How often do you look in the mirror and criticise the image reflecting back at you? Or look at a recent photo and inwardly cringe at your arms/legs/bum/tummy? Chances are this happens quite regularly – especially in perimenopause when so many things change in our bodies. Boobs gone south, extra padding around the middle, more crinkles around your face. There’s nothing wrong with any of this. You are perfect exactly the way you are.
Is it just me or do you still think you’re decades younger but feel and look like an imposter sometimes?
That’s normal of course. We all have our days. Such is the ever-giving joy of perimenopause and midlife in general. The occasional days thinking like this is OK but what isn’t OK for your soul is when how it feels to be you seems to be more 2/10 than 8/10.
Think back to that photo that made you recoil in horror. Remember the time you looked back with disgust and the person in the mirror…. What do you think your friends or family would say if they looked at the same photo? Would they criticise or would they be more likely to mention how much fun you looked like you were having? How great your hair/skin/clothes looked?
We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to negative self-talk. Having objectivity and focusing on the good points is something that many people just don’t do. Instead, I’ll be you promise yourself that the next diet will be the one that works, that if you could only lose a stone life would be so much better.
The reality is that feeling good is not a number on the scales or a smaller dress size. It comes from within, and no amount of weight loss will change that.
If working on turning your inner critic into your biggest cheerleader is something that you need help with, then read on. We’ve put together a series of exercises to restore your body confidence and help you feel fantastic every day.
How to learn to love your body
Throughout history, and across different cultures, body shape has always been a determiner of attractiveness and desirability and is often linked to wealth, health and status. The rise of social media has made it easier than ever to compare yourself unfavourably with others and lead you to aspire to a way of looking that is unrealistic and unattainable for the majority of people. No wonder you are so dissatisfied...
In 2020, the UK Government’s Women and Equalities Committee conducted a survey on body image, and found that 61% of adults and 66% of children feel negatively or very negatively about their body image most of the time.
Women spoke of needing to feel thin and curvy, while men expressed a desire to be taller or more muscular. Children as young as 11 gave ‘images on social media’ as being the thing that influences them the most, perhaps not fully understanding that these are often photoshopped and edited.
Does this sound familiar?
Here's an exercise
How would you describe your body today?
Take a minute to write down three things you like, three things you think are ok, and three things you dislike about your body.
3 things you like...
3 things you think are ok...
3 things you dislike...
Another thing to help boost your body image
What can you do to improve your body image?
Mirror work: Look at yourself in a mirror for a few minutes each day. Work up to accurately and honestly describing each part of your body - but using no negative words. Stop the exercise if this happens and return to it the next day. This is all about creating an acceptance of your body for how it is now.
Wear clothes you look and feel good in – store or throw away anything that doesn’t fit.
Don’t weigh yourself more than once a week (less if possible).
Avoid influences which continuously push the ‘ideal’ and encourage you to compare yourself. Look for healthy, inspirational social media feeds to follow instead.
Use positive self-talk and affirmations to reinforce and support yourself. You can be kind and honest to yourself - what would someone who loves you say to you? Be your own supporter and you are much more likely to succeed.
Start being your own super-fan (essential over 40)
It’s all too easy to focus on how you look, without giving any time or energy to other areas of your life. So, let’s take a minute to think about your other strengths – do people tell you you’re an amazing cook, a wonderful mum or a great colleague? Are you incredibly organised, the life of a party, or always there for your friends?
Everyone has their signature strengths, strengths that are a unique combination. Take a little time now to think about three things that you really like and admire about yourself.
Exercise - what three things do I like and admire about myself?
1. What do I consider to be my greatest strengths or personal characteristics?
2. What would a friend or family member tell me is the best thing about myself?
3. What do I do well that other people might not even know about?
Whenever you hear your inner critic starting to whisper negative thoughts, focus on these three things instead. Rehearse them regularly and they will start to be part of the way you think about yourself every day.
Reminding yourself of what is great about you provides the right balance to support lasting change.
How to overcome barriers and limiting beliefs
Beliefs guide your decisions and behaviour. According to research, people who believe they are healthy live seven years longer than those who think they are unhealthy! Beliefs can be about your body as well as your abilities and strengths.
A limiting belief is nothing more than that - it is just a belief - not a truth. You may recognise it as an excuse, a negative thought, a worry, a (perceived) past failure or a fear.
In the same way that negative thought patterns are created by habit and repetition, so are positive thought patterns. By overwriting your negative thoughts with positive alternatives, you can recreate your view, which creates your experience of life, and of yourself.
Positive thinking reduces stress and keeps you focused on moving forward, not focused on what might get in the way or what has stopped you in the past.
It's time to challenge your limiting beliefs
Think about a goal you have at the moment. Write down all the ‘doubts’ or negative thoughts for why you don’t think you can do it.
For each limiting belief or doubt think:
Is it accurate? What evidence do you have to prove it?
What would your best friend say? Would they agree with you?
What is standing in your way from achieving your goal?
What skills or support do you need to achieve your goal?
Now think about finding an empowering alternative to your limiting beliefs or doubts. Some examples might be:
Limiting belief: I’ll never be able to run 5k
Empowering alternative: If I follow the NHS ‘Coach to 5k’ plan, I’ll know how to build up slowly to run 5k.
Limiting belief: I’ve tried everything and nothing works
Empowering alternative: I haven’t really tried everything, only a few things. This time is different and I know I can change anything if I really commit to it.
Limiting belief: I am a total failure (inner critic)
Empowering alternative: Would I speak to a friend in this way? Does it help me to speak to myself in this way? I am now choosing to be kinder to myself and irrespective of what happened before, I will create my future as I want it.
Choose one limiting belief and practise replacing it with your alternative, positive belief this week. Write your empowering positive belief below
One way to stop believing that you cannot do something is to just try doing it. Once a belief has been proven wrong it loses its power.
Make time for yourself in midlife - NOW it's essential
The pace of modern life, plus the perceived expectations placed upon us to balance work, family and friends, often results in you feeling as if you have to do it all. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, disorganised and stressed. It also means that you don’t have time in the day to make space for yourself, to be kind to yourself, and nurture your inner positive talk.
However, take a look at highly successful individuals: they ask for help and delegate tasks to others. They understand that no one can do everything! By delegating you will be able to make more time for yourself – to be kind to yourself, achieve your goals, and enjoy your life with less stress.
Exercise - work out what you can delegate
Make a list of all the things you currently do (think about work, family and personal tasks) that it would be possible to hand over to someone else. Identify the priorities - particularly those that take up a lot of your time.
Who can I delegate to?
This could be family, friends, colleagues or a hired help.
Which task will you delegate this week? Be clear on what you are asking and who you are asking help from.
And then indulge…
Now that you have carved out some free time, make sure you don’t fill it with more tasks! Think about something you could do that would help give you more body confidence. Maybe go to the hairdresser or visit a beauty therapist for a massage or pedicure. Or simply take 30 minutes for a pampering bath or a DIY manicure. If exercise makes you feel good, then you could set aside this time for a workout. It doesn’t matter what it is, the important thing is that when you finish you feel better and more body confident than you did before.
If we’ve not met before, my name is Ailsa Hichens, and I’m a Registered Nutritional Therapist & Health Coach and I help midlife women get their glow back. I help them reach their happy weight by rebalancing their midlife hormones (and it’s not just oestrogen that gets out of whack at this stage of life) and help them create a life they love.
Want to explore other options to boost your body confidence? Book in for a free 30-minute HERE to discuss how we can work together to come up with a plan to restore your confidence back.