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This post is sponsored by Musselman’s new BIG CUP applesauce.

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So far, I’ve written about 50% More Mindfulness and 50% More Vegetables.  In my last “50% More” post, I asked readers to say what they’d like 50% more of in their life. So many of you replied, “Body confidence!”  So many, in fact, that I nixed my original plans for this last 50% More post and decided to write my thoughts on developing greater body confidence.

 

Through my work with Operation Beautiful, I’ve talked to hundreds upon hundreds of girls and women, interviewed a dozen or so psychologists, and worked closely with professionals at eating disorder clinics and organizations like NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness). One of my first questions to these individuals has always been, “How did you learn to accept and truly love their body?”  Over time, I’ve come to understand that for most of us, body acceptance is closely tied to a general sense of self acceptance.  It’s hard to have one without the other. So while many of my suggestions focus on learning to love your exterior, a lot of them are about getting comfortable with who you are deep down inside, too.  If you’re struggling with body confidence issues, know that working on one area will positively impact the other.

 

I always close my Operation Beautiful speaking events by sharing a bit of my personal history.  When I was a teenager, I went through a really rough period that included depression and self-harming.  I was also a pretty pessimistic person, and I was also perfectionistic in a non-helpful way.  I can still be Type A about things, but I’ve come a long way with my overall outlook and sense of self worth.  I’m honest about my past because I’m proud the changes that I’ve achieved.  It took a lot of work and self-reflection, but I did it.  So after my little spiel at one of my more recent events, a girl in the audience raised her hand and asked me, “So does that mean that you’re always happy and always love yourself now?”  She sounded hopeful – like she wanted to believe ‘the other side’ of shaky self worth was perfect bliss and happiness.

 

It’s not like that. I don’t think anyone’s self image is perfect all the time, and improvements are not perfectly linear.  There’s going to be ups and downs in your journey, especially as you go through big life changes, like falling in love, having a baby, getting fired from a job, etc.  During your journey, don’t put pressure on yourself to never, ever think a negative thought about your body – focus instead on how you cope with those thoughts and how easily you can let them go.  Remember – as with so many things in life – the goal of developing body confidence is PROGRESS, not perfection.

 

So – here we go.  My 15 suggestions for developing more body confidence.

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The #1 thing to do to is immediately is to address your negative self-talk, both external and internal. One thing that I hear over and over again is that many women think it doesn’t hurt them to say, “Ugh, I look so terrible” or “My skin is disgusting” or “I’m such a gross pig.”  IT DOES MATTER and IT DOES WRECK YOUR CONFIDENCE.  Not only that, but it impacts everyone around you, especially young girls and teenagers.  This is the simple two-step process that Operation Beautiful recommends:

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Step 1: Imagine a giant STOP sign in your head.  Halt the negative, nasty thought in its tracks.

Step 2: Replace your negative thought with something positive.  But here’s the catch.  You can’t replace your negative thought with something OUTRAGEOUSLY positive because you may not believe it.  If your thought is, “My body is disgusting,” and you think, “STOP! You are a supermodel!” – you aren’t going to truly integrate that positive thought.  So replace your negativity with something positive but realistic, like:  “My body shows the evidence of a life well-lived – lots of downs but some ups, too. And I am thankful for everything it allows me to do, like run and hug my children.”

 

People often ask me if I believe that they should correct themselves out loud when they negative self-talk in front of others, and the answer is… YES.  Again, it’s damaging to hear other women bash themselves, and it can be so uplifting to hear someone say, “You know what? I don’t know why I said that. I’m awesome, and I love and appreciate my body.”

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This tip complements the one above nicely. So much of our body confidence issues come from our bodies not LOOKING the way we’d like. It’s so freeing to focus instead on what our bodies can DO. After all, your body is not just for decoration! It’s easy to get caught up in appearances and forget that we should be thankful for the ability to speak, listen, see, touch, walk, laugh, and kiss.

 

 

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When you do have negative thoughts, ask yourself the following questions:

 

Where did that thought come from?  (i.e. From someone you are close to? From a parent?   If so, should you cut this person out of your life?  Is the thought from a media source you can disengage in?)

Is that thought logical and rational?  (i.e. “I am gross; no one will ever love me” is not a rational thought.)

Am I thinking this because I’m nervous, sad, mad, or ashamed?  (follow up question – “How else can I process these emotions?”)

Would I ever say this about a friend? Why do I think it’s okay to say it about myself?

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Fill your mind with positive thoughts.  My Operation Beautiful book is a great resource for adult women (there’s a similar book for tweens and young teens).  Other awesome reads include Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary; Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large by Kimberly Brittingham; and Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon.

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Perhaps you suspect that your body confidence issues are a significant problem in your life. You can learn more the symptoms and warning signs of Bulimia, Anorexia, and Binge Eating Disorder on Operation Beautiful by clicking those links.  You can also take the NEDA screening survey online.  Or maybe your symptoms don’t fit neatly into a categorize or aren’t ‘bad enough’ to qualify you for a diagnosis but you still feel out of control.  Lots of women (and men) have distorted eating behaviors but no diagnosable eating disorder.  You don’t have to live like that.  Please, please, please reach out to a professional for help.

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Check out the incredible blog series known as the Exposed Movement, which was spearheaded by my e-friend Michelle.  The movement called on women to take a photo of their body and then cover it in positive phrases.  From the website: “It’s a grass-roots online movement of people loving themselves where they are. Incredibly powerful that has required an amazing amount of courage.”

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Do something similar with an image of your body or simply practice the Exposed philosophy in your mind when you look at yourself in the mirror.

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Learn more about how the media and marketers manipulate images you see in magazines, on billboard, and even in commercials (hello, CGI effects!).  I really love the “Photoshop” tag on Jezebel.com, as well as the following short YouTube videos:

 

 

 

 

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Well, I specifically mean – walk around your house naked!  I think this can be very freeing and relaxing… just make sure you draw the curtains.  Hah.  A lot of body confidence is related to anxiety about covering up your body or making sure it looks ‘perfect’ in whatever you’re wearing – it can be freeing to lounge on the couch or stand in front of the fridge and let it all hang out.  It may be hard to do this, so try it in short spurts at first.

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There’s a strong correlation between media consumption and feeling like you aren’t good enough.  If there’s a particular magazine, blog, or TV show that makes you feel bad about yourself, STOP ENGAGING!  I wrote a little more about this topic in this post:  3 Ways to Challenge Your Personal Narrative.

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It is so easy to forget what you’ve accomplishment and focus on what you haven’t done right.  So keep a running list of your accomplishments – everything from running a new distance to finally paying off your credit card.  Re-read your list when you’re feeling down.

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Get outside your own head and spend time and energy volunteering.  Volunteering combats depression, lifts self-esteem, and increases overall happiness. Volunteering has even been shown to lessen the symptoms of chronic pain and heart disease! (Source).  As many of you know, I really love the organization Girls on the Run because it reinforces many positive body image principles and helps the next generation of young women feel stronger and more confident in everything they do.

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This goes back to the idea of focusing on what your body can DO.  As NEDA likes to say, exercise should be for the 3 F’s:  fitness, fun, and friendship – not just to burn calories, punish yourself for eating dessert, or fit into some impossible pant size.  Tackling a challenging fitness goal is a great way to boost your confidence while reminding yourself of all the awesome things your body can do.  Start with a 5K (I love the Couch to 5K program) or master a fun fitness class.

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If you’re struggling to accept your body, focus on dressing up in ways you can appreciate – whether it’s rocking awesome shoes that make you feel fabulous, getting your nails done, or wearing your hair is a pretty style.  Or maybe that kind of stuff is not your cup of tea, and you’d rather get a massage or go on a relaxing walk.  However you can find time and energy to focus on yourself and make yourself feel good, DO IT.

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Spread the body confidence!  Compliment others.  Although I am, of course, a fan of telling people that they are beautiful just as they are, I think it’s also important to also focus on complimenting ethics, actions, and ideas.  Tell another woman in your life that she is amazing or spread the happiness to a stranger via an Operation Beautiful note.

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And last, but not least:

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Seeing all those positive messages is an awesome way to start the day!

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Your turn!  I’d love to know how you’ve gained more body confidence.  Share your secrets for loving every inch of yourself, on the outside and the inside.

 

This post was sponsored by Musselman’s BIG CUP applesauce, which contains six ounces of delicious applesauce.

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{ 28 comments }

 

Leave a Comment

  • sarah May 2, 2014, 7:20 pm

    Compliment. Not Complement.

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 2, 2014, 7:44 pm

      Ah yes. That is true! It’s pretty challenging to get every word right when you don’t have a copy editor.

      Want to share a body confidence tip too?

      Reply
  • Michelle May 2, 2014, 7:56 pm

    I love these tips. When I need a shot of body confidence, I hang out with my BFF… She is so positive and upbeat about everything. It makes me feel better about life. :)

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 2, 2014, 7:57 pm

      Aw, I love BFFs!!!

      Reply
  • Kath May 2, 2014, 8:29 pm

    Beautiful post Caitlin!

    Reply
  • Theodora May 2, 2014, 8:42 pm

    What a positive post! I think I remember Katy Widrick doing something like the Exposed Movement pic a few years ago…

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 2, 2014, 8:43 pm

      I love Katy’s blog. She always make me feel good, too :)

      Reply
  • Rebecca May 2, 2014, 8:58 pm

    This is excellent proof that sponsored posts can be great, too! Great job, Caitlin. Loved this post. :D

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 2, 2014, 9:01 pm

      Thanks Rebecca! I appreciate it a lot. I really enjoyed the 50% more prompt :)

      Reply
  • Rebecca May 2, 2014, 8:59 pm

    I think I became more confident after I started running. I began to look at my body in a different way and am now so impressed by what it can do!

    Reply
  • Alanna May 2, 2014, 9:08 pm

    Needed this! Hopping over to look at the books you linked to now! thanks <3

    Reply
  • Runner Girl Eats May 2, 2014, 10:50 pm

    Love this post. I think stopping negative self talk and focusing on what your body can do is they best way to improve body image.

    Reply
  • Lisa @ RunWiki May 3, 2014, 7:19 am

    So many great words of advise here! We all need to be reminded and given some tools to know how to go about changing those negative nellies in our mind. I love how you say, ” You can’t replace your negative thought with something OUTRAGEOUSLY positive because you may not believe it.” so true, sometimes you just need to say anything positive to yourself, “I like when I am kind” or even something outside yourself, “I love the way this candle smells” anything to change that negative dialogue.

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 3, 2014, 7:56 am

      I like the idea of refocusing on what is outside of you too :)

      Reply
  • Julia May 3, 2014, 9:28 am

    Great post! It’s so important to take the time to honor and embrace ourselves, our character, our body…and encourage positive body image. Thank you for highlighting the movement towards body confidence on your blog. This definitely aligns with the mission of The ProjectHEAL, and with the wonderful OperationBeautiful campaign.

    Julia
    TheProjectHEAL

    Reply
  • Elaine May 3, 2014, 3:23 pm

    One of the best tips I have ever heard when it comes to self-talk, is to talk to yourself like you would talk to your younger sister or your daughter. Treat yourself like you would treat them.
    When I’m super stressed, I’ll talk to myself in the 3rd person and it REALLY helps. I try to take my problem and treat it as if a friend had the same problem and what I would advise them to do.

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 3, 2014, 4:19 pm

      I like the idea of talking to yourself in third person. “Treat yourself as you would a friend” is an Operation Beautiful mantra :)

      Reply
  • Angie May 3, 2014, 3:58 pm

    I have found that when I’m feeling down on my appearance I tend to internally judge those around me. I have been making a conscious effort to stop those thoughts and think something positive about the person in question. It is a good way to get my brain in a more positive place overall.

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 3, 2014, 4:19 pm

      Great advice!!

      Reply
  • Jennifer Leap May 4, 2014, 11:38 am

    For me, a huge shift happened when I finally accepted that I was not any happier being thinner and also wasn’t less happy being heavier. Whether I was thin or heavy, everything else in my life stayed the same. Even the thoughts going through my head were relatively the same: I was still critical, just over different things. I still look in the mirror sometimes and think, Wow, my thighs look huge. But then I think, So what? And I realize it only matters if I make myself feel badly about it.

    Reply
  • Allie May 4, 2014, 1:05 pm

    This post comes at such a good time! I’m going through the process of redefining how I see myself and claiming my body as MINE and refusing to give anyone the power to define my body/self anymore.
    My tip is pretty crude/simple, but effective! I call it the 1, 2, 3 F-it (I think I saw it in a cheesy rom-com or something?) As in, count to 3, say f*ck, and do the thing that scares me. I think with a lack of self-confidence comes self-doubt and, at least for me, this manifests as an inability to make decisions. So lately, I just jump in and do it before it think about it. It’s really been helping me gain more confidence inside and out :).

    Reply
  • Holly May 4, 2014, 6:51 pm

    As someone who is always working to improve my self-image, I was recently awakened by a conversation with my husband. I made a negative comment about how I felt I looked in front of my husband. I shamefully recognized what I was doing and said “I have to stop saying these things before we have kids. I don’t want our kids to hear there Mom say these things about herself, it will make them have equally negative thoughts about themselves and I don’t want that.” My husband responded with “well how do you think it makes your husband feel to hear you say those things?”. It hurt so bad to hear him say that, I didn’t realize I had been making him feel self-conscious because of how I was beating up myself. Serious reality check! When we are negative towards ourselves, we have a negative impact on those around us who a lot of the time are those we love the most.

    Your blog is an inspiration and a great reminder to keep things in perspective and to be kind to ourselves.

    Reply