Women and Body Image

7 Steps To Build Self-Confidence and Self-Love

For women, body image is such a vulnerable subject.

Back when I was in my dieting heyday, I’d wake up, look at myself in the mirror and all I could do was stare at my puffy cheeks and my belly bulging over my pajama pants.

I hated how my face looked.

I hated how my thighs looked.

I hated how my arms looked.

There wasn’t one good thing I could say about myself.

I was a mean girl, to myself. I would say things when I was alone staring at this face in the mirror, that I would never in a million years say about someone I loved.

And that really was it. I didn’t love myself.

Beyond just the things I would say, the things I would do to myself might have been even worse.

I wore jeans that were two sizes too small because I didn't want to buy a bigger size, even though they cut into my legs so much it was painful to sit. Every day I couldn't WAIT to come home, peel them off and get into my sweatpants so I could breathe!

I remember crying on the phone to my boyfriend in college because I just couldn't figure out why I wasn’t losing weight. Poor guy. As you might imagine, he had no clue what to say.

I would step on the scale every morning after using the bathroom and stripping off every ounce of clothing, only to let that silly plastic and metal thingy determine my self-worth for the day depending on the number that showed up.

I didn’t want to be that girl anymore. I wanted to love myself. I wanted to feel at peace with my body, confident in who I was, and happy, but I didn’t know where or how to start.

Deep down there was a part of me that knew I was sexy, smart, and beautiful but when I looked in the mirror, I felt ugly, fat, and hopeless.

It’s like I was running on a hamster wheel. I was chasing this dream but at the same time, just keep cycling where I was, never moving forward. I couldn’t get past how much I hated my body.

Having Stretch Marks and Wearing a Bikini

Last year a photo of a woman in a bikini went viral on Facebook but not for the reason you may think.

Rachel Hollis

The woman in the picture, Rachel Hollis, inspired women (and men) everywhere to embrace their perfectly imperfect body and their beauty.

In her Facebook post, Hollis wrote:

I have stretch marks and I wear a bikini. I have a belly that’s permanently flabby from carrying three giant babies and I wear a bikini. My belly button is saggy… (which is something I didn’t even know was possible before!!) and I wear a bikini.
I wear a bikini because I’m proud of this body and every mark on it. Those marks prove that I was blessed enough to carry my babies and that flabby tummy means I worked hard to lose what weight I could.
I wear a bikini because the only man who’s opinion matters knows what I went through to look this way. That same man says he’s never seen anything sexier than my body, marks and all. They aren’t scars ladies, they’re stripes and you’ve earned them. Flaunt that body with pride! #HollisHoliday

Why did this image get such a response? What causes women and men to rally around statements like this?

I think it’s because we all look up to this type of vulnerability and unconditional self-love.

We want to love and accept ourselves, stretch marks and all, yet to be this transparent with our (perceived) flaws is so hard!

We all know that we are not perfect, yet for the most part we’re unwilling to flaunt our imperfections for fear of judgement. I mean, because once it’s out there… it’s out there!

But here’s the thing, the whole point in putting it all out there isn’t really about “opening the kimono” but rather about connecting with ourselves in a way that releases the hold that other people’s opinions have on us.

And it’s so interesting to note how often once we let go of the need for outward validation and acceptance, that’s usually when it comes (like in Rachel’s case).

How to Stop Being a Mean Girl to Yourself

Is the solution to repairing your body image to just let go of your weight loss goals and embrace the body you have right now?

The answer is no. And yes.

I believe you can absolutely want to improve your body AND love the body you have right now too.

It’s not either or. It’s YES AND.

As Abraham-Hicks would say, “Happy with what is, eager for more.”

Although, let’s be honest… that’s easier said than done. Like I said, in the beginning, I had no clue on how to stop bullying myself.

But guess what? I figured it out.

Over the past 12 years of my body image and self-love journey, and then taking what I learned and honing it even further through my coaching practice, I’ve come up with a 7 step formula that has produced game-changing results for both myself and my clients.

Today I would like to share those steps with you, so that you can use them to find peace with your body, confidence in who you are, and ultimately, to feel amazing in your skin. If we can do this, you can too!

7 Steps to Build Self-Confidence and Self-Love

1. Awareness

If you’re struggling with negative body image, then I’m willing to bet you’ve been struggling with things like yo-yo dieting and self-sabotage for a while too.

You might find yourself saying things like, “I’ll start again on Monday,” or “I can’t figure out why I can’t lose weight.”

The first step in any sort of sustainable positive change is awareness. In order to be more loving and accepting of ourselves, we have to be able to recognize the areas where we aren't being so loving and accepting.

You have to give yourself permission to start where you are.

And to know that where you are is okay.

Take out a sheet of paper and over the course of this next week, take an inventory of your typical self-talk, i.e. the thoughts that you think about your body when you are looking in the mirror or choosing your clothes for the day.

Once you have a complete list, the next step is to take those negative statements and replace them with more empowering statements.

For example, maybe instead of thinking "I feel so fat" or "I hate my thighs" you say a little prayer of thanks:

"Thank you for this healthy body. Thank you for these legs that support me day after day."

Over time, we can practice that empowering language. At first, it feels weird and not true but it’s like a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger it get.

As you practice more empowering thoughts, you’ll then begin to notice that spills over into your habits too. They ALSO become more supportive of this new, loving and nurturing way of thinking. It becomes a positive self-fulfilling prophecy!

2. Appreciation

Appreciation is an extremely underutilized tool. It sounds woo-woo, but there is actually a lot of science behind how shifting our focus from negativity to appreciation actually contributes to more and more positive behavior.

It’s like rolling a boulder downhill. Once you get it moving, it will keep building more and more momentum in that direction. (Like I mentioned in Step 1, it’s a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.)

We think that reaching a certain number on the scale or the waistband of our pants will be the answer to all of our prayers.

We think that once we get "there" THEN we'll be happy, confident, and our life will be puppy dogs and rainbows forevermore.

That's just not the way it works.

Happiness and appreciation breed success, not the other way around.

When we actively look for reasons to appreciate the body that you have now, we open up the channel to receive the body of our dreams.

The truth is, a lot of times we actually don’t believe that we deserve the body of our dreams. We want it, but for many reasons, we feel unworthy or like it’s not possible or even safe for us to have it (and maintain it).

Appreciation is one of the quickest and easiest ways to unravel all of this unworthiness stuff. It automatically shifts our trajectory and supports us in paving a new healthy body image path.

At the end of each day, make a list of 5 things you appreciate about that day (and/or your body). I first hear this tip from Oprah and seriously, it has transformed my life.

3. Honor and Forgive

Somewhere along the way, many of us have picked up the habit of telling our “victim” stories. Then, not only do we tell them, we become really attached to them. They can even become a part of our identity.

Let me ask you, does this sound like a habit that would be ultimately beneficial for your mental health and body image?

I think we both know the answer is no.

So, whatever that old victim story is, that you are picking up and carrying with you each day, dragging around, telling again and again, feeling angry or resentful about… it’s time to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let it go.

Bless and release.

Forgive him, her, YOURSELF for any wrongs.

Honor your past for all the ways that it served you. Reflect on what you now know more clearly than ever that you DO WANT because of it.

And let go.

Make space for new, more empowering stories to flow in.

I know sometimes it may feel impossible to do, but in order to free yourself to step into the life of your dreams, you have to clear space and let go. Even if you give yourself permission to release a little each day, work on that. Release the baggage and make room to receive all the good that is on its way to you.

The past is behind you and it doesn’t define you. Stop letting it hold you back. Today is where all of your power is.

4. Release the ‘Perfect Person’ Comparison

One of the primary reasons we feel bad about our bodies is because we are in a constant state of comparison with each other. According to Brown University, 74.4% of the normal-weight women stated that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.” And I am willing to bet the majority of these women are not thinking about their weight or appearance in a positive light.

That percentage speaks for itself. We’re thinking about our weight and appearance way, way too much! As Rachel Hollis alluded to in her story above, we attach so much of our worth to this idea of looking a certain way that we believe the ‘Perfect Person’ looks.

When you find yourself wanting to compare bodies with other people around you or to your idea of what the ‘Perfect Person’ looks like, stop. Send yourself some love and kindness and think about the unique parts of you that make you beautiful.

Every single human being on this planet is imperfectly perfect.

The truth is, NOBODY measures up to the ‘Perfect Person.’

So it’s time we all stop measuring ourselves and everybody else against this fairytale made up story.

The moment you realize that your body is uniquely yours and doesn’t need to fit a mold of any kind, you will instantly feel more at peace with your body image and have more compassion for yourself.

5. Intimacy and Pleasure

Here’s where things get a bit cheeky. Once way to love your body more and have peace with it, is to become more intimate with and connected to it.

Think about it we run around all day in this body, and we barely pay any attention to it besides the basics. Maybe a little makeup, a blow-dry, slap on some lotion and we are good to go.

When was the last time you felt connected to your body? When was the last time you actually felt pleasure touching your body? For most people, there is so much shame attached to this!

This week, spend some time taking a good look at yourself. Touch the parts of yourself that you may be a bit uncomfortable with. Maybe that is your tummy or your thighs, whatever it is, say hello to that part of yourself and send it some gentle, loving kindness.

And if you really want to blow the doors off, experiment with self-pleasure. Masturbation is not dirty and it’s time we all gave ourselves permission to receive pleasure, especially from our own bodies, and especially from ourselves.

6. Celebrate ALL Progress

Many times we choose one measurement of progress and hone in on that with laser focus. And many times, that’s the scale (as I mentioned in my story at the beginning of this article).

What if instead of just focusing on the scale, we broaden our perspective on progress a tad? Here are some ideas:

You can journal 5 accomplishments each day that you are proud of. Maybe these are related to nourishment, self-care, positive thoughts, reframes, or nurturing things you did for yourself.

If you are an analytical person, you can use weekly progress check-ins that include front, side, and back pictures in a swimsuit, plus measurements AND scale weight so you have the full 360 degree picture of what is going on (instead of just one data point, i.e. body weight).

You can give yourself gold stars in your calendar for every dat that you get in a workout, consume a gallon of water, or get through the day eating really healthy. How cool is it to see a week of gold stars across a calendar?

You can do monthly body fat measurement check-ins with your trainer at the gym, so again, you’re getting a full picture view of progress.

You can fill a jar of big wins, ahas, things you appreciate, or anything else that feels good to note. Then at the end of the week, month, or season you can go through the jar and read them out loud with a like-minded friend.

7. Less Pressure, More Fun

On one of our ROCK Your Dream Body Immersion group coaching calls, one of my students shared something brilliant.

Her husband got invited to a big fancy gala for work and she’s of course going to be his date. She wanted to splurge and buy herself a really beautiful dress to wear to the party, but she felt some resistance to spending a lot of money on a dress while she is in the midst of her dream body transformation.

She thought, what if in 3 months the size she buys now doesn’t fit? She also didn’t want to buy a dress that was 2 sizes too small and try to fit into it in time, (you know that game), because that would put a lot of pressure on her to lose weight to fit into it by the party!

So, here was her SOUL-ution that she came up with all by herself. She’s renting a dress from Rent the Runway! That way she can order it in her current size AND a size smaller, have both on hand for the gala, and wear whichever one fits at the time!

Then, she returns them both. Easy breezy. Pressure-free plus tons of fun to get dressed up and feeling fancy and elegant.

Isn’t that the best idea ever? Besides, once we wear a super fancy dress, how often do we wear it again, right? And this is a fraction of the price of what she would spend on a designer dress anyway. Brilliant!

Also, here’s another perspective on the topic of easing up and deliberately having more fun. We could have nine things going well and one thing going not so well and we'll put all of our attention on that one thing that isn't going well in order to "fix" it.

We are conditioned that the only way to be happy is to fix our problems.

We think that looking at the worst case scenario and trying to smooth it all over is the way to be solution-oriented.

Hence: We focus on fixing our “fat thighs” or our muffin top.

Why spend so much time and energy on something that feels so icky? There have been so many times in my life when I took my focus off of what was going wrong and put it on to something that was going right and then that thing that was going "wrong" had a way of working itself out far better than I could ever have imagined or manipulated it with my limited perspective and control.

Sometimes, the solution really is to chill out. That feels so scary, because it's so opposite of how we've been trained, but it works.

The more we relax and have fun, the more we practice trusting in the flow of life.

The flow of life is there for us, always supporting us, but so often we don’t trust it.


Trust in the amazing, miracle of a machine that is your body.

Trust in a higher power.

Trust that things really do work out well for you.

Trust that you have everything you need within you.

Trust that you are making good decisions.

Trust that you are making progress, even if/when you can’t see it.

You'll be surprised at how much self-confidence and unconditional love comes with trust and easing up.

None of this is an overnight process, but it is all possible. And the more you practice, the better and better you will get. That’s how it works. For me, Rachel Hollis, my Immersion girls, and for you too.

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