It was estimated that ten percent of the world’s population, or approximately 650 million people, and approximately 19 percent of the US population, live with disabilities (US Census Bureau Public Information Office). Researchers continue to find evidence that people with disabilities have a particular challenge with body image. While there are regulations for nondiscriminatory treatment in regards to housing and employment for people with disabilities, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding people with disabilities. People with visible disabilities often feel that others treat them differently because of their disability. This can impact a person’s body image.
In case you are out of the loop body image “is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception. These feelings can be positive, negative or both and are influenced by individual and environmental factors”. Everyone has different limitations and will struggle differently with body image. However, it is important to understand what body image is in order to develop a positive one.
It is important to develop a positive body image to keep you happy and healthy. It can be difficult to learn to accept and even like your body. Here are some of our tips to building a positive body image.
Focus on your abilities
Think about what you can do instead of what you cannot do. It does not mean that you have to pretend everything is perfect, instead realize that everyone has limitations. By focus on what you are good at you will better those skills and build confidence in yourself. Developing skills you are good at can build those skills and your self-confidence.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Walking through the grocery store it is nearly impossible to check out without seeing a magazine or tabloid that has a picture- perfect celebrity on the cover with specific tips how to look like them. It is difficult because the mainstream media portrays almost always able-bodied people. These images can start to produce negative self-talk in your thoughts. When you notice these thoughts creeping in, stop criticizing your body and its imperfections. Instead, focus on the attributes that you best like about yourself. As you do this you will give yourself the positive spin needed to rid yourself of that negative self-talk.
Counter the negative with positive
If you catch yourself saying things like I hate my body, use positive statements to counteract negative self-talk. Take time to write these positive statements down and consciously introduce more positive thoughts in your self-talk. These positive statements are as simple as I am grateful I have a body, I am grateful I can play with my child, grandchild, sibling, niece, or nephew, or I am grateful I can breathe.
Turn your thoughts inside instead of outside
There is an old saying that goes it’s what’s inside that counts. It’s true, both psychologically and scientifically. As you notice your negative body image self-talk, focus those thoughts on your inner self. Ask yourself: are you a good person, are you honest and trustworthy? You may not meet the standards set by fitness magazines or websites, remember that how your body functions inside is as, or more, important. For example, the celebrity on the cover of the magazine may have a six-pack but also may have high blood sugar, elevated cholesterol levels, and negative self-talk issues of their own. Outside appearances are not everything and overcoming that negative self-talk can help you realize that.
Make SMART and healthy goals
Too often magazine covers are full of claims like Lose 60 pounds in six days! These are attention grabbers not backed by reality. Any health professional will tell you that the healthy way to lose weight is at a rate of one to two pounds a week. Over the course of a year, it’s more than 50 pounds. Patience and realistic goals are key when it comes to behavior change. Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) goals will help you meet those health behaviors in a lasting way. Remember, you cannot eat an elephant in one bite and you cannot make drastic and long-lasting behavior changes overnight. Negative self-talk is unfortunately all too common in our society today. Changing our perceptions and thoughts is not an easy process, but when you are patience and hard work change can happen.
Avoid logical fallacies
Black and white thinking “This fallacy simply paints an issue as one between two extremes with no possible room for middle ground or nuance or compromise” (Lieto & Vernero, 2013). Black and white thinking can sound like All my friends are going to play basketball. I cannot play so I can’t go. In reality, there are more than just two options in life. You can always go and be surrounded by other people or try new things.
Another type of logical fallacy is a slippery slope. Slippery slopes are “Arguing from the perspective that one change inevitably will lead to another” (Lieto & Vernero, 2013). An example of a slippery slope fallacy is, If I go to the gym and workout, people will stare at me and judge me because I don’t know what I am doing. They will talk behind my back or even say something rude to me. It is easy for us to let our thoughts spiral out of control into the worst situation imaginable Instead, try and be realistic when thinking about a future outcome. Making generalizations about your disability like, No one will ever hire me for my dream job because of my disability. It is important again to think about yourself in the same light as you would another person. You would never talk to someone else the way you talk to yourself.
Let us know any other tips you have to build your own body image!
Lieto, A., & Vernero, F. (2013). Unveiling the link between logical fallacies and web persuasion. Proceedings of the 5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference on – WebSci 13. doi:10.1145/2464464.2508564
US Census Bureau Public Information Office. (2016, May 19). Newsroom Archive. Retrieved August 07, 2017, from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/miscellaneous/cb12-134.html
What is body image? (n.d.). Retrieved August 07, 2017, from http://www.nedc.com.au/body-image