Coaching many women lawyers and professionals, I’m consistently struck by the common threads I hear over and over that are, frankly, distressing to me. To set the stage, a typical coaching intake session consists of learning about the clients’ present business generation efforts, whether they are “fishing in the right ponds” and if they have a written business plan, how they are implementing it on a regular basis.
During the course of this process, I learn so much more. I learn about the clients’ perceived obstacles, weaknesses and a ringside view of their challenging day-to-day. Almost without fail, I learn very personal details about their lives, which may include the state of their closest, most intimate relationships, how they feel about their work and their life circumstances.
Mind you, I am not a trained nor licensed psychologist, counselor or social worker though I function as a sounding board, sideline cheerleader and business coach.
Among the insights clients, usually female, share with me is how much they struggle with their physical health in the sense of staying physically fit with their grueling professional schedule. This in evidently leads to some version of “I’m dissatisfied with the way I look” to the point that these negative body image feelings hold them back from targeted networking and from proactively reaching out to targeted qualified prospects.
On occasion, the narrative devolves to “I can’t stand my body,”“ I’ve gained so much weight, I have no confidence and feel so insecure,” until I bring the conversation to the agenda.
To me, it is tragic that women, highly accomplished, seemingly confident and certainly competent, suffer such body image issues that it impedes their professional prosperity.
To define clearly body image, it is:
- How you see yourself when you look in the mirror
- What you believe about your own appearance
- How you feel about your body including your height, shape, weight
- How you feel IN your body, not just how you feel ABOUT your body
Negative Body Image is:
- A distorted perception of your shape
- Feeling self-conscious and anxious about your body
- Feeling uncomfortable and awkward in your body
Positive Body Image is:
- A clear perception of your shape
- Appreciating your natural body shape
- Proud and accepting of your unique body and refuse to spend an unreasonable amount of energy worrying about food and weight
- Comfortable and confident in your body
According to a recent NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) study, approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.
So what now?
I have experienced every size from 26-4 in my life and can share from personal experience that a positive body image does not reside with a certain pre-conceived size (which vary greatly from brand to brand). Viewing and feeling beautiful is a choice, a decision to believe we are beautiful and, most importantly, that size nor shape does not define our worth.
Once women come to that recognition, the energy with which they operate is totally different, very uplifting and empowering.
How to shift to a positive body image mindset:
Though one list may not offer the definitive steps for you to turn negative body thoughts into a positive body image, the list below offers healthier ways of perceiving yourself and your body. The more you practice these new thought patterns, the better you will feel about who you are and the body you have been gifted.
- Appreciate all that your body does for you. Every day, your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you – climbing, walking, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself – unrelated to your physical appearance and weight/shape. Review the list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
- Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance and openness that makes you beautiful and approachable. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you — as a whole, confident, empowered woman.
- Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you surround yourself with others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
- Shut down those voices in your head that suggest your body is not ???. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time negative self-talk begins, shut it down. Quickly affirm yourself with a few positive statements that are meaningful for you.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
- Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images and ad slogans that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Guard yourself against negative messages and unfriend the source.
- Be kind to and patient with yourself – do something to show your body that you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap or find a peaceful place to relax.
- Get outside of yourself. Use the time and energy that you may spend worrying about your physical self to do something to help others, acts of service. Reaching out to others can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
I promise, if you employ even half of the techniques above to improve your body image, you will derive more positivity and prosperity into your life. Kimberly Rice