Is your Negative Body Image holding you back?

How can you overcome negative body image
Do you feel inadequate, or even worse, like a failure because of the way you look? Then you're not alone. A mind body wellness pro shares what drives our feelings and the 5 ways to deal with a negative body image.

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!

Also read: A wellness expert shares her tips on dealing with negative emotions

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).

Also read: Time for self care? The power of 5 minute desk yoga

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.

Meghan Leah is a Registered Dietitian with an MS in exercise physiology and certification in Eating Psychology Coaching.  She helps women listen to, nourish, and love their bodies through one on one coaching.  She has a Facebook group, ChallengeMe: Live Healthy and Vibrant – without Dieting where she leads members on monthly challenges for living healthfully and vibrantly. You can also connect with her on Meghan Leah.

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14 Comments
  1. Mary Yowell 1 month ago

    Loved this! I’m bad about self doubt and need to work on it!

  2. Natalia 1 month ago

    I used to have a negative body image in the past. I perceived myself as worse because I was tall, had some teenage skin problems and a few other things. I thought about myself in negatives while others saw me as a pretty and smart girl. I decided to work on my attitude towards myself … and it seems that there are more doors open for me now. 🙂

    • Meghan Helbick Author
      Meghan Helbick 1 month ago

      I can relate! I was always tall and wanted to be short, then I realized all my short friends wanted to be tall! It seems no matter what you have, you want something different, especially when you’re young.

  3. Maya 1 month ago

    I totally agree with self care and avoiding negative talk. We should all be focusing on the good and positive! Thanks for the great post!

    • Meghan Helbick Author
      Meghan Helbick 1 month ago

      So true, what you focus on increases, and it’s empowering to realize you can choose what your focus is.

  4. Marcie 1 month ago

    Self care is HUGE! I didn’t realize this until I became a Mom. It’s the fastest way to make me feel good about myself.

    • Meghan Helbick Author
      Meghan Helbick 1 month ago

      Great point! I’m glad you learned that and take the time to do it.

  5. Nives 1 month ago

    Totally love it – and like you said, we are all perfect like we are. In my opinion, first we need to learn how to love ourselves before we can others properly!

    • Meghan Helbick Author
      Meghan Helbick 1 month ago

      Yeah, that’s a good point. We aren’t fully available for others until we know how to be for ourselves.

  6. OlordePrimavera 1 month ago

    The way to love yourself will come with inner peace. Diet can be good but it wont last if you do not your body and soul well. Thank you for sharing <3

    • Meghan Helbick Author
      Meghan Helbick 1 month ago

      You said it! I’m a big believer that an inner shift needs to happen for a truly lasting outer shift.

  7. Author
    Meghan Leah 1 month ago

    I’m glad it was helpful Ana! You’re so right, and even more, your thoughts can dictate your mood! So paying attention to what you’re focusing on can actually shift your mood and self-perception.

  8. Ana Cunningham
    Ana Cunningham 1 month ago

    Wow! absolutely loved it! So true- our mood dictates our self perception!

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