How to Read Your Body Language
Talking to Yourself Affects How You Feel
By Michelle Fiordaliso, psychotherapist and certified nutritional consultant
When I was sixteen, my mother asked me if I wanted a nose job or a sweet sixteen party. When I was in college, my roommate said, “Nice cellulite,” while I was changing my clothes. And an ex-boyfriend, on a day when I was plagued with a particularly bad case of pre-menstrual belly bloat, said I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. (He quickly followed it up with how much he'd want to sleep with the Pillsbury Doughboy, but that just made it worse for all sorts of reasons.)
People judge their own — and one another's — bodies and appearances. It just happens. And it can be so obviously offensive when someone criticizes your body. What can be less obvious, however, is how damaging it is when you do this to yourself. And many of us do so all day long, and in the most unimaginably harsh ways.
How do you talk to yourself about your body? If a friend spoke to you in the ways you speak to yourself, would you be horrified, hurt or upset? It's common knowledge that the most attractive quality in a person is his or her confidence. But you simply can't feel confident if you're constantly criticizing yourself.
The road to confidence is paved with speaking kindly to yourself. Here's how to start:
First off, you'll need to realize where you're at right now. How do you currently speak to yourself? Begin to listen. Really listen. Are you always attacking one part of your body? Do you roll your eyes in resignation when you look in the mirror? Do you put your body down in front of others? You can't possibly have a good body image and speak to yourself negatively — period. It just won't ever add up. As cliché as it sounds, awareness really is half the battle.
A common behavior modification technique is wearing a rubber band on your wrist and snapping it when you catch yourself doing the unwanted behavior or having the unwanted thought. However, most people have already hurt themselves enough with their self-talk — the last thing they need is physical punishment. A preferable course of action is actually more gentleness and more appreciation.
When you notice negative self-talk, stop. Then, apologize to yourself (yes, as corny as it sounds, you do owe yourself an apology), and then appreciate something that you love about yourself. There is always something to appreciate. Even if it's just the fact that your legs walk. Your lungs breathe. Or that you can feel pleasure where it matters.
The foundation for any good relationship is communication. And the relationship with your body is no different. If you nag and browbeat a boyfriend, he's bound to feel bad about himself and eventually come to resent you. The affection will wither. You can't cut your body down and expect to feel good. It's fine if you use your observations and dissatisfaction to guide your actions. For example, if you notice that your arms look better when you lift weights twice a week, go for it. But, beyond that, adopt the old adage: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
After you've spoken to yourself in an encouraging way for a while, a significant shift is likely to occur. You will be more accustomed to noticing what you like about yourself and less focused on your imperfections. Women of all sizes feel good about how they look and women of all sizes feel horrible about how they look. How you feel has very little to do with how you actually look and everything to do with how you speak to yourself in your head. Consciously shifting your internal dialog is the key component that will lead to the acceptance and confidence you crave.
For more advice from Michelle Fiordaliso, visit her website, here.
Be kind to the gorgeous woman you see in the mirror. She deserves it.altrendo images/Getty Images