Most of us, sad to say, could focus on a long list of things that are wrong with our bodies and find very little nice to say. When images of thin, gorgeous women with flawless hair and skin are used to sell everything from cosmetics to dog food, those of us who are pretty much average can feel, some days, like we should leave the house with a paper bag over our heads.
Supermodels are abnormal: We don't watch elite athletes and think, "Why can't I dunk a basketball like that? I'm worthless!" and get really depressed and vow to prepare for our NBA tryout the next day. Why should we do the same about our looks when confronted with, say, an Angelina Jolie?
Your partner thinks you're just fine: And if he/she doesn't, dump that dude fast. Men tend to look at a woman's silhouette, while we look at ourselves like that butcher's diagram of meat cuts, a collection of individual parts. And they tend to be way, way, WAY easier on how we look than we are on ourselves. My husband, whose eyesight is presumably fine, frequently tells me I am beautiful or pretty or cute, when in fact I maybe crack the surface of "cute" on my best day (thanks, sweetie!).
Get moving: Exercising is a great way to focus on what your body can do, not just how it looks. Achieving pigeon pose or breaking a 9-minute mile can make you feel like you rule the world, no matter your size.
Get sex-ay: Cellulite and stretch marks in no way impede your ability to get enormous pleasure from your body; same goes for your partner. That post-coital glow turns everyone into a gorgeous goddess.
Focus on your assets: My thighs make me unhappy and this heat and humidity are doing me no favors looks-wise, but I have nice strong legs and great shoulders, and a great smile. You've got something gorgeous about yourself too, maybe great skin, or a lovely long neck, or cute toes. Next time you get in a downward spiral, think about what works and not what doesn't.
Take a cue from older women: At the Y I belong to, there's usually a water exercise class getting out around the time I'm hitting the showers that draws mostly older women. While I'm self-consciously covering myself with a towel and scuttling to the showers so no one gets a good look, they're lolling around naked in the sauna and having entire conversations with each other, and sometimes total strangers, without a stitch on. There are scars from c-sections and mastectomies, there are sagging bellies, there is cellulite -- and they are magnificent. They are just so comfortable in these bodies they've worn for decades and so okay with being seen, in spite of what some see as flaws. I want to be like them, and I don't plan to wait until I'm retired to achieve that level of comfort.
Do you struggle with a healthy body image? How do you handle it?
Image via erin MC Hammer/Flickr