In Therapy: how to embrace your flaws

Our resident columnist, psychotherapist Jess Henley, PGDip., MA, on living happily with your body and its ‘flaws’
Photography: Stocksy

So, how is this possible?

Think about it – if your friend puts on half a stone, does it stop you from liking her as much? Does she fundamentally change as a person because she’s got a bit of a tummy or her thighs jiggle? Of course not! So it’s a shame we can’t be as laid-back about our own bodies. Naturally, for many of us, our relationship with the way we look is such a complex tangle of emotions that loving our body all the time isn’t realistic. But we can work towards accepting it, so it doesn’t continuously consume our thoughts and waste precious energy.

Don’t scapegoat your body

Because you can see your body, it’s very easy to project other emotions onto it and blame it for the difficult things that are going on in your life. You know: ‘If I had better skin, I’d have a partner’, ‘If I was slimmer, I’d be more confident’. None of these statements is likely to be true, so think about what emotions you might be projecting onto your body. Then, instead of associating these feelings with the way you look, explore other reasons why you might be experiencing these difficult emotions.

Celebrate its abilities

Every time you have a negative thought about a part of your body, try to balance this out with a reminder of something amazing it’s done for you, such as enabled you to take long walks during lockdown or dance like a wild thing to your favourite song, or create another human being from scratch!

Be aware when you body shame yourself

For a week, write down every horrible comment you make about your bod – whether out loud or a thought – then assess how you talk to yourself. Would you ever talk to a friend like that? And that often? Going forward, each time you notice your critical voice chiming in, replace it with the voice of your most supportive friend and imagine what they would say to you instead.

Stop comparing yourself with others

You’ll often notice in others the body parts that correlate to the bits of your own body you like least – if your tummy is your issue, you’ll notice everyone else’s, too. Challenge yourself to create a healthier thought pattern that means you don’t connect someone else’s body to your own. For example: ‘Yes, her abs are flat – but it’s got nothing to do with me’. Breaking this connection will help lessen the impact someone else’s body has on your own self-esteem.

Curate your online feeds

Only follow people on social media who make you feel good about yourself. Find people you admire and who inspire, rather than intimidate, you. Look for feeds that encourage you to embrace who you are, instead of following people who make you feel you want to change.

If your thoughts are spiralling out of control and you feel excessively anxious or depressed, speak to your GP. Alternatively, call the free Mind Infoline, on 0300 123 3393 (open 9am to 6pm, weekdays, except for bank holidays), or the free Samaritans helpline, on 116 123 (open 24/7).