NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, October 7, 2023

How Mindfulness and Self Compassion Can Help With Body Acceptance

I began a discussion about the challenges of having a negative body image in a prior article (see my article: Is a Negative Body Image Ruining Your Sex Life?). 

In the current article I'm focusing on how mindfulness and self compassion can help with body acceptance.

Mindfulness and Self Compassion Help With Body Acceptance

How Western Culture Perpetuates Women's Body Shame
Women are bombarded with messages on social media, TV, the movies and magazines about how their bodies should look.  

When women feel their bodies don't conform to these images, they feel ashamed of their bodies. This also affects sense of self worth and how they interact in relationships. 

Helpful Tips:
The following tips can be helpful in the process of going from a negative body image to body acceptance:
  • Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Women Who Have "Perfect" Bodies: Obviously, there's no such thing as a "perfect" body.  But you might have an ideal image you're comparing yourself to when you look at other people.  Instead of comparing your body to the bodies you see at the gym, on social media or in other places, find aspects of your body that you like.  Western culture gives subtle and not so subtle messages that women should compare themselves unfavorably to other women.  This is a form of misogynistic manipulation that keeps women competing instead of supporting each other.
  • Become Aware of Who Cashes In ($$$) On Your Negative Body Image: Fatphobia,  the stigmatization of weight gain and the idealization of thinness keep women feeling insecure about their bodies and makes them easy marketing targets in a capitalistic society. Ask yourself who benefits from your negative beliefs about your body.  There are plenty of industries, including the fitness and diet industries, that cash in on women feeling ashamed of their bodies. They often foster unrealistic expectations to keep women feeling insecure and willing to buy their products and services in an effort to have the "ideal body."
  • Become Aware of the Intergenerational Impact of a Negative Body Image:  The messages about body image are so pervasive that it's difficult not to internalize them. Once you have accepted these negative messages that your body should look a certain way, these beliefs perpetuate themselves and become an intergenerational problem where mothers can unconsciously pass them on to their daughters. As a result, that the trauma continues from one generation to the next. Make a commitment to let is stop with you.
  • Find Ways to Enjoy and Appreciate Your Body As It Is: If you look at yourself in the mirror, can you find at least one thing that you like about yourself? Find inspiration by focusing on the things your body can do instead of how your body looks.  Even if you are differently abled or have certain limitations, you can find ways to appreciate your body as it is.  For instance, learn to appreciate that your body is able to pump thousands of barrels of blood throughout your lifetime.  Similarly, think about how amazing it is that body has millions of cells interacting with each other everyday to keep you healthy.
  • Be As Compassionate to Yourself As You Would Be to a Close Friend: Practice being kind and compassionate to yourself in the same way you would be to a close friend. Show particular kindness to the parts of your body that you don't like. For instance, if you don't like your abdomen, be kind to it by giving it a gentle massage with your favorite lotion after a shower.  In this way you can tend and befriend your body just the way it is right now.
How Mindfulness Can Help With Body Acceptance: If you want to overcome a negative body image, you can learn to use mindfulness to become more aware of how you're continuing to give yourself negative messages and learn to let go of these thoughts.

Mindfulness and Self Compassion Help With Body Acceptance

Mindfulness is a state of awareness you can use so you can become aware of the negative messages you give to yourself about your body. 

To begin your mindfulness practice:
  • Become aware of the thoughts going through your mind and whenever you have a negative thought about your body (or anything else about yourself), imagine you're putting each negative thought on a cloud and watching it float away.
  • Don't criticize yourself for having negative thoughts about your body.  Instead, be compassionate and gently let each thought go.
Body Acceptance is a Process
Body acceptance probably won't help overnight, but if you keep practicing mindfulness and self compassion, you can begin to let go of the negative messages you give yourself and learn to accept and appreciate your body as it is.

Body Acceptance is a Process

This article focused on women.  However, many men also suffer from body image problems and the tips offered in this article can be helpful to them too.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.