6 Lessons I’ve Learned about Body-Confidence by Living with Body Dysmorphia
Photos by the amazing Meri Daugherty.
For as far back as I can remember, I have disliked my body.
And being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to be the best. And I felt like I had to. I have always set impossible expectations for myself about how I should present myself and how I should look. I put so much pressure on myself that my own mind developed into my own worst enemy. I would look in the mirror and see a stranger; there was a girl who had stolen my soul and placed it in a different body. One that I did not resonate with. I was so stuck in my head that I could not connect with others and function in the world around me. BDD (body dysmenorrhea disorder) would creep into my mind all day and night, telling me horrible things about myself and my body. It was there, whispering horrible things to me when I tried on five different outfits for work and felt wrong in every one of them. It was there when I was too self conscious about my body to go to the grocery store.
But now, I’m challenging my old thoughts and presenting them with new ones to take their place.
Now, there are moments when my curves suddenly shift from looking disgusting to looking normal; from feeling out of place to feeling right. Changing your mind and challenging your thoughts can amazingly enough, change your entire world.
1. Confidence is a State of Mind
Often times I need to remind myself that changing my body doesn’t mean I’ll automatically love myself. Society paints this toxic picture in our minds that if we look better, everything else will fall into place. This is because body image has more to do with our mental state than our physical self. We can choose to let those insecurities dictate our mood, or we can recognize that it’s not our bodies that need fixing, but our minds. We have to start recognizing our self-critiquing thoughts and begin our journey to correct them.
2. Sit with your feelings
Accept that you’re having these thoughts and focus on what you can do to change your outlook. Would changing your body REALLY improve your quality of life? “Fat” is not a feeling. Saying, “I feel fat!” is code for something else. Try getting more in touch with what you’re actually feeling, and slowly you’ll see that your perception of what you look like doesn’t have to dictate how good or bad you feel that day. Approach it the same as you would another bad day; its only 24 hours long, and tomorrow might be different.
3. Give Your Body What It Needs
“I’ll be happier once I get skinnier.” This one thought can drive us to take unhealthy actions to try to “fix” our body. Instead of trying the latest fad diet, we should be intuitively eating: eating to nourish our bodies. We should never let our fear of becoming “fat” be a motivator for us to change because that’s a motivator of shame. We have to learn to be okay with the fluctuations of how much we weigh and how many calories we ate that day, etc. Punishing ourselves will only drive us deeper into struggle. We must learn to accept and be compassionate of our struggle, it’s okay.
4. Stop Comparing Yourself
Perfection is a myth. It’s an unreasonable standard to judge yourself against. If you’ve taken a wrong turn down comparison lane, you are also very familiar with the feeling of self doubt: that feeling that you just aren’t good enough. When we focus on what we don’t have, we make room for self doubt. But sometimes we need to take a step back. We get so caught up in this negative mindset that we forget to acknowledge the small, amazing things that make us unique. There is no certain way we “should” look, and one person's beauty does not take away from yours.
5. Embrace What Your Body Can Do
Bodies are instruments of action and sensation; we are more than just our appearance. We’re so preoccupied with loathing, hiding, and repairing our looks that we fail to find opportunities for ourselves to enjoy what our bodies do for us. I am able to enjoy an activity for the sole purpose that it feels good. My body allows me to feel the sand in between my toes or enjoy the warmth of sunlight on my face. It is strong enough to swim in the ocean. My body allows me to experience the world, and it provides me with an invigorating sense of freedom unlike anything else.
6. You are not your body
“My worth as a person depends on how I look, and what I have accomplished.” This assumption is at the root of body image problems for so many people, myself included. It asserts that your physical appearance is the only or most important aspect of everything you are as a person. Having a different body doesn’t change your life. Your body isn’t a reflection of how well your life is going or how worthy you are.It’s simply the vessel that houses you, so stop criticizing it!
As someone who struggles with Body Dysmorphia, my brain tells me that my self-worth is directly related to my appearance.
But changing your body won’t make you any happier if you’re motivated by self-hate. It’s not our bodies that need fixing, but our minds. When it’s difficult for me to connect with what my body really looks like, and, more importantly, what it feels like, I’m able to hold onto these moments and know that it is possible. We have to work to rewire our brains into believing that the body we have now is “the perfect body.” A lighter weight, longer legs, or a curvier figure won’t change the hatred you’ve taught yourself; but changing your mindset can. It’s hard work, and I’m just beginning, but it’s worth every step.
It’s time to embrace yourself body, mind, and soul with OPEN arms. No more negative self-talk, body insecurity, and self-doubt. Download our FREE e-book, EMBRACE, and start taking action towards releasing the doubt and claiming your truth today.
Taylor Lefebvre is a mental health blogger that documents her journey of overcoming body dysmenorrhea, anxiety and depression. She discusses how clothing affects our self worth and how to correct unhealthy thought patterns. She firmly believes that confidence has little to do with our outward appearance, but that confidence is a state of mind. Never forget that one persons beauty, doesn’t take away from yours.