Body Image and the Power of Self-Talk: Why Saying is Believing

Have you ever tried using positive affirmations? The self-help tool has grown in popularity over the years and people often stress their life-changing benefits. But why would someone stand in front of a mirror, look into their own eyes, and tell themselves, “I love you”? How does talking to yourself have any effect on your wellbeing or the way you see yourself?

While those in the self-help sphere have stressed the importance of affirmations and positive self-talk for decades, there seems to be some serious power behind their beliefs. Positive affirmations are one of the great ways to harness the power of self-talk and research is just now starting to focus on the truth behind the practice.

When it comes to body image, though, how helpful can self-talk be? It’s difficult for many people with body dysmorphia or an eating disorder to look at themselves in the mirror, much less say positive things about the reflection looking back at them.

What does positive self-talk consist of, how does it work, and why should you apply it to your life? Can the power of self-talk have a lasting impact on the way you see yourself? Once you understand the power of the connection between body image and the power of self-talk, you’ll feel far more confident in putting some effort toward altering your inner dialogue.

What is Self-Talk?

Everyone talks to themselves all day long, every single day. That internal monologue is a powerful thing and it’s taken years to develop it. The way you talk to yourself has a powerful impact on your self-esteem, your self-confidence, your interactions with the world, and your overall psychological well-being.

Think about it for a moment. How do you talk to yourself? Are you gentle with yourself or do you never seem to give yourself a break? Do you search out your perceived flaws when you look into a mirror or do you appreciate yourself for all that you’ve worked to become?

Most people are harsh critics of themselves. They seek out the wrong things, emphasize their shortcomings, and struggle to notice their positive attributes. Those who battle negative self-talk often call themselves names or say things they would never say to another person.

In reality, the harsher you are with yourself, the more self-conscious and stressed you feel. It’s exhausting to live with a critic in your head constantly reminding you of what a terrible job you’re doing and how awful you look while doing it.

Conversely, those who are committed to positive self-talk have a more positive attitude. They’re less stressed and have better self-esteem than those who put themselves down all the time. But if saying is truly believing, does self-talk work for body image, too?

How Does Self-Talk Affect Body Image?

Negative self-talk and body image typically go hand in hand. It’s even more pronounced for individuals who struggle with body dysmorphia or an eating disorder. You probably notice a few perceived flaws when it comes to your body image and have said a few less-than-kind things about yourself over the years. Do you have a hard time looking in the mirror without picking yourself apart?

Self-talk applies to body image, too. Too many people, men and women alike, tear themselves down over their physical appearance. Some women feel their stomach is disgusting or their muscles are manly. Some men believe their physique is much too small or their abdominals aren’t defined enough.

Whatever your specific body struggles are, self-talk feeds into your insecurities. When you focus on these perceived flaws it magnifies them in your mind and leads to more negative self-talk. Then the harder you are on yourself, the harder it is to make a change. How do you escape the negative self-talk cycle?

Adjusting Your Self-Talk

David Sarwer, clinical director at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, is well aware of the language people use to describe their bodies. He works extensively with individuals trying to overcome their disordered eating behaviors and body dysmorphia.

When Sarwer works with patients he starts by teaching them to refer to themselves using gentler language. No matter which physical changes they make, if they don’t change their body image through self-talk then the changes won’t last. Positive body image starts by changing your thoughts, not by changing your body.

You can start changing your body image by using the power of self-talk, accepting your flaws, and seeing yourself in a more positive light. These changes won’t happen all at once, though. You can’t suddenly undo years of negative self-talk. But with time, patience, and persistence, you can adjust the way you talk to yourself to shift the way you see yourself.

If you’re struggling with negative self-talk and can’t make the changes on your own, professional treatment can help. It’s difficult to overcome severe body dysmorphia or eating disorders alone; reaching out may be the missing thing you need.

An eating disorder treatment facility like Shoreline Center is dedicated to providing individualized care to each person who comes through the doors. Shoreline recognizes that unique attributes and aspects make up every individual. Through our commitment to clinical excellence, evidence-based practices, and an overall compassionate approach, we’re here to help you every step of the way.

To learn more about the programs available at Shoreline, fill out our contact form or give us a call today!