How you talk to yourself about your body and how you believe others see you directly affect how confident you are concerning your body and your looks. Here are two people who use negative self-talk and are extremely unhappy because of it.
Riana can only think negative thoughts about her body. When she gets ready for work, she looks at herself in the mirror and says, “Why can’t I lose weight? If I could get rid of this stomach, I’d be able to finally be happy. I should start exercising today – or tomorrow.” On her way from the parking lot to her office, she passes a business and can see her reflection in the window. “Oh, my goodness! I sure look horrible today!” is the first thing that comes to her mind.
When she goes out to eat during her lunch hour, Riana notices the temperature is beginning to get hotter, and she thinks, “I should start dieting again. Summer is coming up, and I want to wear a bikini.”
At night, she reads a good book. Before she sits down, she grabs three ice cream cones and absentmindedly eats them one after the other. Afterwards, she thinks, “I ate all those ice cream cones tonight – again. How I hate myself! I’ll never be slender and look good enough to wear a bikini. I’m so kidding myself – I’m such a failure!” as she shakes her head with great disappointment in herself.
Jason lives next door to Riana. When he gets ready for work, he notices again that his head barely shows in the mirror, and he thinks, “I’m going to buy those shoes that make me 2” taller. Then maybe women will like me.” After he gets off the bus and is walking to work, he too sees himself in the window of the business, and his inner critic says, “Look at your hair! It’s a mess!”
When one of his female co-workers doesn’t say anything to him when she walks past him in the lunchroom, Jason thinks, “I’m sure she doesn’t like me because I’m too fat and too short. What a loser I am!” Later that day, he gets a Facebook post about how to get “6 Pack Abs,” and he says out loud, “Yeah, sure! That’s me! What a joke!”
This is the kind of negative self-talk that many people have about their body image. This isn’t something they think once in a while. It’s something that enters their thoughts almost every day and, for some people, many times a day.
It can happen at any time:
- when you get up in the morning and weigh yourself
- when you look in the mirror to get ready for work
- when you see someone who looks better than you
- when someone else is whistled at and you realize it’s not you
This is your inner critic at work, whispering in your ear and ruling your actions about your body image. It can lead you to eat less food and almost starve yourself, exercise until you’re exhausted, and step on the scale at least three times a day.
Of course, you can have positive thoughts too, such as “Wow! I sure look great today! I love this outfit, and I’m looking good!” or “I love my body! It’s so healthy, and truly appreciate how I look.”
However, if you only think negative thoughts about your body, you’ll constantly be trying to fix your “flaws,” you’ll always be striving for the ideal body, and you’ll have no self-confidence as far as your body is concerned.
Step 1: For one week, keep track of your thoughts about your body image. Be sure to write them all down – positive thoughts or negative thoughts. Don’t try to change any of them. Just observe what you’re thinking and write them down in a small notebook or type them into your phone or on your computer.
Step 2: Note the date and time. Also note what you’re doing. Here are some examples: Thursday, June 3, 7:00 am, right after weighing myself, feeling so fat and that I need to lose weight; 12:00 pm, ate a big salad with cheese and turkey for lunch, proud of myself; 2:30 pm, ate a candy bar to get some energy, disgusted with myself that I didn’t eat an apple; 7:30 pm, watching TV and munching on cheese and crackers, looking at commercials with slender women and knowing I’ll never look like that.
Step 3: At the end of the week, review what you’ve written.
Step 4: Write on a sheet of paper or use your computer to create a chart, with columns for your positive and negative thoughts about your body. Evaluate whether most of your thoughts are positive or negative. What do your positive thoughts focus on? What do your negative thoughts focus on?
Step 5: Think about when you have negative thoughts about your body. Is it at a particular time every day, such as when you weigh yourself in the morning or when you’re snacking while watching television at night? Do you have more negative thoughts while looking at a magazine or after you’ve had a fight with your spouse?
Step 6: Look at how often your inner critic tells you to do certain things in response to your negative thoughts about your body, such as eating less, eating more, exercising more, and wearing baggier clothes.