How to Undo Years of Body Image Conditioning – A Self-Love Toolkit

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A Curvy Swimwear Guest Blog by Caitlin Robertson


Hands up if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and hated a part of the body reflected back at you?

Keep them up if the number on the scales has ever made you cry?

If you’ve flicked through a magazine or scrolled through insta, comparing yourself to the ‘beautiful’, ‘perfect’ women and thought of all the ways that you are not?

You’re not alone girl.

Growing up in Australia in the 90’s I was taught to believe that there was a recipe for what makes a woman ‘beautiful’. She should be slim (obviously), white (but have a killer tan), have long flowing locks (blonde was best - according to the covers of my favourite magazines) and have legs for days.

And if you didn’t meet this standard? Well then, you’re less than. Unworthy. Not good enough.

How many of us resonate with these phrases?

It’s taken me 30 years, a mild quarter life crisis and a new career as a Model and Self Love and Body Confidence Coach for me to begin to undo years of conditioning around body image and the messaging of what makes a person beautiful. To come to a place of acceptance and love for my body and all that it does for me. I’ve learnt some pretty nifty tools and techniques along the way that have become a part of my self-love toolkit that I reach for when I need some extra body lovin’.

How does the media condition us to hate our bodies?

If we take a quick look at some of the messaging I received as a young girl, it’s not hard to see how we become conditioned to pick on ourselves and hate on our bodies. To find and hone in on every little perceived ‘flaw’, leaving us feeling uncomfortable living life in a body that is not celebrated as ‘ideal’.

Magazine before and after’s and bikini body shaming

Ah such staple articles in the mags that found their way into my house on a weekly basis and littered the hairdressers and doctors surgeries of my childhood. Let’s ask a world of readers to judge and criticize a woman for daring to show her body on the beach, enjoying her life. Let’s pick her to pieces! Cellulite, rolls, ribs, stretch marks, body hair, oh my! If she’s gained weight, let’s attack and vilify her. If she’s lost weight, it’s a cause for celebration. Unless she’s lost too much weight, then that’s not ‘healthy’ either. Please tell me where you see room for girls and women to learn that all bodies are beautiful and should be accepted and loved?

A lack of representation in the media

If you went looking for a positive female role model in a TV show or movie of a happy, accepted and celebrated character that had a body type that wasn’t slim before the 2000’s, you’d be searching for a while. One that really stands out for me is the ‘Fat Monica’ character in Friends.

While ‘current day Monica’ is slim, beautiful and worthy of a healthy dating life, Fat Monica was made fun of for everyday things like eating, dancing and her sex life. I watch those episodes now and think to myself, this woman is barely a size 16! And I was encouraged to laugh at this character for living life in a body deemed embarrassing and outrageous, simply because she didn’t fit our narrow ideals.

Promoting weight loss and unrealistic body standards

Photoshop manipulation, hourglass Barbie dolls, weight loss programs and products (that have zero intention of making you a healthier and happier version of yourself long term) ‘who wore it better’ articles and social media comparison. Just a handful of the ways women (and men) have faced an uphill battle to love on themselves and their bodies.

But now you’re here. You’ve made it through an upbringing of fat phobia, covering up those thighs and are now learning to love yourself and the amazing body you’re in (insert deserved applause here!). Thank goodness we are making incredible strides in terms of representation and diversity in the media, but having a few tools up your sleeve to whip out when the mean girl in your head pipes up is invaluable.

Your Self Love Toolkit

Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are such a simple but effective tool. Start by choosing a few positive statements that really resonate with your desired state or how you’d like to think about yourself. Even if you don’t feel that way right now. I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am capable. I am deserving. I love my body. I listen to my body.

It might seem silly or even difficult to begin with, but stick with it. I have found repeating affirmations, particularly while making eye contact in the mirror, can be extremely powerful. And you don’t need to believe 100% in what you’re saying straight away. Don’t put the pressure on yourself that saying “I am beautiful” or “I am loved” a couple of times will undo years of body hating, like magic. This is a gentle, loving process and can be a daily reminder of just how incredible you truly are.

Catching Negative Thoughts

Do you ever hear that mean girl in your head saying nasty things? “You can’t wear that”, “you’re not smart enough to get that job”, “you’re not good enough to date that person” (she can be a real biatch can’t she?!). Catching yourself when these stories start running through your mind is a great skill to develop.

Firstly acknowledge that you’ve had the thought. Don’t judge yourself or try to work on it, simply acknowledge that it’s come up for you. Secondly, evaluate it - is it true? Where is the evidence? If there isn’t any (which is highly likely), consider the alternatives. What is true? “I can wear that dress because it makes me feel happy”, “I am smart enough to get that job and I am great at what I do”, “I am deserving of an incredible relationship and I am allowed to get to know this person”. Go on, give it a go!

Cleansing or Curating your Social Media

Sometimes we follow people who inspire us, thinking, “yes, I love their message and what they’re about”, but that inspiration can quickly turn to comparison, leaving you feeling icky and not good enough. Sure, we’re all going to have good days and more difficult days when it comes to our self worth. But here’s my rule of thumb, if you watch someone's stories or see a post and you get that pit in your stomach, or lump in your throat, thinking they’re so much better than you, prettier than you, more successful - they’ve got to go. Don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by unfollowing? Easy, just ‘mute’ their account!

Move Your Body

Get moving girl! Move that body of yours in a way that feels good and is enjoyable for you. There’s no point slugging it out at the gym if you’re hating every second of it! Physical exercise is an amazing way to move stagnant energy built up in the body that might be bringing you down. Whether it’s dancing around your room, tennis, yoga, swimming, walking the dog or kayaking, try an old favourite or something completely new and see how you feel afterwards.

Gratitude and Touch

Learning to speak kind words and give loving touch to your body would have to be the best self love tools I have learnt and routinely practice. When you find yourself having those negative or mean thoughts about a particular body part, that’s when you get to make the choice to give it love. Let’s say you’re feeling bloated and you’re hating on your tummy, place your hands over your tum and gently hold or caress it. Then think of something you’re grateful for that that body part does for you. “Thank you for digesting my food”, “Thank you for growing my babies”, “thank you for protecting my organs”. This practice can be particularly powerful if you’re sitting in front of the mirror and really looking at and appreciating each body part while in your underwear, swimwear or even naked.

Hopefully you’ve learnt some new tools here to implement into your self love routine! Remember, be kind to yourself. Don’t dismay if you feel yourself falling back into patterns or habits. Come back to this article and perhaps screenshot your favourite tools so they’re readily accessible on your phone.

You’ve absolutely got this!

1 comment

  • Brenda Carter

    I’m glad to you have my size in the beautiful swimsuits

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