It’s the day of the big meeting. Or presentation, or appointment, or interview. You’ve spent a long time trying to look presentable, and here you are. You look around the room and start comparing yourself to other women. She’s so much more in shape, taller, leaner, prettier, stylish, confident, etc. The list is almost endless in ways you don’t measure up.
The big moment comes, and you get up feeling – defeated. Before you even begin, your spirit is crushed. You just feel so… FAT!
If anything in this scenario sounds familiar, your body image may be holding you back. When you don’t feel good about yourself, it often sends the message to others that you’re closed off. This may disconnect you from other people and from grabbing opportunities that could help you grow in your career.
Perfect as you are : 5 ways to overcome a negative body image at work.
Recognize the Hidden Emotions
The first thing to realize is that FAT IS NOT A FEELING. When you wake up in a good mood, head to the mirror and you’re looking great, do you feel like your world is in harmony? At other times, maybe you wake up feeling blah, head to the bathroom and hate what you see in the mirror?
How we look doesn’t so much influence how we feel, but how we feel influences how we think we look.
What often happens is that we take all our negative feelings out on our bodies. It make sense, because while we might not know how to manage our feelings, we can have some control over our bodies and what we put into it. So by turning shame, fear, sadness, anger, loss, regret, etc. into FAT, we feel much more able to cope.
And it’s also why it can seem like being overweight or bodily imperfect is all we can focus on. In a weird way, it’s simpler for our minds to focus on something physical that we think we can control rather than all these intangible emotions that we feel powerless against.
At the deepest level, body image won’t heal until you recognize, accept and feel the underlying emotions. You can do this by journaling, talking with a trusted friend or family member, seeing a coach or therapist, or even just being in silence and letting yourself feel what you’re feeling.
Think like a Queen
How we think and feel about ourselves is generally how we carry and present ourselves to the world. When you’re not feeling great about your body, you probably tend to slouch, hide in baggy clothes, keep your head down, and generally avoid calling attention to yourself. This in turn, influences the response you get from the outside world. People may ignore you, or mirror your disconnection right back to you. Your beliefs that you’re not good enough are reinforced.
If, on the other hand, when you feel great about your body, you project a stronger persona. You’re more likely to walk and sit confidently, smile and make eye contact with others, dress in way that flatters you, and interact with more people. Others will pick up on this energy, and be more willing to interact with you. This cements your belief that you’re great!
So how can you get the second scenario results all the time, even if you’re not feeling good about yourself? Simple – act like a Queen! No matter how you feel that day, imagine yourself as a leader, and everyone you come across is part of your realm.
All this means is carrying yourself with dignity and grace, and knowing you are worthy of respect. Close your eyes and become a stronger, more confident you for a moment. Notice what happens to your body and your posture. It’s probably a stance that exudes energy, confidence and radiance. Conduct yourself like that through the whole day, and see how people respond.
Take Time for Self-care
A Queen deserves to take care of herself, and doing so will help your self esteem – and body image – immensely. Self-care doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, but it’s important to practice it daily, and really any time you need to set boundaries to do what’s best for you. Here are some examples of self-care that can directly and indirectly improve your body image.
- Dress for confidence: Don’t hide yourself in frumpy clothes, or make yourself feel self-conscious in clothes that are too tight or make you feel uncomfortable. Choose clothes you like that fit well, are comfortable and make you feel like a Queen.
- Take a dance break: Or a movement that gets you into your body, and your feminine nature can help you feel sensual – something you don’t usually feel if you’re stuck in body hate. Any time you feel tense and have 2-3 minutes alone, put on a song you love, take off the heels, and simply dance. Let your body sway to the music any way that feels good to you. Not only will you boost your energy and creative thinking by getting blood flowing, you can remind yourself to step back into your Queen.
- Ditch the magazines and social media accounts that promote the “Ideal Body:” Distancing yourself from media messages that convince you to change your body to be or feel better about yourself is a great act of self care. Engaging in those messages will only take you backwards on the road to a better body image.
Don’t engage in Diet talk
This is actually a type of self-care, but it gets its own section because it’s so pervasive and so damaging. The break room of many workplaces are a breeding ground for negative body talk and evangelistic diet speak. You’ve heard it before, and maybe are guilty of it yourself:
“I was so bad last night – my son had a birthday and I ate so much cake! I’m back on with this giant bowl of lettuce today.”
“My thighs are getting huge! What’s that new diet you’re trying, Debbie?”
“I need to lose weight for my reunion – I’m starting a juice fast tomorrow – want to join me?”
All these statements are not healthy, and because we’re social beings, it’s easy to get caught up in these conversations. You may feel like an outsider if you don’t participate in them. But they invariably promote low self-esteem and negative body image. And remember, it’s easier to talk about diets and weight than the true feelings they’re actually masking.
So what do you do if this is your workplace? It’s challenging, but see if you can change the subject. Have a few other topics that may be of interest to your colleagues ready, and talk about non-food and body related subjects. Not sure what to talk about? Most people like to talk about themselves, so find out a couple things they’re interested in, and ask some questions about it.
If coworkers ask you directly about diet or body, you can practice self-care by stating what’s true for you. Maybe it’s something like, “I’m trying not to focus on the negative things about my body right now.” Or “I’m not following any particular diet, because I’m learning to tune in to my body more, and eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m satisfied.”
Maybe you’ll even start to change the culture in your workplace to a more body- positive one!
Fake it till you make it
Ok, so you practice all of the above, but sometimes you might still have those days of not feeling good in your body. That’s ok – superwoman to the rescue! Really. Researcher Amy Cuddy and her team found that standing or sitting for 2 minutes in a “power position” can actually make you feel more powerful. That confidence could carry over into your meeting or presentation and help give you the air of authority to persuade others to your views.
Some examples of power poses are standing or sitting with arms spread out wide or overhead, standing with equal weight on your feet, hands on your hips, or sitting with your hands clasped behind your head, legs extended and crossed up on a desk (think powerful man relaxing behind his desk).
If you have a nerve-wracking appointment, find a private place to hold some of these positions, and notice the difference!
Finally, remember that you’re not alone!
Lots of women suffer from a poor body image too, at work or elsewhere. Because it’s so pervasive in our culture, it can be a tough thing to get over, but getting support helps. Surround yourself with friends who don’t engage in diet talk or body shaming, of themselves or others. You can also find a coach or health professional with expertise in the area of body image to support you and help you find personalized techniques to help you grow into a better relationship with yourself.
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