Overcoming Insecurities About Your Body: A Guide to Embracing Self-Acceptance
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In today’s world, we are exposed to more people than previous generations ever believed was possible.
Only a hundred years ago, you were only exposed to photographs and people you could physically see in front of you. Today? We see hundreds, if not thousands, of different people every single day through TV, movies, and social media, along with those we encounter in real life.
With so many options for what a body could look like, you’d think we would have eliminated body insecurities, right?
The market for adjusting our bodies is huge, all in service of making us more ideal, whatever that ideal is. Plastic surgery and non-invasive aesthetic treatments such as lip fillers continue to grow in popularity, with over 30% and 50% increase in a span of four years, respectively.  Global Survey 2021: full report and press releases. (n.d.). ISAPS. https://www.isaps.org/discover/global-survey-2021-full-report-and-press-releases/
Filters and photo editing run rampant. 12-step skincare routines are a hot trend for young girls who have not even hit puberty.
Let’s discuss where insecurity about the body comes from and how to overcome it.
Why do we develop insecurities about our bodies?
It can be hard to identify the first time you ever felt self-conscious about your body. For some of us, we might not even remember a time when we felt free and comfortable in our bodies.
Body shaming, or intentionally making someone feel humiliated or criticized for their body, begins early.
One study showed that even prepubescent children, especially girls, report concerns and bodily dissatisfaction, beginning as young as five years old.  Davison, K. K., Markey, C. N., & Birch, L. L. (2003). A longitudinal examination of patterns in girls’ weight concerns and body dissatisfaction from ages 5 to 9 years. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(3), 320–332. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.10142 These frustrations do not come from the inability to grow butterfly wings or have long and shiny hair, either. Very explicitly, these girls want to be thinner.
A Canadian review of adolescent dieting in English-speaking countries indicated that roughly more than half of teenage girls and one-fifth of teenage boys have attempted weight loss at some point in their lives.  Psychologic and physiologic effects of dieting in adolescents. (2002, September 1). PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12356104/ It’s no wonder that there is such low self-esteem in women and men.
So what happens that makes body dissatisfaction so common at such a young age?
For very young children, the first people they engage with, in any capacity, are their families. Parents and older family members model behaviors for toddlers, who then learn how to be self-critical.
Sometimes, these family members intend to help the child learn about healthy habits, but instead teach the child how to find parts of themselves unworthy.
Those who experience trauma at a young age may look for ways to displace the discomfort of what has happened to them.
Many who have experienced trauma feel tremendously unsafe in their bodies. In some cases, this can lead to highlighting certain behaviors and parts of the body and even blaming them for the trauma.– Alicia Ortega, Therapist-turned mental health writer
This creates an immense amount of shame and fear surrounding embracing the body.
Even before the dawn of iPad kids and social media, people outside the home have influenced how we see ourselves. Many times, when some of us have asked, “Why am I so insecure about my body?” the answer comes from early body shaming in elementary school.
As we get older and pursue romantic relationships, potential partners may highlight certain things they find unattractive, which can make us feel undesirable if we possess those traits.
Examples of common body insecurities
Common body insecurities include:
- Looking or being overweight
- Looking unsculpted or weak, particularly in men
- Looking old
- Certain features being perceived as oversized, such as noses, chins, and ears
- Being flat or heavy-chested
- Acne or birthmarked skin
- Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or vitiligo
- Feeling too tall or too short
- Body hair
How body insecurities affect mental health
Body insecurities can affect mental health when they begin to take over your everyday life.
Body dysmorphic disorder, the clinical term for an overwhelming preoccupation with a perceived flaw in one’s physical appearance, is a diagnosable mental disorder. In delusional cases, the person is merely imagining a flaw. When there is an actual, noticeable difference in that person’s body, the person disproportionately magnifies how much others perceive it.
Those with body dysmorphic disorder will go to great lengths in order to hide or treat their perceived flaw. This can cause some people to become extremely depressed, reclusive, or even, suicidal.– Alicia Ortega, Therapist-turned mental health writer
Many individuals with body dysmorphic disorder will pursue cosmetic surgery to help resolve the issue. Body dysmorphic disorder is classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder, which means that it needs to be addressed in a holistic manner, and not merely physically.
Can body insecurity affect a relationship?
Body insecurity can affect a relationship, especially when the insecurity begins to interfere with daily life.
If you have developed extremely strict rules and rituals around your insecurity, it can be difficult to invite anyone into your world to share life with you.
Additionally, your insecurity can make you feel unworthy of being in a relationship, which can lead to you unconsciously finding ways to sabotage potential new bonds.
6 ways to overcome body insecurities
Here are a few ways to help you stop being insecure about your looks:
Be kind to yourself
Try to remember that at any given moment, your body is doing its best to keep you alive, and that its purpose is not necessarily to get likes on Instagram or get people to be nicer to you.
Ask yourself if the harsh and critical voices in your head are coming from you or if it’s someone else’s voice merely renting out space in your head. Challenge if these mean words are actually true, or if they are opinion-based.
Try body positivity
The body positivity movement posits that all bodies are good bodies. It’s as simple as that.
This movement wants to celebrate you existing in whatever form you do, and challenges the idea that certain bodies should be considered better, ideal, or more worthy of care or value.
Integrate body neutrality
If being body-positive feels too unrealistic, try body neutrality. This approach does not ask you to celebrate or be excited about your body, but rather accept it for what it is.
You don’t have to force yourself to embrace your particular insecurity or throw a parade in honor of yourself. Instead, understand that your insecurity is part of your everyday life and still deserves just as much respect as the rest of your body does, even if you’re not over the moon about it.– Alicia Ortega, Therapist-turned mental health writer
Build your self-esteem and self-worth
Focus on things your body can do, rather than how it looks. Take stock of how important you are to other people and how they value you beyond the way you look. Keep yourself busy with projects that feel good and aligned with who you are.
These actions can help you embrace who you are as a complex, fully-developed person and can get you out of a negativity-focused mindset.
Block and unfollow the haters
Why do you still have your high school bullies on social media?
Why do you fill your feed with influencers who make you feel poor, ugly, and unloveable?
If every time you see these people, it feels like rubbing salt in your self-consciousness wound, it’s time to cut the cancer out.
Block the people who only steal from your happiness. Take serious stock of who truly matters and who brings authentic joy and peace to your life. For every negative comment, we need about three-to-five to neutralize the sting.
If you simply must keep a negative person around, make sure that there are also enough positive people to supersede the sting and help you flourish.
Talk to a professional
The people in your everyday life may be well-intentioned when you voice your concerns about your body, but may be ill-equipped to help.
There are many different types of wellness professionals who can encourage you on your journey to overcoming body insecurities. Some doctors, nutritionists, and mental health therapists consider themselves Health at Every Size (HAES)-aligned.
This means that they believe in HAES’s five guiding principles:
- Size Inclusivity
- Health Enhancement
- Respectful Care
- Eating for Well-Being
- Life-Enhancing Movement
They use them to inform their approach to healthcare.
This can be a safe place for you to start your journey, particularly if your past experiences are marred by professionals who have judged you based solely on appearance.
Even if your practitioner does not explicitly align with Health at Every Size principles, they can still take great care of you. Do not be afraid to advocate for yourself and your needs. You should never feel judged or less-than in the therapy room, and a good mental health professional should be receptive to feedback.
In a worst-case scenario, find someone who inherently values you and everything you bring to discuss. There are many options for therapy. A great fit is waiting for you.
A word from Calmerry
Online therapy makes it convenient to find mental health support on your terms while maintaining the effectiveness of in-person treatment.
Calmerry provides an easy and accessible way to connect with licensed therapists from the comfort of your own home. These therapists are equipped and ready to help you address body-related concerns, fears, and traumas.
If you’re ready to take the first step, support is here and ready for you. Start with a brief survey.