Your body doesn’t define you. Here’s how to gain some appreciation for everything it does for you.

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You only get one body, but loving it can be a challenge. Society puts a lot of pressure on people to be perfect, and that pressure can be even greater for women.

Under the constant scrutiny of societal expectations, it can be hard to accept parts of yourself that are harmless but seen as cosmetic “flaws.”

Things like cellulite, stretch marks, rolls, and scars are perfectly natural, yet they may weigh heavily on your self-esteem due to million-dollar industries whose job is to convince you they need fixing.

The body positivity movement is clapping back at these impossible beauty standards by calling out:

  • magazines and celebrities for photoshopping their images
  • social media filters and influencers for skewing reality
  • brands for failing to represent all bodies in their marketing campaigns
  • capitalism for making body issues profitable

Accepting yourself is the ultimate response.

Body positivity is a social movement that encourages the acceptance of all bodies, which come in a range of sizes and shapes.

It primarily focuses on body size but also encourages acceptance of all skin tones, genders, and disabilities. Anyone with a marginalized body can take solace in body positivity. Especially the acceptance of plus-size women and women of color.

The movement originated in the 1960s, but the term “body positivity” was introduced in the 1990s. It began as a fat acceptance movement rooted in social justice, and it’s still going strong (and needed) today.

One-third of the population is fat, yet discrimination based on body size still remains an issue, according to the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

There’s a misconception that body positivity promotes unhealthy habits, but this isn’t true.

Body positivity encourages loving your body in all its states, and part of showing yourself care is adopting practices that are good for you. But it shies away from restrictive eating habits, over-exercising, and forcing yourself to change in order to accept your body.

Manage that inner voice and turn it into a productive way to increase body acceptance. Consider the tips below to help you improve your relationship with your body.

1. Stop comparing yourself to others

When you’re constantly faced with seemingly perfect people — on television, social media, and magazine covers — it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. You may ask yourself, “Why don’t I look like that?” But that won’t get you very far.

Social media is a huge culprit for comparing yourself to others. According to a 2021 study, social media is shown to decrease appearance self-esteem in young girls. Researchers found that viewing others’ posts on social media can reduce self-esteem.

So, is the solution to get off social media? For some people, maybe, but it’s not your only option.

When you stop comparing yourself to others and remind yourself that every body is different, you can grow to accept and appreciate your own remarkable body.

2. Do activities that make you feel good about yourself

Doing and wearing certain things may be hindering you from accepting your body. Try to show yourself kindness by pivoting.

Participating in activities that don’t bring you joy and only doing them as a way to try to change your appearance can affect your mental health. Try to replace these activities with those you love, such as doing yoga or adopting a skin care routine.

You can also apply this thinking to clothes. When you wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself, you build your confidence and see your body in a whole new light.

3. Find inspiration in bodies that look like yours

One way that social media usage can be helpful is that you have some autonomy over the content you engage with.

Consider unfollowing and unsubscribing from pages that make you feel negatively toward yourself, and replace them with content creators that uplift you.

It’s even more helpful if those creators look like you. This normalizes bodies that look like yours because they are natural.

2021 research of 29 adolescents between 15 and 16 years old in Dublin, Ireland, sought to identify the connection between increased social media use and its influence on body image.

Studies indicate that appearance comparisons with peers, social media influencers, and celebrities were identified as the main sources of body dissatisfaction on social media.

But according to a large 2019 study, of women ages 18 to 30, body-positive content on social media can increase mood and improve young women’s body image.

4. Appreciate the marvelous things your body is capable of

The purpose of your body isn’t to look a certain way. Instead, your body does certain things.

Some bodies may have physical limitations, and that’s okay. Focus on what your body can do instead of the way it looks or the things it can’t do.

The human body is capable of some remarkable things, some of which include:

  • healing broken bones
  • creating another life
  • producing billions of new cells every day to replace old ones
  • distinguishing between thousands of different scents and colors
  • pumping millions of barrels of blood throughout your lifetime

Your body carries you through life. It even compensates for disabilities, making some senses stronger when others are weaker. When you think about the incredible things your body can do and does on a daily basis, its appearance becomes trivial.

5. Turn negative self-talk into positive self-talk

What you say to yourself matters. Speaking negatively about your body is unhelpful, especially about things you can’t change.

It’s unrealistic to go from “I hate my scars” to “I love my scars,” but you can slowly work your way toward acceptance. It may be more helpful to be neutral toward body issues — “My scars are a part of me, and they represent my history.”

Everyone is critical of themselves, and that can sometimes motivate or challenge you. But if your inner monologue is mostly critical, negative self-talk can become harmful to your mental health and limit your ability to accept your body.

Negative self-talk can sound like “I’m not good enough” and “I need to change my appearance to love myself.” There are many ways we put ourselves down internally, and this isn’t productive.

The end goal is to accept yourself how you are now, and negative self-talk increases feelings of shame instead of worthiness.

Being too harsh on yourself can even get in the way of healthy habits. Self-criticism was significantly associated with negative well-being, according to an April 2017 study. Researchers found that self-reassurance had a better effect on well-being and weight management.

Everyone has insecurities and imperfections, but that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating your body and all it’s capable of.

Magazine covers, social media, and marketing have a way of feeding your insecurities and even introducing new ones.

Taking a step back from consuming these materials can help ground you and realize that it’s natural to have flaws and that they’re part of the human experience.

Accepting your body may not happen overnight, but you can learn to appreciate it more day by day. You can start today by adopting small habits like changing your social media usage and doing activities that are good for you and bring you joy.