I often get asked by clients to do certain exercises to target certain ‘problem areas’. This might be the ‘tuckshop lady arms’ or ‘man boobs’. I know that so many of us often look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. Women and men are both pressured to lose weight, buff up, shed our wrinkles, and colour or grey hair, all in pursuit of a sexier look. The pressure is often exacerbated by social media and the constant opportunity to compare oneself to others.
I did some research into the topic and some researchers are looking for a new way to counteract those negative cultural messages and improve our body image: self-compassion.
Self-compassion involves mindful awareness of our thoughts and feelings, coupled with kindness towards ourselves—and a recognition of our flaws being part of a common human condition. Kristin Neff, who coined the term, has studied self-compassion and found that it is tied to resilience and wellbeing, and can be useful in combatting depression and anxiety.
I am not saying that we should not strive to better ourselves and improve our bodies. We should strive to improve our functionality, get stronger and GIVE BACK TO OUR BODIES, but we should also look at studies like the ones I have summed up below to try and help with positive body image thoughts.
Read below about a new study that suggest that self-compassion can help women and men a like to see their own bodies in a more positive light. I love this shit <3
Self-compassion helps self-esteem
In one study, researchers recruited women from 18 to 75 years old to report on their levels of self-compassion and self-esteem, and on the factors affecting their self-worth. In addition, the survey asked questions about “body image avoidance behaviours”—things like not wearing fitted clothing, avoiding social events, and not engaging in sexual intimacy—that have been tied to an increased risk of eating disorders.
As expected, women low in self-esteem—who tended to evaluate their self-worth based on appearance—engaged in more frequent avoidance behaviours. But having higher levels of self-compassion tempered the relationship between low self-esteem and avoidance behaviours, suggesting it protects women who might otherwise develop more serious body-image issues.
“Self-compassion is almost a panacea to low self-esteem,” says Peta Stapleton, first author of the study. “If you start learning to love and be compassionate towards yourself, it is hard to keep having low body esteem.”
Moreover, self-compassion may be helpful to reduce negative coping mechanisms at any age, says Stapleton. This is important, she says, because “women who learn to hate their bodies from a young age tend to hold onto this hatred for life.”
“Self-compassion is an under-utilized treatment in clinical programs for eating disorders and could be an answer to helping people recover faster…and earlier,” says Stapleton.
Self-compassion versus social media
These findings were echoed in another recent experiment, where researchers tested how different kinds of social media images would affect women’s feelings about their bodies.
Young women watched five minutes of one of four types of images:
· “Fitspiration” images of thin women with good muscle tone
· Self-compassion quotes—things like, “You are better than you think” or “Cut yourself some slack” against a neutral background, like flowers or geometric designs
· Fitspiration images with self-compassion quotes superimposed over them
· Neutral images of interior designs
Then, the women filled out questionnaires about self-compassion, mood, and body image.
Those who viewed fitspiration images had no worse moods, self-compassion, or body image than those who viewed neutral images—a finding that contrasts with previous research that had found a correlation. However, those who viewed self-compassion quotes had significantly more positive moods, more self-compassion, and better body image compared to women viewing neutral images. This effect was strongest for women who embrace the ideal of a thin body.
Interestingly, viewing fitspiration images with superimposed self-compassion quotes also inspired significant improvements in mood and body image, suggesting that the self-compassion quotes help override the negativity that could be associated with fitspiration images.
Why thinking your ugly is bad for you….
About 10,000 people a month Google the phrase, “Am I ugly?” Meaghan Ramsey of the Dove Self-Esteem Project has a feeling that many of them are young girls. In a deeply unsettling talk, she walks us through the surprising impacts of low body and image confidence—from lower grade point averages to greater risk-taking with drugs and alcohol. And then shares the key things all of us can do to disrupt this reality.