You’re aware. Of darn near everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s outside of you or inside of you, it doesn’t get by you. And by golly, that goes for your body, too. Thanks to Diet Culture, feeling badly about your own body is more common than not. Add in the heightened awareness and depth of processing characteristic of Highly Sensitive People, and your body-awareness is probably off the charts. So we’re going to go all Hallmark and pull out the body image affirmations to shift your awareness to what truly matters. 

If you struggle with body image, you probably believe that the only way to feel better about your body is to change it. 

And changing it typically means depriving it so it becomes smaller, thinner, more toned….and therefore more desirable to others. 

It’s a formulaic process, really: Tiny-fying your body = success and happiness.It’s also bullshit.

Sorry not sorry for the language, but it is.

 All that nonsense is a big “fat” lie. 

Whether your body is a size zero or a size twenty-two, loving your body lies in changing your body image, not its appearance. 

What is body image?

Body image refers to the way you perceive your body and how you believe others perceive it. It includes thoughts, feelings, behaviors, perceptions, and a sense of connection with your own body.

Body image is a big chunk of your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Developing and sustaining a positive body image is essential for living a happier life. 

Relying less (or not at all) on unrealistic beauty standards opens the door to nurturing and respecting your body.

However, improving body image is tough, especially when you’ve been hating and criticizing your body for so long. 

(If it hurts to read the words “hating and criticizing your body,” good! We’re making progress.)

Feeling the urge to change your body’s appearance stems from dissatisfaction with the way it looks.

Changing that perception is tough. And it doesn’t happen passively.

What is the secret sauce to improving negative body image?

Three words: changing your thoughts.

If you wonder how “just thinking differently” can help, I get it. Using different words to improve your relationship with your body sounds ridiculous.

But words carry weight (no pun intended).

How does changing self-talk about body image help you approach body image differently?

Reading and reflecting upon body image affirmations has the potential to help you to feel more comfortable in your body.

No matter how ridiculous or Pollyannaish it sounds, healthy mantras can be life-changing— even at a neurological level.

If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, body image affirmations can be especially helpful because of the way they fit in with your neurological processing. (Not sure what a Highly Sensitive Person is? Read about it here.)

The only real, sustained way to feel better about your body is to change  your relationship to (and your thoughts about) your body. 

(And, as more people do just that, the sooner the societal ideal will become less scripted, less narrowly defined. Perhaps  it will even become inclusive!)

What matters most about improving your relationship with your body is what changes in your mind, not in your body. I’m talking about thoughts, reflections, and ideas as opposed to specific actions.

I used to think affirmations were just a cheesy attempt to inspire and uplight. There may be times that’s still true; but I’ve come to realize there is more to them than empty promises of rainbows and butterflies.

The words we say to ourselves really do matter.

Where thoughts go, energy flows. 

Shifting self-talk is about more than mere semantics.

Body image affirmations are helpful for anyone who struggles to love his or her body. But for an HSP? They’re a card-carrying essential. Here are a few power-packed body image affirmations to make you pause and see your physical self in a whole new light:

1. I’m grateful to have a body.

Because I have a body, I am able to feel, hear, see, smell, and taste. I can (fill in the blank).

I imagine her saying, “Yes I am happy to have a body! Very! How else could I chase my little brother? And I stayed up late last night and hung out with the grownups! We ate chocolate-covered strawberries. Thank you, Body. I was able to do all of that because of my body. And I love this dress because it is fancy and makes me feel like a princess.”

2. I can trust my body.

This Highly Sensitive woman feels free and comfortable as she enjoys time outside…in her body. She is not hiding any parts of her glorious body. The soft breeze, warm sun, and scent of the beach are possible for her to experience because she has a body.

“This bathing suit feels so comfortable, and I really like how relaxed I feel just enjoying the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze, and the laughter of my friend— especially because she is laughing at my jokes! Being carefree and funny comes naturally when I am not preoccupied with my weight.”

3. My body deserves respect.

With a big brimmed pink hat, she walks down the street with pride in and respect for herself.

With body-respect comes self-respect.

“When I smile at people, they usually smile back. They aren’t looking me up and down or evaluating my weight. If they are, so what? What they think of me is none of my business. Plus, I have so many other things to think about…or not to think about!”

4. My life’s purpose is about so much more than to shrink my body.

This Angie Weiland-Crosby quote is a reminder of the intricate, sensual ways your body takes in and experiences the world. But only if you allow it to do so.

“Living in the empty, stark jail cell of my own body of hate means I limit what I see, feel, hear, taste, and touch. I deserve more, and so does my body. I have the key to leave this prison, and I will unlock the door and escape back to my birthright of living life fully.” (Pun intended. Living life fully means you see through a different lens than you did when living life chronically hungrily.)

5. My body provides me infinite ways to experience life.

Sometimes we take for granted what brings us pleasure and opportunity. (Or we default to negative commentary about it.) 

The phrase “you don’t know what you have ‘till it’s gone” comes to mind. 

Why not delight in your one-and-only body in the here and now, while you can? 

Relating to your own body more as an instrument than as an ornament is like discovering a secret treasure in a place you have gone for years but have never really seen.

“I am tired of seeing, feeling, touching, hearing my world in colorlessness. I am not a robot. Turning on and up the colors of emotions, touch, sounds, and more means I am appreciating the beating of my heart, the pulsing of energy throughout my body, and the wonder of my senses. That is what it means to have a body. How closely my body matches an unrealistic objectified ideal is not the purpose of having a body. Being in it as I travel through each moment is the purpose.”

“Because I have a body, I am able to feel the softness of the sand as it flows through my fingers. I also get to wear purple nail polish that is so fun to look at my fingers and see!”

Being a Highly Sensitive Person has its perks, one of which is your natural ability to deeply feel the joys and beauty in the world. The way you take in the world through your senses is magical.

Unless they familiarize themselves with the beautiful things High Sensitivity offers, HSPs have a hard time understanding why they have the thoughts and feelings they have,  how to appreciate them and make healthier choices. 

6. What if you did not revolve your life around fitting into cultural beauty standards?

Whatever your body size and shape, being more comfortable in your body means changing your mindset, not so much your appearance. 

Your relationship with your body affects all aspects of life. Body image is central to self-esteem and self-confidence.

Worrying about what other people (whoever they are)  think about your body highlights their value system over your own. Do you really want to do that?

If your answer is no, or if you’re just curious about other options beyond living with “normative discontent,” try the following . And consider it to be an experiment.

What if you used body image “iffirmations” rather than body image affirmations?

Try the “what if” version of statements. 

This version of self-talk goes well beyond semantics, even beyond my delight of quirky word puns. 

Think of it as an experiment, just to see what happens.…

Take the statement, “I love my body.” 

Repeat it to yourself and notice what happens.

Maybe your recoil? Snicker? Giggle? Feel warmth spread throughout? 

There is no wrong way to feel.

Now ask yourself, “What if I (were to) love my body?” 

Notice the feelings and sensations that arise.

Even if you do not believe it, saying it to yourself can help you recognize improved body image as an intention, as something to be working toward.

By saying “what if,” you add space andenergy’ to the possibility of actual contentment in your body.

As an HSP, you’re especially aware of internal sensations, both those that feel good and others that don’t feel particularly good. 

You get to choose the input, and therefore the outcome.

7. I’m just missing out by refusing to eat cake, pasta, chips…or anything. Food is meant to be enjoyed. My body is meant to be a happy (or at least neutral) place!

However, improving body image is a tough journey, especially when you’ve been hating and criticizing yours for so long. (Thanks a lot, Diet Culture.) 

Feeling the urge to change your body’s appearance stems from dissatisfaction with the way it looks. 

You and I were not born dissatisfied with the way our bodies look. Diet Culture taught us dissatisfaction.

How to chip away at negative body image and start finding peace — and even joy — in your body? Notice what you are saying to yourself about your body. Gently shift the focus to the good that your body offers. Where thoughts go, energy flows.

So choose thoughts wisely. Be deliberate about using body image affirmations. 

And make them your own.

Diet Culture will know when it has overstayed its welcome.

Dr. Elayne Daniels is a clinical psychologist and coach specializing in body image, eating disorders, and Highly Sensitive People. For over two decades, she has worked with hundreds of men and women to help them find comfort and even joy in their own skin.