It’s the start of a new year, and the resolutions and promises to make healthy change dominate our thoughts and conversations. We chat with our friend circles about new diets and lofty goals. Inwardly, we are hopeful, yet may have a negative dialogue about how we haven’t been able to make healthy changes stick and don’t like the way we look, feel or move. It’s so easy to try something new, then resort back to old familiar patterns when something feels too hard to sustain. With that, our mindset also resorts back to old familiar patterns of negativity and doubt, and our body image may go right with it.
What is body image? In a nutshell, it’s how we see our physical selves—what we like and what we don’t like about our body. Where does body image come from? It’s formed over time by your mindset. Your mindset is the way you think and is shaped by your beliefs, thoughts and attitude. It can be influenced (heavily) by your environment and experiences, including who you spend time with and what you see/watch/read about/listen to.
There are two types of mindset patterns: (1) fixed mindset (limiting) and (2) growth mindset. As you may guess, a fixed/limiting mindset keeps you stuck in a certain cycle of negative beliefs, thoughts and attitude. Chances are, if you have this type of mindset, you are pretty hard on yourself and your body image. You create rigid self-boundaries that may be harder to break out of. Having a growth mindset, you are more apt to grow, learn and be open and accepting. You believe that you can change for the better, no matter how many times you have to try and try again. You give yourself some grace and have patience during the process of change. You can look in the mirror and see things that you like.
In my role as a fitness and lifestyle coach, I help people start with the basics of building a better mindset to then build a healthy body, self-image and lifestyle for the long term. Working on these things will lead to forming new patterns, improved inner dialogue and belief in yourself. Here’s where to start:
1) Be aware. Keep emotion out of this and gather information about what are you doing, who you are with and what your inner dialogue is saying.
2) When thoughts arise, especially negative ones, ask yourself, “Is this true?” Then, “Is this ACTUALLY true?” You believe what you tell yourself. And, what you put your attention on grows stronger. Are you limiting yourself in some way?
3) Ask yourself, “How does this make me feel when I talk to myself this way?” What could you practice saying instead?
4) Then, ask, “Who would I be, and what would I do without those negative patterns/thoughts/beliefs?” Do you think you would feel better about yourself? Would you try something you’ve always wanted to try?
5) Find your strengths and stop comparing yourself to others. List your strengths on a piece of paper. Noticing strengths is how we start to believe in ourselves.
We get in our own way, and we can be unforgiving. If you can take these steps for yourself to grow and learn, and give yourself some grace, imagine how you can change your life, and your body image. Not just for the new year but for the long term.