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How to Stop Obsessing over Your Body Image and Beat Negative Thoughts

How to Stop Obsessing over Your Body Image and Beat Negative Thoughts

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said or done any of the following:

  • Pinched your stomach for fat
  • Looked for cellulite somewhere on your body
  • Hated your body type
  • Looked at magazines and felt inadequate about yourself
  • Went on a diet in the last 3 months
  • Been envious of your thinner friends
  • Compared yourself to someone else

If you said yes to any of the above, fear not: you aren’t alone. Most of us have looked in the mirror, seen something we don’t like, and immediately started thinking negatively about our bodies. In fact, body dissatisfaction is at an all time high today, with millions of people struggling with eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder.

You likely know that you shouldn’t be spending so much time worrying about the externals, but you don’t know what to do to fix the problem. You try to tell yourself not to worry about your appearance, to be happy with who you are and to stop comparing yourself to others, yet, you still cling to your negative internal monologues. Why? Because you have no concrete tools to break out of your “stinking thinking” mentality.

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How does beating ourselves up and constantly ruminating about our bodies help us get what we want out of life? It doesn’t. In fact, it can cause feelings ranging from mild discontentment to severe depression.

How do you solve the problem? By making a decision: if you’re tired of beating yourself up, if you want to embrace your intrinsic worth and learn to actually start liking your body, here are some next steps to consider:

Take Notice

You can’t change what you don’t notice, so start paying attention to what you pay attention to. That means you have to key into what your mind is always focusing on during the day. Notice your self-talk and any behaviors that are self-limiting. Listen for negative patterns in your head. Are there consistent themes? Write them down. For example, you may feed yourself a steady diet of thoughts like, “I’m a loser, I’m fat; I’m unlovable because of my appearance.” Noticing these negative attributions is the first step to change.

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Watch for Thinking Errors

People who struggle with body image issues tend to gravitate toward certain thinking errors. Here are just a few of the biggies:

  • “All or nothing” thinking. I’m either perfect, or a total failure.
  • Magnifying/Catasphrophizing. Gaining a few pounds means no one will ever love me.
  • Emotional reasoning. I take my feelings and make them facts about my intrinsic worth. I feel fat so I am a loser.
  • Negative self. Negative ways of thinking that make it harder for me to achieve my goals or get what I want from life.

Watch for triggers

If TV, Internet, social media, the fashion industry, the food industry, or magazines trigger your negative feelings or feelings of inadequacy, steer clear of them for a while. This doesn’t mean you don’t read a magazine, or watch TV, it means you choose more wisely about what you want to put into your brain.

Stop Comparing

Every magazine out there will depress you if you compare yourself to the cover girls and guys. Even though you know they’re digitally enhanced, it’s still a bummer. Pay attention to who you’re comparing yourself to, and make a deliberate attempt to stop and reset your mind.

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Recognize the big four

Don’t try to be perfect: instead, practice accepting yourself. Stop judging yourself on your appearance or body image. There is a lot more to a person than how much they weigh—focus instead on your strengths and attributes. Be ware of your inner critic; try practicing being grateful for what you do have. Do not get stuck in victim mentality. The “poor me” syndrome will keep you stuck and going nowhere.

Develop positive counterstatements

Start a list of positive statements to refute the negative things you’re telling yourself: it’s important that you have some measure of belief in their veracity. Instead of saying “I hate my body”, try saying “I’m grateful I have a healthy body. I’m grateful I can go for a run or carry my child.” You may not be perfect, but who says you have to be?

Think of the bigger picture

Living in a world that places so much emphasis on how we look is hard, but there are so many things that are much more important than how much we weigh or whether we have cellulite. Try getting outside your head and do something of eternal significance. Go to Haiti to help rebuild; volunteer at a homeless shelter; or go visit someone in a nursing home. Actions like these will dramatically change your perspective about what matters.

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Perhaps the most important part of learning to like our bodies is being grateful for them.

Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your body? Ever struggled with negative self-defeating thinking when you look in the mirror? If so, what steps have you taken to beat stinking thinking?

More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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