By Paige Caine
Creative Writing Editor
In my creative writing class, we keep a box of plush “snowballs” to throw at any writer who insults his or her own work. Anyone who utters a “this isn’t very good,” or an “I’m sorry I know it could be better” is immediately pelted with the toys and forced to take back their comment and compliment themselves. It may sound silly, but it actually helps us have more confidence in our work.
Unfortunately, at some point we have to leave the safety of that classroom, and we’re faced with the same insecurities the rest of the world has to deal with - body image. Teens today, girls in particular but guys as well, are extremely vulnerable to low self-esteem and body image issues, and there isn’t always someone around to throw a plush snowball and convince us to love ourselves. I wish there was, but there just isn’t.
Instead, we need to love ourselves on our own, and so I pose a challenge to all my readers out there to take 30 days and practice these 30 positive body image ideas. It’s just a month. And hey, maybe by the end you’ll find some that work for you. Just remember; you are worth it.
1. Fake it till you make it
Okay, so clearly we’re not all starting this challenge by being 100 percent confident in our bodies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend we are. If you act like you love your body, sooner or later you’re gonna start believing. So for tip one of our month of positivity, I challenge you to plaster on a smile that says I LOVE MYSELF.
2. Make a list of ten things you like about yourself
Alright, maybe you don’t exactly have the best thigh-gap or the skinniest waist line, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things about you worth celebrating. Maybe you make a mean grilled cheese sandwich or can hold your breath underwater longer than anyone. That stuff matters too! But make sure to include at least three things on your list about your body as well. While you’re mentally subtracting calories in the mirror every morning, you have to notice those stunning eyes or that fluffy hair as well. 3. Read that list every day
Now that you have this list, it’s time to put it to work. Print it out or, better yet, handwrite a bunch of copies, and put them everywhere. You want this list on your bathroom mirror, above your bed, in your locker at school - anywhere and everywhere so that you’ll see it every single day.
4. Recognize that YOUR opinion is the only one that matters
It’s easy to start basing your self-worth off of what your mom says or what the cute guy in your math class thinks, but the reality is that none of that matters. The only important opinion is your own, so as soon as you recalibrate your goals from impressing everybody to impressing yourself, you’ll start feeling happier. Plus, chances are the boy from math class is too caught up in his own insecurities to even notice anything “wrong” with you.
5. Really LOOK the next time you’re in a public place
Everybody thinks they’re the only person in the world to have such devastating body issues, but take a look around! The “perfect body” is not as common as television shows and magazines would have us believe. But, if you’ll notice, a lot of people with “flaws” actually wear them quite well.
6. Stop comparing yourself to others
I know, I know, you’ve been hearing this mantra since grade school, but that’s because it’s true. It may be easier said than done, but now is the time to suck it up, put on your big girl panties, and do it! We are all different people! That skinny girl with the perfect waist probably has a higher metabolism than you, and that super tall guy is probably wishing he had your hair. We are all beautiful in our own unique way; you just have to start recognizing that.
7. Start a daily journal
Getting in touch with your emotions is the first step to improving them. Set aside a few minutes a day, even ten, and just write a paragraph or two. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, iit just has to be something.
8. End each journal entry with something positive
Now, I know I said that anything goes for the journal entry, but you should make a point of ending each entry with something happy. Even if it’s something silly, it’ll still help you to have a more positive outlook on your life.
9. Focus only on what you can change
You don’t have any control over how tall you’re going to be or how many freckles you have, so don’t waste your time thinking about that. But weight? Hair color? Grades? These are things you can work on! Put your energies there.
You don’t have to run a marathon or bench 150, but how about going for a short, slow jog or a quick swim? As long as you did something, you’ll start feeling better about yourself. Plus, exercising releases endorphins, and that makes you happier!
11. Set reasonable, performance-centered goals
“I want to lose ten pounds” is NOT a positive goal. Instead, set your goals with gains in mind, such as “I want to be able to do 15 pushups” or “I want to be able to run a mile without stopping.” These are much easier to measure, and will give you a better sense of accomplishment. Just remember to keep it reasonable; you’re not gonna suddenly be able to sprint five miles overnight.
12. Make a vow to stop fad dieting
Fad dieting does not work. Ever. There is no magic trick that will help you lose weight; if there was, we’d have found it by now. Instead, fad diets tend to help you lose weight super fast, then immediately gain it back, and feel terrible about yourself. The only diet I’ve ever found that works is something my Grandfather told me once: “Eat less, do more.” It’s that simple.
13. Sleep naked for a night
It may sound random, but studies show that people who sleep naked have higher self-esteem and a more positive body image. So, just for a night, ditch those PJs and give it a shot! If anything, spending that time with just you and your body in a relaxed state should help you to start accepting yourself.
14. Avoid media that is image-oriented
Have you ever finished a fashion magazine and felt good about yourself? Turned off America’s Next Top Model without the waves of self-loathing? Don’t look at those. Instead, read the news, the lifestyle section, or even Womxn Magazine!
15. Learn to accept compliments
I bet people say nice things to you everyday, but you just don’t notice because you tune them out. Next time someone says they like your shirt, don’t just shrug it off. Smile, say thank you, and believe them. They’re probably right.
16. Schedule more you-time
We spend way too much time trying to be productive, and dealing with other people, but you know who your best friend should be? Yourself. I encourage you to read a good book, take a long bath, or just do anything that makes you feel good. You don’t always need to be impressing someone else.
17. Say one positive thing to your reflection every morning
It may seem cheesy, and you’ll probably feel a little stupid doing it at first, but I guarantee you this one works. Just take a deep breath, stare that mirror straight in the eye, and say “You are beautiful.”
18. But if mirrors make you sad, avoid them!
What do you accomplish by staring at your reflection for hours on end, dissecting every flaw? Anyone who says they can think of something is lying, because the answer is… nothing! For a day, look at the mirror just long enough to brush your teeth and get yourself ready, but then, STOP. For the rest of the day, don’t check your reflection. I promise, you look fine.
19. Treat yourself like you treat your friends
Would you talk to your friends the way you talk to yourself? How about to a stranger? Of course not! This is because all of that negative self-talk is mean! From now on, try only saying things to yourself that you’d say to a friend. It’s just good manners.
20. Dress well
If you are holding off buying that new pair of jeans till you're a size two, stop. Right now, go out and buy yourself clothes that fit, not “goal-clothes.” Maybe pick up a scarf or two while you’re there too - anything to make you feel like you look good.
21. Volunteer to help someone
No, I’m not just saying that because this is an our magazine has a focus on activism. Helping someone actually does make you feel good about yourself, so give it a shot! Help the neighbor-kid with his homework, do the dishes for your mom, donate to a food drive, and just start giving.
22. Avoid conversations about appearance
“Does this skirt make me look fat?” “How are my eyebrows?” “Is my eyeliner even?” “I’ve been exercising; can you tell?” Be honest, we all do it. However, conversations like these really aren't any fun. Next time you see a friend, try talking about how you both feel, not how you look.
23. Find a purpose
You know who doesn’t have time to worry about insecurities? People who are focused on accomplishing something! Get up, get out of the house, and find something to occupy yourself.
24. Try new things
You may not be the best at soccer, but just because that’s what you’re playing in gym doesn’t mean it’s the only sport out there. For all you know, you could be fantastic at golf. Or, throw out sports all together and try jewelry-making. There are plenty of skills out there, and you’re bound to be good at a few of them, so why not give it a shot?
25. Think about how you feel, not how you look
Exercise is not about looking your best, it’s about being healthy. If you feel good, and have the energy to make it through the day, consider yourself in shape!
26. Consider therapy
Our society has a stigma against therapists, and you have to be “crazy” to see one, but that isn’t the case. Sometimes it’s good just to have an objective voice to go over your day with, and to help you do away with any negative self talk, even if there’s nothing “wrong” with you. I have plenty of perfectly sane friends, mostly teens but adults too, who regularly visit the therapist’s chair. Personally, I make it a point to check in every now and again just to make sure I’m doing okay.
27. Spend time with people who leave you feeling happy
This sounds like common sense, but just stop and think for a moment about how you feel leaving each one of your friends. Sure, maybe Samantha tells the best jokes, but if she’s always making comments about the shape of your nose and getting you down, stop talking to her. Take a moment every time you finish talking with a friend and ask yourself, “do I feel better or worse than before I spoke to this person?” If the answer is worse, it’s time to find some new friends.
28. Go for a walk
In addition to getting in that feel-good exercise, going for a walk is a great way to slow down and think. Smell the flowers, watch some birds, and just… relax. You’ll notice that none of the animals in nature are worried about their bodies.
29. Get more sleep
Okay, I know you that have homework, college applications, Suzie’s party tonight, and you just have to finish that Walking Dead marathon, but sleep is important too, and studies show most teenagers aren’t getting anywhere near enough. You should be getting around eight to ten hours of sleep a night, so no wonder you’re cranky! Try dedicating more time to catching those Z’s, and I promise you’ll start feeling happier.
30. Write another list
Congratulations! Now that you’ve tried all these methods of feeling better about yourself, it’s time to write another list. But this time, don’t stop at ten. Write as many positive things about yourself as you can think of, and hang that list up on the wall. Every time you think of something new or get a compliment, add it to the list.
31. Love yourself!