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June 7, 2024 5 Min Read

Learn How To Cultivate A Positive Body Image

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Our relationship with our body can significantly impact the health of our mind and spirit, simultaneously influencing things like our identity, self-worth, and well-being. When left unacknowledged, poor body image can contribute to subconscious behaviors that negatively impact long-term health and the way we connect with others. In the workplace, poor body image can affect our confidence or prevent us from valuing our worth, asking for a raise, taking risks, or speaking up in meetings.

By bringing to light the different aspects and influences of our personal body image, we can begin to free ourselves from patterns that are holding us back from living our lives to the fullest! Let’s learn how.


Reflect on where your body image stems from

Sometimes, our body image can begin to form as a young child. Common influences include:

  • Watching how our parents/guardians/siblings related to their body
  • Eating patterns encouraged or required by our parents/guardians (for example, “clean plate club” or restriction)
  • Media exposure
  • Sports and growing up in athletics
  • School bullying
  • Traumatic experience(s)

These experiences as a young child tend to get stored in our subconscious mind and influence our thoughts and behaviors as adults. For example, a person, place, or event may trigger a childhood memory and influence us to respond or act a certain way. Consider the following:

  • Has a weight loss challenge – or just the thought of it – led to feelings of shame, or inadequacy (not feeling “good enough”)?
  • Does seeing a child at a friend’s house or at a restaurant being forced to finish their food cause feelings of anxiety or nervousness?

Perhaps you’ve noticed that your body image has changed in your adult years. Consider if you find yourself relating to your body in a way you never have before based on factors like social media, influences at work, societal pressure, gym culture, behaviors of those close to you (family members, friends, colleagues), changes to your body that may be age or hormone-related, etc. Interested in gaining more awareness of the origins of your thoughts and behaviors? Try journaling, meditation, or working with a therapist or coach.


Create an environment that encourages positive body image

Once you have a better sense of your body image, create an environment that will support the relationship you’re working towards with your body, such as:

  • Disengage or limit social media (including unfollowing people or accounts that trigger negative thoughts or behaviors)
  • Set boundaries with family, friends, or coworkers who share their negative body image patterns with you
  • Find movement that brings you joy
  • Encourage movement to celebrate what your body can do and how it creates joy, rather than using it as a punishment
  • Avoid labeling food as “good” or “bad”
  • Rather than commenting on looks, put the focus elsewhere. Examples:
    • “You’re so strong!”
    • “He/She looks so happy.”
    • “I love the way they said that, what a great idea.”
  • Be mindful of the way you speak about your body in front of your kids.


Make proactive changes in the workplace that support positive body image

Finally, consider how much time you spend in your workplace, and ask yourself: is my professional environment supporting or harming my body image? Workplace-specific actions you can take may include:

  • Avoid or reframe common small talk around negative body image or food patterns. (Instead of: “Today’s my cheat day” or “I’ll work it off in the gym tomorrow morning.” try: “I’m looking forward to a new strength training class tomorrow!” or “I love the cinnamon they used in this cake.”)
  • Choose team bonding activities that don’t center around food (think escape rooms, paint nights, trivia contests)
  • Avoid “weight loss challenges” 
  • Offer safe spaces for support groups and options for professional support
  • Commit to using inclusive imagery and content that showcases bodies of all shapes and sizes

Acknowledging your body image origin stories and patterns is hard work and often uncomfortable. However, when we endure, we will not only enrich our own lives, but create the potential to positively influence and accommodate those around us.

Connect with TaskHuman Coach Haley Smith and other Coaches to help you create an environment of self-love and support.

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