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“Do you hate your body?”

It's not uncommon to dislike what you see in the mirror, and it is distressing when it happens. If thoughts about your body disrupt your day, we can help.

Close-up of a yellow flower with red coloring in its center

"Do you hate your body?"

By Ellie Herman LCSW
Learn Skills to Combat Body Anxiety


How much time have you invested in thinking about your body? In scrutinizing your thighs or your stomach? Worrying about how your arms look in a dress, or how your smile might be a bit asymmetrical? Fretting over a menu item because of the calorie count? Avoiding a group photo because you won’t like how you look?

In my work as a therapist, I see clients just like you. They’re teachers, writers, therapists, laborers, business owners, chiropractors, and office liaisons. They’re mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, and siblings. They look just like you and me, and yet they spend so much time thinking about how wrong they look, avoiding opportunities for connection and fun. 

Weight of Anxious Thoughts


Everyone has these anxieties that hijack our thoughts and energy in front of a mirror or a camera. And often we let them keep us from participating in fun, soul-refreshing times.

How much energy does it take to have these thoughts? If you were to calculate how much time and energy you’ve expended worrying about how you look, how much time would that be?

For most of us, this is a significant amount of time. Personally, I believe I could have written a best-selling novel by now if I had that time back to use in helpful ways. At the very least, I wouldn’t have a to-do list right now if I hadn’t spent time worrying about my (nonexistent) thigh gap alone.

But we of course don’t have total control over our thoughts, which makes it difficult to “just let it go.” 

It’s okay to have thoughts about your body, even the negative ones. It can be helpful, however, if we can learn to neutralize these thoughts so that they’re just that: thoughts. 

The AND Skill


One way to practice this is to use the “AND skill.” This is a method I teach to allow us to acknowledge negative thoughts in the moment but to gently challenge them and move on with your day.


It works like this:

  • Notice the thought, for example: “My arms look huge in this dress.”

  • Tack on the word “and” to the thought: “My arms look huge in this dress and”

  • Finish the sentence with another, neutral statement/observation about your body: “My arms look huge in this dress and they will allow me to hug my partner today.” 


It might feel silly at first, but you’re building new neural pathways each time you veer into neutral ground instead of plummeting into the deep pit of self deprecation. This is just a moment, just a thought, just a snapshot. 

The Simple Smile

A second tool I use to manage anxiety about your body in front of a mirror is a simple smile. I’m not kidding – smile at yourself in the mirror, strike a pose, do a little jig! If we add a little goofiness to the scenario, we diffuse the power of those negative thoughts. Again, this is just a moment, a passing part of your day.


Plus, mirror neurons are real. When we see someone smile (even your own reflection), we typically feel brighter.

Using tools like these that take 25 seconds from your day, we might save 25 minutes of worrying thoughts and we may not avoid activities that we actually do want to do. Saving that energy will allow your focus to rest on other goals, like writing that novel, crossing off your own to-do list, taking the group photo, trying every flavor Blizzard available, or just resting peacefully and participating in whatever your day brings.


Anxiety about your body will happen.


There is no one who looks in the mirror each day with only positivity.


Those negative thoughts can be just blips in the day, letting you give energy to things that serve you better.

Illustration of a bee with wings spread in flight

This post by Ellie Herman LCSW was originally published by Anxiety Resource Center of Michigan.

So, do you struggle with body image?
If you find yourself feeling persistent negative thoughts about your body, it is helpful to learn how to combat them so that they take up less time in your life.

Together, we can find greater peace, acceptance, and compassion for yourself.
We can learn to think differently and break negative patterns.
We can learn a new language that promotes growth, neutrality, and warmth, rather than negativity.

You will learn to take care of yourself in a new way,
through nurturing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

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