In this day and age, it seems like a positive body image is a rarity. Whether you fit today’s skinny standards or wish you did, most women have issues with their bodies. Some may argue that bickering with one’s body is as old as time. We frequently hear friends and family lament about their thick thighs or pudgy middle. Personally, whether I’m with family or friends, an hour doesn’t go by without someone saying that they shouldn’t be eating that much, must skip dessert, need to lose weight or can’t fit into a shirt that was recently roomy.

Here’s a list of indicators that your image may be suffering more than usual (and ways to fix it below that):

  1. You notice only negative things in the mirror, car windows, storefront windows, etc. Instead of seeing your positive physical traits, you’re more likely to be found bashing your body, and nitpicking at every nook and cranny.
  2. You have a tough time taking compliments. It isn’t that you’re too polite to take a compliment; it’s that you truly believe you don’t deserve them.
  3. You rarely think you look good. Even wearing a favorite outfit doesn’t help you to feel good in your skin. You rarely feel beautiful or even pretty.
  4. You compare yourself to everyone. For many of us, comparisons are as natural as breathing. But, while you’re comparing your appearance to everyone else’s, you rarely have anything good to say about yourself. It’s always, “her thighs are so much slimmer than mine.” “Her waist is much smaller.” “I wish I had her body.”
  5. It takes you forever to pick out an outfit — more often than not. Do you have a moment — more like many moments — where you’ve been cooped up in your room, trying on tons of clothes? You can’t see your floor, partially because it’s overflowing with clothing and mainly because your face is filled with tears. There’s nothing wrong with your clothes–it’s just that everything is wrong with your body.
  6. You skip events because you don’t think you look good enough. How often have you declined an invite to a dinner date, party or other engagement because you felt too fat to leave the house?
  7. You criticize your body regularly. “My stomach is gross.” “My thighs are enormous!” Do these phrases resemble your daily mantras?

5 Solutions to Your Bruised Body Image

1. Think of the awesome things you can do thanks to your body, whether it’s lifting weights, walking several miles, playing with your child, playing an instrument, riding a bike, helping mom carry groceries, dancing with your significant other, achieving a tough yoga pose or simply wrapping your arms around a loved one.

2. What do you like about yourself, beyond your body? Create a list of your positive qualities and achievements, and if you need extra reminding, put the list on a note card and stash it in your purse.

3. Hang out with positive people, who appreciate and support you, who see beyond appearances to who you really are.

4. View exercise as fulfilling, not punishing. Instead of working out to eliminate calories or fit into some bikini (all things that, unfortunately, many magazines and some so-called experts recommend), choose ways to stay active that you enjoy and that make you feel strong and good about your body. There are tons of options for leading an active lifestyle: walking, hiking, biking, workout DVDs, gym membership, yoga, Pilates, dancing, tennis. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t like the latest workout craze. Pick something that resonates with you.

5. Worrying about your weight and body is exhausting and strips you of valuable time. Consider all the good things you miss out on because you’re too busy criticizing yourself. You overlook other opportunities, whether it’s the opportunity to self-reflect (instead of nit-picking at your thighs or waist, focus on being kinder to yourself and others), spend time with loved ones or read a good book.

How do you think your body image has been bruised? What things do you do to improve your body image?