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Positive Self Talk and Body Image

Positive Self Talk


Psychologist Andrew Vincent states that positive self talk helps people understand the faulty and irrational beliefs that significantly influence their emotion and behavior. Those faulty beliefs also influence our self esteem, therefore changing them in a positive way can have lasting impact.


  • Increases lifespan
  • Decreases rates of depression and stress
  • Boosts cardiovascular health
  • Improves coping skills
  • Generally leads to better psychological and physical wellness
  • Studies have also shown an increase in athlete performance with positive self talk

Negative Self Talk:

  • All or nothing thinking

Using extremes to describe yourself, leaving no room for a gray area.

Examples: “If I don’t do well on this test, I’m a failure.” “If I can’t ride this rollercoaster, I’m a coward.” “No one likes me when I cry.”

  • Only acknowledging the negatives

Completely passing over the positives in each situation.

Examples: “I missed 5 problems and now I have a C!” (Even though you got 15 problems correct) “Today was awful, I didn’t get any work done.” (Ignoring the positive self care you did during the day)

  • Taking something positive and making it negative

Discrediting good things that happen to you.

Examples: “I only got an A on that test because my teacher grades easy.” “They’re just friends with me because they feel sorry for me.”

  • Drawing negative conclusions

Instead of waiting for all the facts, we fill in unknowns with the worst case scenario.

Examples: “My friend hasn’t responded to my text so she must hate me.” “My teacher hasn’t praised my work so it must be bad.” 

  • Mistaking feelings for facts

Feelings are simply pieces of information that act on our interpretations. Therefore, they can easily be distorted.

Examples: “I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure.” “I feel nervous to do something, so that must mean I don’t have what it takes.”

  • Self deprecating humor

This type of humor can easily become a reflex, and you eventually start to believe the punchlines.

Examples: “This is where I belong, in the trash.” “I admire the people that reject me, because it means they have good taste.”

  • Labeling yourself

Describing yourself with a single label does not account for how complex you are. It leaves no room for positives or other interpretations.

Examples: “I’m dumb.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m a failure.”

Positive Self Talk:

  • Use your name instead of “I”

In a study done by Ethan Kross, volunteers had to give a speech with only five minutes of preperation. Those who referred to themselves with their own name were more likely to encourage themselves and give helpful advice.  

  • Give yourself credit for successes

Identify the positive events in your life, no matter how small. For example, maybe you did fifteen minutes of work without getting distracted, or you drank an entire bottle of water.

  • Forgive yourself

Doing this does not let you off the hook for your actions. It simply helps you accept what has happened and move on with your life. Past actions cannot be changed, but you can learn from your mistakes.

– Accepting responsibility

Avoid rationalizing. For example, “He was mean so I had to hurt him back”

– Expressing your remorse

Process the emotions from that event. Visiting this (page) may help.

– Repairing damage with the person you hurt (if possible)

If this is impossible, make a genuine effort to not repeat your mistake.

– Reflecting on what you learned

Hardships almost always teach us an important lesson. For example, you are stronger than you think.

  • Focus on the positives

Pay attention to the parts of your life that work well. For example, you may bathe regularly, check in with friends, or eat three meals a day. You are not ignoring the bad parts of your life, just acknowledging the good.

  • Think about what you learned from an experience

Brainstorming with a loved one can help reveal the lessons you learned. After you figure it out, write the lessons down. That list can be something to look back on during hard times.

  • Use uncomfortable feelings as signals

Try not to blame yourself for feeling sad, angry, or any other emotion. Instead, take those feelings as a signal to take a break from or adjust your current situation. Ask yourself what you can do to make the situation less stressful.

Steps to Improve Self Talk:

1. Identify places and situations that affect your self esteem negatively

Examples: Presentations, parties, tests at school

2. Pay attention to your thoughts in those negative situations, and whether they are positive, negative, or neutral. If possible, write a few down on paper or in your phone.

3. Actively repeat more realistic and balanced phrases in those stressful moments. Not too negative, but also not falsely positive.

Body Image

What you think and feel when you see your body, and how you act because of it.

Parts of Body Image:

  • Shape of your body

Common body shapes for women include hourglass, triangle, circle, rectangle, and inverted triangle. Body shapes for men are similar, except hourglass is replaced with trapezoid. 

  • Weight

Whether someone is overweight, underweight or in the middle. The number on the scale also ties to body image.

  • Skin tone

This includes the color of your skin, and how tan or pale you are.

  • Hair

Whether your hair is straight, wavy, curly, or coily.

  • Facial features

Your nose, side profile, eye color, eye shape, lips, and much more fit into this category.

What Affects Body Image:

  • Self esteem

Typically, if you feel bad about who you are as a person, those feelings extend to your body. This is because our culture has assigned a great deal of worth onto physical appearances.

  • Your past

Negative thoughts and feelings easily become a habit. Therefore, if someone has felt badly about their body in the past, insecurity can continue to affect them in the present. Positive body image is a mindset, not a physical condition.

  • Habits like hygiene

Hygiene and other habits such as sleep, exercise, eating, and drinking water all affect body image. If you do not take care of your body, it becomes easier for negative thoughts to surface.

  • Gender

Girls and women are more likely to have poor body image. That is not to say that men do not have standards that affect them, but it is less common for men to have negative body image. In particular, girls are surrounded by media that suggests their looks are more important than their personality. There is also a large market that aims to “improve” the physical appearance of women by selling makeup, clothes, cosmetic surgery, and more.

  • Puberty

Women grow an average of 10 inches and 40-50 pounds during puberty while men grow an average of 12 inches and 50-60 pounds. That rapid growth can cause insecurity. Puberty also starts at different times for different people. Women generally start puberty anywhere from 9-16 years old and men can start puberty anywhere from 10-18 years old. The wide variation in growth can make people feel isolated and different from others.

  • Culture

Beauty standards vary widely between cultures. For example, the United States values thinness while certain African cultures prefer a fuller figure. In addition, the United States promotes tanning while some Asian cultures prefer paler skin.

  • Disability

Any type of disability, whether it is a physical ailment or a mental illness, can affect how you see your body. Even if the disability is not obvious, it greatly affects that person’s mindset.

  • Parents who diet or have a negative body image

Children easily pick up the thought patterns and habits of their parents. As a result, they pick up negative as well as positive messages.

  • Bullying

Blatantly rude comments are not the only form of bullying. Backhanded compliments and statements about your clothes can be just as damaging. A few are listed below.

Examples: “That top doesn’t really work on you.” “That’s too revealing.” “This product will really help with your acne.” “I feel bad about my body when I look at you.”

  • Media messages

Photos can be altered through Photoshop, filters, lighting, angles, and a lot more. Companies also edit their advertisements in a way that makes you strive for an unattainable standard. For example, a treadmill company can alter the people in their commercial to look more muscular. Even Instagram posts from your peers can be edited. These images do not accurately depict reality, therefore they affect body image.

How to Help:

  • Know that weight gain and growth are normal during puberty

Understanding the dramatic changes that occur during puberty can help you realize that fluctuations in your appearance are normal. More information on puberty can be found (here).

  • Refrain from making degrading comments about yourself or anyone else

The negative and positive self talk discussed on this page earlier can significantly improve body image. When focusing on body image in particular, identify any harmful comments made about food, weight, and body shape. Examples of negative comments are found below. Also, complimenting others on their appearance and personality enforces a positive mindset and makes it easier to be kind to ourselves.

Examples: “No I can’t eat that, it’s too high in calories and I’m too big.” “I can’t lose or gain weight, I must not be doing enough.” “My figure is unflattering in these clothes.”

  • Limit screentime, and do protective filtering

People who limit their screen time to an hour a day report feeling happier about their bodies and life in general. While you are on social media, filtering the content you engage with can help tremendously.

– Question beauty standards

Think about whether the beauty ideals on social media are safe to pursue. For example, in order to have the “perfect” figure or weight, many women would have to get plastic surgery or over exercise. As mentioned above, ads also alter models depending on what they are selling, so watch for that as well. Finally, beauty standards imply that we should all look the same, which is incredibly boring. 

– Focus on the person behind the image

Think about the personality, interests, and goals of the person behind the post. It can condition your mind to take the focus off of physical appearance.

  • Write about things that your body lets you do

Examples: Your arms allow you to hug your friends, your mouth allows you to taste your favorite foods, your legs help you walk every day, your hands write and do art, your eyes help you see the beauty in the world, and your stomach gives you energy to have fun.

  • Write down things you like about yourself that are unrelated to body image

Writing things you love about your personality and mannerisms helps detach the idea that you are unlovable because you look a certain way. Self worth does not come from appearance, it comes from within.

  • Write sticky notes with positive affirmations

Record positive affirmations about your body or your personality; anything you can think of. Then, put them in places you see every day such as your mirror, a binder, your dresser, etc. Eventually, it can condition your brain to have automatic positive thoughts instead of negative.

  • Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel good about your body

Uncomfortable clothes put more stress on your body, and it will make you feel resentful. So, refrain from clothes that cut into your skin. In the same vein, avoid comfortable clothes that make you feel bad about yourself. It is a balance between confidence and comfort.

  • Maintain supportive friendships

 Lean on friends that are respectful of your boundaries and support you regardless of your appearance. If people make negative comments about your body, or continue to talk about sizes and diets when you told them not to, they are not supportive.

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