We live in a culture fixated with outward appearances. This body image obsession breeds discontentment and discontentment in turn causes money to be spent. Advertisements, TV, social media, magazines, and the internet bombard with images of false perfection. Consumers spend billions of dollars on everything from simple diets to major plastic surgery trying to look better.
Society has even gone so far as to incorrectly intertwine body-image with self-image. The conclusion is that the fitter/more beautiful you are, the better you will feel about yourself. It is a lie; many people with fit bodies still have a low self-image.
While some ego that can be derived from beauty, it is a façade. No matter how many diets, exercise routines, or surgeries a person has, age eventually affects takes over the body and changes it. True beauty is ageless and internal, not external. It does not care about grey hair, wrinkles, or limited flexibility. Rather it rests in a peace that comes from accepting your natural limitations, valuing your uniqueness, and setting appropriate expectations.
What are some reasonable expectations you can set with your clients? Here are ten items to get them started.
- Recognize what your body has already accomplished. For instance, pregnancy takes a toll on a body but it is worth every stretch mark. Celebrate your body’s accomplishments such as the ability to fight infections well.
- Be compassionate with your physical limitations. Don’t expect your body to become something it is not able to achieve. Appreciate your unique body type. Ask your client if they would ever speak to a friend the way they speak to themselves.
- Redirect negative self-talk. Self-rejection of your body is damaging, it erodes confidence. It is also damaging to others when they internalize and project on themselves your rejection. The more you focus on the negative the worse it becomes.
- Your body is more than a number. Reducing the worth of your body to a number on a scale, a dress size or BMI score minimizes the value of your body.
- Comparing yourself to others is foolish. Would you ever tell your daughter that she has to look like Kim Kardashian in order to be loved? Don’t do it to yourself.
- “Mirror, mirror on the wall…” What are you saying when you look in a mirror? Is this a time of kindness and gentleness or belittling and humiliation? When internal verbal abuse is accepted, external verbal abuse is tolerated.
- Enjoy your body’s movement. Go dancing, walking, swimming, biking or any activity that brings you joy. Be thankful that you can still appreciate these activities.
- Eliminate friends who have an unhealthy relationship with their body image. They can bring you down. So limit your time with them and take them in small doses.
- Manage your stress and anxiety effectively. Sometimes it is easier to take things out on our body rather than deal with the real issue of stress and anxiety.
- Focus on what brings you joy rather than how you look. Being joyful is an inward beauty that is very visible externally. Doing things you are passionate about brings a shine to your eyes and exuberance to your face.
Most clients are not forthcoming about body image until asked. Many already know they have an unhealthy internal dialogue and are reluctant to give it up. This is one of those areas where actions speak louder than words. When you have a healthy body image and feel comfortable sharing, you clients will be much more at ease and open to change.