Let’s Talk: Body Confidence

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Let's Talk: Body Confidence

I read an article recently about the positive impact of a strong friendships between women (as opposed to the behind-the-back slandering that, unfortunately, most of us are guilty of doing). It made me think a lot about how an individual’s confidence with his/herself effects the way we treat others. From a personal perspective, I can feel when I’ve been around pessimistic “negative Nancies” for too long and my own thoughts start swaying towards “glass half empty.”

Honestly, it drives me crazy. I am a fairly optimistic and enthusiastic person, and I want to be perceived that way. When people talk about me–either to my face or behind my back–I want them to define me by my positive traits. I’ve realized that if that’s the case, I need to be positive and exude my true spirit and passion to the world.

This isn’t easy, though. This has been a case study for me for a few months, monitoring how I react to others and how they react to me. What I’ve learned is that all energy, both positive and negative, is contagious. I’ve also learned my own mood is almost directly coorelated with how I’m feeling about myself at the moment. If I just finished a great run or had an invigorating conversation with a close friend, I’m going to be bubbling over with happy. If someone just shared a sad story or every little thing seems to be going wrong with my day, I’m not going to be quite as perky.

The way I react to my environment also effects how my environment reacts to me. A mere infliction of tone or sincere attentiveness to can make the difference between truly engaging with someone or being just another overlooked face in the crowd. I want to be a person who leaves a beneficial impact.

As a result, I am trying more to think positively about myself in an effort to positively impact those around me. If you’re interested in trying this out for yourself, here are some tips:

Exercise. When I exercise, I try and set attainable goals for myself that I want to accomplish. At one point in my life, it was to run a 5K race, and as I grew stronger and gained endurance I ran a 10K, then a 15K, a half-marathon, and finally a marathon (twice). Both the training and the accomplishing of these goals–step by step–helped me feel better about myself and my body. I didn’t look in the mirror and see the imperfections or soft squishy spots: I saw a powerful body that could run for hours and conquer any challenge in its path. I find that checkpoints (doing more push-ups now than I could a few months ago; working my way from a 9 minute mile to an 8:30 mile) is infinitely more rewarding and satisfying than pushing through an exercise just to “look better.” By focusing more on how great it feels to hold a plank pose for a long time instead of just trying to get washboard abs, the emphasis is on what you do well and instead of what you wish your body looked like. Flipping that mental switch makes a huge difference.

– Surround yourself with positive people. Think about how many times you’ve had a girlfriend say, “Oh my gosh, my ass is HUGE,” or “Geez, am I a fattie or what?” You instantly retaliate: “C’mon, your ass is not huge”; “Seriously? You are not fat!” This is what they want. It is a worm on the hook, fishing for compliments because they lack self-confidence when they look into the mirror. While we are pretty much all guilty of this at one point or another, I’ve a feeling you know someone in your life that does this to you ALL. THE. TIME. YHow can you tell someone you don’t think their arms are flabby when they insist that they are? It’s a useless battle, and in the end, I grow frustrated trying to convince people that they are perfect the way they are when they don’t believe it themselves.

On the contrary, you probably also know someone who is dishing out genuine compliments to people all the time: “My God! Those shoes are fantastic!” “You, ma’am, are having an awesome hair day.” Now, don’t you want to be best friends with that person? Yes, yes you do. You can also be that person. Give someone a truthful compliment out of the blue, and just watch their whole demeanor brighten. It truly transforms people, and it’s incredible to be in the midst of that positivity all the time. It will catch on, and the goodness will grow. Once you’ve tackled that, start focusing in on yourself: you are a beautiful person, too, and you need to remind yourself about all the positive traits that you have, and all the parts of your body and mind that you love. You’ll find that confidence bubble inflating once again, and looking in the mirror won’t be as intimidating as it might’ve once been.

– Wear clothes that make you feel sexy. It doesn’t have to be scandalous. It can be a favorite pair of jeans, that “just right” t-shirt, or maybe a pair of earrings that remind you of a good memory. These things can brighten your day, and you will carry yourself confidently. Tell yourself: “Damn, I look fine! I am rocking these wool socks like nobody else!” If you look good, you feel good, you do good. That feeling of putting together the perfect outfit will translate into your body language, and people will pick up on that. Make a note of the clothes that make you feel good when you wear them, and keep them close when you need a boost.

– Forgive yourself. This one I find really difficult to do, but I think it’s important for good mental health. If you eat too much, skip a few workout days, binge in front of the TV...let it go. Take a walk, a few deep breaths, and find some peace with yourself. We all slip up, and where would the fun be in life if we didn’t make mistakes? The key I’ve found is making a mental note about why you are frustrated with yourself and how you will avoid the situation in the future. This as saved me from many a “workplace treat,” like when someone brings in doughnuts or a gazillion cookies for no reason. I used to always indulge, until I noticed that I would hit a roadblock a half-hour later and feel incredibly guilty for basically throwing self-restraint out the window. At this point, I’ve been hit by that sick, groggy, slugglish feeling enough times to help me learn from it. I know if I eat too much sugar during the day, I will feel like 110% total crap. Now I recall those feelings of guilt and upset stomach before reaching for a cupcake. If the goodie is worth it, I let myself enjoy it and set a boundary before I am four cupcakes deep and reaching for the fifth. If I decide eating something isn’t worth the sugar coma that follows, I focus more on how proud I am for resisting temptation and knowing my body appreciates my healthy choice.

Hopefully you can find a technique or two that helps you feel better about yourself, your body, and your energy. The more you practice and do something that works for you, you’ll build a better life for yourself and those around you. Now, who doesn’t want that?

What works for you? Share it with me if you’d like!

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