of the “perfect body” and despite knowing it’s photo-shopped beyond belief, it can be difficult to ignore the feeling that we need to change somehow.

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders claims that eight million people in the U.S. have some type of eating disorder. That’s about 3% of the total population.[1]

So what can we do? How to practice self-love without flaunting our “hot” bodies in the face of someone who hates their body? How do we overcome shame and practice acceptance? Read on to find out.

Self-worth is NOT about size!

Hey. You. You’re worth it. You deserve happiness. You’re an incredible person and you should really recognize that in yourself. If you feel like you’ll never be able to think positively about yourself, take a breath. We’ll get there together. Not only are you beautiful/handsome exactly as you are, but you’re smart and witty and just plain awesome.

First of all, let’s define some things:

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Body Image: Body image is just that; an image. It’s based on your thoughts and your feelings about your body. The way you think other people look at you can negatively impact your own self-views, and cause a slew of negative thoughts bout your appearance. It’s the way you feel about yourself, inside and out. And it’s a big deal [2].

Self-esteem: Do you like yourself? Do you recognize how awesome and unique you are? If so, you have great self-esteem. If not, we’ll get there. If you have low self-esteem, it can be really hard for you to feel worthy and confident. When you have good self-esteem, you feel empowered, courageous and confident. You find yourself really caring about your mental and emotional health. And it’s not just about liking your body. It’s liking everything that makes you, you!

    It’s okay that you aren’t happy with yourself every single second.

    Take this test adapted from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale to gauge where your self-esteem currently is. Add up the number of points you’ve chosen. The higher the number, the higher your self-esteem.

    The way you answer the questions can fluctuate, as we can’t all be 100% happy with ourselves all the time.[3]

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      Thankfully, there are steps you can take to boost your self-esteem.

      1. Realize how cool you are. Make a list of all the things that make you, you! This isn’t being cocky, it’s being confident. You have so many unique qualities. Appreciate that about yourself.
      2. Put your heart into your work. Whether at school or a career, really give 110% every day. Learning gives you so much power and the confidence to change the world.
      3. Stay active. Take a dance class or join a team. Go for walks and don’t text the whole time. Focusing on your own health is one of the best ways to be selfish and start to love yourself.
      4. Stop being so cruel to yourself. Do you tell yourself things like, “I’m so fat,” “I’m so ugly,” “I hate how I look”? Ouch. Write down the things you’re saying to yourself. Then think about the list. How does it contribute to how stressed out you are? If it does, try to get to the root of it. Maybe you tell yourself you’re fat, and maybe you have since a relative told you your stomach was getting big. It’s okay to acknowledge if you’re medically overweight and want to get healthier, but don’t confuse poor health for “disgusting,” “gross,” “unworthy”.[4] And don’t let someone’s words, no matter how recently they were spoken, impact your current views.
      5. Make a new list. Write down mantras that you will try to practice. Try things like “I won’t speak harshly to myself. I will not judge other peoples’ bodies in an attempt to feel better about mine. I will not allow others to be cruel to me about my looks.”
      6. Challenge yourself. Try to avoid insulting yourself for a whole week. How did it feel? Do you feel different physically?

      Ditch that body/image shame.

      Speak Kindly, even if the voice is in your head.

      The things you say inside your head don’t always stay there. In fact, the mean things you tell yourself can impact your emotions and even your opinion of other people. Even if you’re reading this and thinking that you are pretty kind to yourself, realize there is always room for improvement.

      So if your list of mean things you say to yourself is really short, focus on making it a goal to write an even shorter list. Monitor your self-talk weekly and consistently try to replace any hurtful words with kind ones.[5]

        Stop focusing on other peoples’ opinions.

        This is a tricky one, especially in a time of judging ourselves based on the number of virtual “likes” we receive. Overthinking and hyper-focusing on someone else’s words or actions toward us is dangerous and downright destructive.

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        Time to wake up, people. The voice in your head is not who you are. It’s just an excitable commentator. You are the game. – Mark Rice-Oxley

        Basically, we have to create a whole new relationship with our thoughts. We need to be aware of when that bad day we’re having was completely created by our own self-loathing. Be present in the real world, and spend less time on social media. Get in the habit of telling yourself why you’re awesome as soon as you wake up. Don’t obsess when things go wrong, celebrate when things go right.[6]

        Regain control.

        Fun fact: You are in charge of yourself. You determine your worth. Not the model on the cover of a magazine, not the popular girl you graduated with that has 3K Instagram followers. You.

        It’s just a fact: someone will always be wealthier than you, smarter than you, prettier than you, etc. But that doesn’t mean you’re poor, dumb and ugly! Why spend your life comparing yourself to other people when your body is the only one you get to live in. Love yourself. The rest will follow.[7]

        Drop the negativity, even if it means dropping “friends”.

        It’s an ugly fact, but it’s a fact all the same. Toxic people have toxic attitudes, and that toxicity is contagious. Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you, encourage you and love you. A wise woman once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” and she is so very right.

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          Quit comparing.

          I know, I know, I’ve already said this. But it’s that important! Psychologist Leon Festinger said that our desire to compare ourselves to others is a drive as powerful as thirst! Think about that for a second. The only person we should compare ourselves to is our past selves. Take a look at where you are versus where you’ve been. Appreciate those mile-markers, not someone else’s.[8]

          Remember: There is no such thing as perfection.

          I think we’ve all come across at least one person in our lives that seemed to have it all. The perfect relationship, the perfect job, the perfect bank account, etc. But did they really? Eh, probably not.

          When you look at someone’s outward appearance and assume you know how easy they have it, remind yourself that you don’t know anything about their journey. Instead of being jealous of that person or wishing you were them, appreciate how inspired you are by him/her and focus on making the necessary changes in your life to be proud of yourself.[9]

          So make it a point to start new today. Take baby steps toward liking yourself. Eventually, you’ll be taking strides toward loving yourself. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, physically, mentally or emotionally. Appreciate people for what makes them unique, and rejoice in what makes you, you.

          Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Heather Poole

          Technical writer

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          Published on November 28, 2018

          How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

          How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

          The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

          So how to do meditation?

          The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

          Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

          From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

          You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

          1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

          Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

          The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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          The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

          Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

          2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

          Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

          Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

          Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

          • Living things, such as plants
          • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
          • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
          • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
          • Furniture away from walls
          • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
          • Incense or something else that smells good
          • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

          Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

          3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

          In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

          However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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          In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

          Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

          Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

          4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

          Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

          Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

          Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

          5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

          At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

          Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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          We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

          This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

          6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

          As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

          Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

          If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

          If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

          7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

          What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

          Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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          1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
          2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
          3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
          4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
          5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

          As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

          Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

          You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

          Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

          You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

          Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

          You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

          You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

          As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

          Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
          [2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
          [3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
          [4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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