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Positive Body Image: What it is and How to Build it

You deserve a relationship with your body that centers acceptance and pleasure.

Many people grow up hearing the saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that matters,” and “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In reality, body image and outward appearance matters to many people.

Companies are invested in having you second guess what looks good on you and even what you ‘should or should not’ wear because of your body type and size. The latest fashion style and trends are advertised for certain bodies and designed to not fit others. When popular stores seem to cater to a particular body, it can make everyone else feel forgotten, ignored, and even unattractive.

From using filters on Instagram to taking hundreds of selfies until you are satisfied with one, many people struggle with loving and accepting their body. But, let’s face it, several industries are invested in profiting off of your self-image, self-esteem, and self-love! And they aren’t invested in wanting you to love yourself the way you are now, but in changing and altering the person you are -- so that they benefit from you buying things to make those changes.

What is Positive Body Image?

Having a positive body image is about accepting your body as it is, “flaws” and all. So many things stand in the way of us embracing and loving our bodies including external messaging from the media, cultural stereotypes, and the inner dialogue we have about our bodies.

Believe it or not, the way you dress can impact the way that you feel. And sometimes, what other people say and think will matter to you. The long-term impact of feeling this way can be low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and other mental health concerns.

How to Develop Positive Body Image

Realizing or admitting that you are struggling with body love does not have to be the beginning of self-loathing catastrophe. It can instead be the beginning of acceptance and healing. The journey to self-love and body acceptance is difficult for many, but it is possible! Here are a few ways to start:

Love on your body!

Instead of telling yourself about all the ways that your body is wrong, show yourself compassion and remind yourself of all the things that your body does for you on a daily basis. Show your body the appreciation that it deserves, even if there are things about yourself that you are not happy with. Try to do this especially with areas you are struggling with.

For example, if you are struggling with the size of your thighs, give them some love by massaging them with lotion and being grateful for the movement they allow you to make. Wear clothes that feel great! Invest in pieces that literally feel great on your skin and then move towards items that make you feel great while you wear them. Remind yourself that your body’s job is to keep you alive! When you are being hard on the shape and size of your nose, thank your nose for helping you to breath. Listen to and work with your body so that it continues being healthy and functioning properly.

The more you show love to your body the more you will start to challenge negative messages you believe about your body.

Think of it this way, when you don’t feel great about yourself and your body, you are more likely to treat your body like it isn't great. You may not feel that you deserve to treat yourself well or that you deserve nice things. So imagine how your behaviors may change when you believe that you are worthy!

Embrace body neutrality

Let’s face it--sometimes it’s hard to feel positive about your body because you don’t like what you see in the mirror. We are not asking you to pretend to love your body, it’s normal to honestly not love everything about it. So what do you do in this scenario? Be neutral! Body neutrality is saying “I may not love my body right now, but I’m thankful for the many things it can do and the ways in which it shows up for me.” In other words, the focus is more on accepting your body than loving it.

Move your body and take up space

You may have felt that the messages that your body was not desirable, that you should make yourself small, or even stay hidden and out of the way grew from small whispers to loud screams. One of the best ways to counter that message is to engage in movement and activities affirming that you deserve to take up as much space as anyone else!

Is there something you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t because of embarrassment or shame? Wear the colors and patterns that you enjoy and ignore the ‘stylists’ who say that you should stick to black because it's slimming! Go to the beach and wear a swimsuit without a coverup! Take a pole dance class and be sexy!

Do the things that you have gotten excited about but told yourself, “Oh, people who look like me don’t do that”. Find a community and surround yourself with people who want you to thrive in self-love and help you feel great about yourself. For more ideas, check out A Guide to Sexual Self-Care which includes a section on practicing body appreciation.

Speak it into existence

Start by replacing the negative thoughts that have bruised your ego and self-esteem over the years with positive thoughts and affirmations. You can write these on note cards, add alert reminders to your phone, and say them to yourself while standing in the mirror. Repeat healthy, helpful, and positive sayings that increase your confidence until you start to believe them. With time your belief system will be composed of realistic and balanced thoughts as opposed to ill-fitting messages that make you feel bad about yourself. Your mind can play powerful tricks on you, but you are just as powerful!

Positive Body Image Affirmations

Try starting a body positivity journal and note how you feel about your body on a regular basis and include daily affirmations. Journaling can create a greater level of awareness and help you document your journey to body positivity. Here are a few examples of positive body affirmations to try.

  • I’m thankful for every part of my body and how it works for me.

  • My body was uniquely created for me; there is no other like it.

  • I give myself permission to love my body just as it is.

  • I celebrate every version of my body because it's worth celebrating.

  • I accept my body as it is -- I won’t pick it apart.

The bottom line is that you are beautiful, just the way you are. None of us are perfect but all of the things that make you unique, different, and even imperfect are the things that we end up loving about ourselves and one another the most!

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