8 Ways Black Women Can Foster More Positive Body Image

by Deaweh Benson

My mirror is broken. Rather than purchasing a full-length mirror, I chose the more creative route and lined up four small mirror panels instead (OK…I was just being flat out cheap). So I easily dismissed it when my disjointed panels began reflecting more curves than usual. It wasn’t until a strained pants button told me the truth—the mirror wasn’t lying.

I fell into a damaging pattern of constantly checking the mirror. I checked and checked, and still never liked what I saw. I’m ashamed to admit that it took some time before adopting the following eight ways to form a healthier outlook on my body image.

1. Smile During the “Mirror Dance”

We all do it. We twirl. We twist. Sadly, we often grimace as the mirror reflects our different angles. That wince is a reflection of negativity rearing its ugly head into our reality. I know of one powerful and free way to combat this problem: Smile!

In his article, “The Untapped Power of Smiling,” Ron Gutman cites a study noting that a smile can provide the same level of brain stimulation as receiving up to 16,000 Pounds Sterling in cash.” He goes on to tell us, "When you smile, you look good and feel good. When others see you smile, they smile too."

Smile as you dance in the mirror. Not only will it make you feel like 25 grand, it will also help others defeat their own negative thoughts. Smile and pay it forward.

2. Decorate Your Mirror

Need help bringing out your smile? It’s as easy as adding some color near your mirror. Sprucing up the environment surrounding the mirror can work wonders for uplifting your spirits as you begin to work through self-consciousness and view yourself more clearly. Some paint artwork. Some hang affirmations. I choose to decorate my mirror with pictures and quotes of inspirational women. Each time I look in the mirror, I’m surrounded by a wealth of inspiration ranging from my mother to Nikki Giovanni. I can’t help but smile as I realize that I am a reflection of their struggles, triumphs, and joy. Whatever you choose, make sure to keep yourself engaged by routinely updating your mirror decorations. Your smile will thank you.

3. Internalize that You Are Enough

No amount of affirmations or pretty pictures can replace the need for you to internalize that you are enough. We often tell ourselves that we aren’t skinny enough, 'thick' enough, or tall enough. The surest way to overcome these views is to believe that you are entirely enough. While we all have room to grow, we can never grow if our mindsets our rooted in the rocky soil of self-contempt.

Fill yourself with the realization that your external self is only an ounce of your true beauty that lies within. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:17). Pray about it. Meditate on it. Internalize it.

4. Figure Out What About Your Body Makes You Unhappy 

What about you makes you unhappy? Stare boldly at the parts of you that you want to change. (Don’t forget to smile!) Next, list at least one positive thought about that part. You could think, “My broad shoulders look good in workout gear." Or maybe even, “My non-existent curves look great in A-line skirts.”

5. Figure Out Why You Want to Change Your Body

What factors are driving you to want to change even the smallest aspect of your body? The overwhelming images of fair, tall, and thin models can cause us to unconsciously reject our own body image. Popularized myths can stifle us by insisting that all Black women must have “coke-bottle” figures. Childhood bullying can have lasting effects. Don’t let the media or snot-nosed 10 year olds impact the way you see yourself.

6. Figure Out How You Plan to Make Changes

How are you going to make the change? The best way to start is by taking small steps. Avoid dramatically cutting out sweets from your diet if you are prone to eat several candy bars a day. Instead, start gently by eating half of the candy bars you eat in a typical day. Another great way to identify small steps is to seek advice from a nutritionist or personal trainer.

If you are considering permanent changes to your body that do not benefit your health, I’ll let my bias shine clear: DON’T SUBJECT YOUR NATURAL BEAUTY TO SURGERY. You will never look like that celebrity or model. Instead, love your body into its best shape.

7. Surround Yourself With Positive People

Share the things you want to change, why you want to change them, and how you plan to do so with people you can trust. You will often find that your inner-circle will have much more constructive things to say about you than you could gather on your own. Do us all a favor and believe them.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be surrounded by positivity. You are what you listen to. If your friends constantly belittle themselves or others, change the conversation to something uplifting. If that continually fails—change your circle.

8. Trust in Your Journey

Your body will not stay the same. Rather than focusing on image changes alone, attune yourself to your body’s health. Treat yourself to a balanced diet. Exercise regularly to gain both mental and physical benefits. In other words, prioritize a healthy lifestyle above a desired waist size.

Our bodies are outward reflections of our inner beauty. Love each and every ‘flaw’ that makes you perfectly unique. Smile and stand proudly. The world will never be blessed with another beauty quite like you.

Photo: Shutterstock

Deaweh Benson enjoys writing, reading, and traveling. She shares her analysis of the world through the lens of a young woman who can't quite describe herself as a "recent grad."

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