Body envy can wreak havoc on motivation and self esteem but a few small shifts can get you back in the game.

We’ve all felt it: that sense of disappointment with our bodies when we see perfect ones at the gym, in the pages of a magazine, a commercial or a photo on social media. The desire to look like the chiseled or curvy bodies we see in the media is known as “body envy,” and it’s not pretty.

Every day we are bombarded with images of the ideal physique. For women it’s the slender, flat-bellied, leggy, fit silhouette.  For men, it’s sculpted arms, wide shoulders, chiseled abs and a V-shaped torso.These representations of ideal beauty, when internalized, can  really do a number on a person’s well-being.

One study from the University of Toronto revealed that body envy often negatively affects women. Women were likelier to focus on appearance, believing that no matter how hard they tried, they would never look “like that.” The impact of that thinking led to lowered self esteem and motivation. The same study found the opposite to be true for men.  Here, body envy had a motivating effect, as men focused more on performance, working harder to achieve the envied results.  

The desire to possess what you don’t have or don’t think you have can lead to a complex combination of feelings including inferiority, resentment, and hostility towards the envied other. Furthermore, when we focus on images of what we perceive to be ideal bodies, we are choosing to focus on something we have absolutely no control over. If you consciously switch your attention to what you can control and improve, you will see a difference in your motivation, body image and self esteem.  

Focus on your strengths  

Identify your strengths by making a list of the things you do best. If you’re having trouble, ask your friends and family what they think are your best assets.  Alternatively, take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths . Once you have a list of strength, find new ways to use them.

Focus on gratitude

Take a minute every day to write down 5 things you are grateful for in a Gratitude Journal.  

Focus on Function 

Focus on what your body can do rather than than how it looks.  

Focus on Acceptance

Silence your inner critic.  Replace negative self-talk with affirmations. Try saying these to yourself out loud and notice what comes up:

I love my body

I accept myself completely

I am confident in the way I look  

I appreciate my body.  

When you shift your focus, you get back in the game and out of the stands. With some practice, you’ll transform envy energy into personal power by becoming an active participant in your life and moving towards your best self. Enduring motivation, a healthy body image and authentic self esteem will  follow suit.

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