Q | I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, but I still feel insecure about my body. Any advice?
A | Improving your overall fitness leads to a host of physical, mental, and emotional benefits — but it doesn’t automatically boost body confidence. The problem, it turns out, is often more than mirror-deep.
“An important thing to remember when it comes to loving your body is that body insecurity is rarely about what your body looks like,” says Molly Galbraith, CSCS, personal trainer and cofounder of the body-positive strength-training website Girls Gone Strong. “If that were the case, then changing your body would change how you feel about yourself, and that just isn’t always true.”
Galbraith offers these strategies to level up your body confidence:
Choose your words wisely. How you think or talk about yourself is important. Your inner and outer dialogue determine your self-perception — for better or for worse.
If your thoughts are critical or mean-spirited, the first step to changing the script is to build awareness. Recognize the words you use to describe yourself, pause, and make a mental note of them. Once you start paying attention, your language might change organically; if not, you can choose to say something different.
That change can be challenging, so take it easy on yourself, says Galbraith. “Switching from ‘My cellulite is so gross!’ to ‘I love my legs!’ may feel like too big of a stretch.” Instead, start with something neutral: “Replace ‘My cellulite is so gross!’ with, ‘This is what my legs look like today — and that’s OK.’” Simply removing inflammatory words from your inner narrative will help your relationship with your body shift from a negative to a more neutral space.
As you get comfortable honoring the way your body looks now, put words to the aspects of your body you genuinely enjoy. Remember that body confidence isn’t necessarily tied to aesthetics: Give your body full credit for what it does, whether it’s running around the block with your dog or squatting 150 pounds. This will boost your confidence, too.
Diversify your peer group. Not only are we influenced by societal expectations of how we “should” look, but we also pick up on language cues from friends, family, and coworkers. In other words, if our real-life and social-media circles tend to be negative, we’ll likely mirror that attitude.
To counteract that, seek out and befriend people with differing backgrounds and experiences who share your values. Be intentional with your social-media feed, and curate who you follow, steering clear of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts that are judgmental or shaming, as well as those that advocate one “good” or “right” way to look or act.
By increasing your exposure to diverse bodies and abilities, your definition of what is attractive will expand, “which will help increase your own confidence,” says Galbraith.
Recruit a (skilled) outside perspective. Increasing your self-confidence doesn’t have to be a journey you navigate on your own. Talking to a therapist or life coach who is equipped to guide you through the trickiest spots and highest hurdles can be particularly helpful when you need deeper healing.