As a former anxiety sufferer and recovering addict, I am all too familiar with the pressures we put on ourselves to look a certain way. I've struggled with being underweight for a large portion of my life, leading to the extreme use of dietary supplements and excessive eating in order to look "normal." But no matter how many weights I lifted or how many protein shakes I drank, my body never met the standards I thought it should.
As I struggled with depression, addiction and thoughts of suicide, I was embarrassed by my own misfortune. The last thing I needed was someone tearing me down. Yet sometimes my friends did just that, ignorantly thinking their insults would inspire me to change.
To make matters more challenging, my professional success seemed predicated on how I looked. At the time I was an up-and-coming personal trainer. I was often pressured by other trainers to lift more, get bigger and look leaner — to the point that I became obsessed with how my body looked. Exercising was no longer something I did for fun; it was a full-time job.
Based on my own journey, I have compiled a list of five things to consider if you'd like to break free from body image anxiety and begin the process of rediscovering your truth.
1. Become the standard.
We all have a habit of reducing ourselves in order to abide by the standards set forth by the majority. We try to look, act, think and feel how others believe we should. But in the words of my good friend Tara Stiles, "Who made the rules?"
We were created to be individuals and designed to be unique. Our likeness is of beauty and refinement, not judgment and approval. We need to set the standard and enforce it strictly. Others must abide by what we have conceived, not the other way around.
Don't minimize your own self-worth based on the perceptions and rationality of those unwilling to respect and appreciate you without contingencies. You set the bar and let others work to reach it.
2. Give yourself permission to be human.
Many times our biggest criticisms are based on the imperfections of life, whether internally or externally driven. We create feelings of inadequacy due to the negative viewpoint created by our humanistic nature of inherently being flawed.
Happiness is not derived from the presence of perfection, but rather the possibility of progression. We are not expected to be perfect, therefore we need to stop judging ourselves based on our shortcomings. Being perfect should never be the objective, but constantly perfecting will provide the ambition needed to accomplish whatever goal you set forth.
3. Don't define yourself by a number.
The mark of attraction is not predicated upon age, weight or height, nor should it be deduced to such trivial requirements. As we evolve, our desires and expectations should continue to evolve too.
The illusion of our limited predictions of life should not diminish our self-confidence. Instead it should provide us an incentive to continue on our journey toward self-discovery.
I know I'll never be a six foot tall man, nor do I wish to become one. Numbers only have power if given permission. Your happiness, beauty and successes are not narrowed on the basis of numbers that consistently fluctuate. By giving them such value, you literally eliminate your limitless possibilities.
4. Remind yourself of the things you love.
So often we are plagued with the discernment of the things we dislike about ourselves that we neglect to give attention to the things we actually love. Instead of focusing your attention on the negative, learn to appreciate the positive. What's your favorite physical attribute? What do you love about it?
By centralizing your thoughts on your strong points, you minimize your attention on your blemishes. Remember, it's very possible to admire yourself without being narcissistic. Do this enough and you'll start to realize that your glass is half full, not half empty.
5. Take action at your own pace.
Don't allow people to bully you into changing something about yourself that you do not see as a problem. Fix only what you deem necessary.
The life you live is yours, therefore how you choose to live it is solely at your discretion. What's best for others may not be what's best for you! As long as your decisions are not negatively affecting others or causing harm to those around you, live according to your own instruction manual.
Be proud of the person you've become and find beauty in the skin you're in. What's on the inside greatly outweighs what others see on the outside.
Remember, we will never be who we are intended to become if we continue to believe that there is a difference between the two. You are who you are for a reason — embrace it!