Lexie and Lindsay Kite, are both PhDs, twin sisters and the co-authors of More Than a Body: Your Body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornament.
While body positivity has become a major topic in the past few years, it hasn’t been enough to change the way most many women and girls feel about themselves. Men and boys suffer from insecurity and self-judgement as well, which we feel is important to acknowledge, but, as the concept of body neutrality takes shape in our culture, Lindsay and Lexie hope to reach women specifically about overcoming limiting ideas often linked to media and fashion.
We asked the sisters to explain what developing “body image resilience” is all about. And to talk to us about how to navigate social media without falling into harmful self-comparison traps and the importance of critiquing and examining the media we consume.
Here are a few of the reflections they had to share with us as we start a new year…
Ask yourself: “How do I feel about my body?” Write down your thoughts. If your answer mostly or totally revolves around your appearance (what you hate or even what you like), it is time to improve your relationship with your body. Positive body image isn’t thinking your body looks good, it is knowing your body is good, regardless of how it looks.
Spot the self-objectification When you catch yourself monitoring your body, evaluating how you look as you move through your day, or basing your value on how you appear, recognize that you are self-objectifying. It sneakily saps your mental and physical energy, happiness, confidence, and performance at all kinds of tasks.
When you catch yourself picturing how you look instead of just living, you now have the opportunity to retrain your brain to prioritize your insider perspective instead of an outsider’s view.
Retrain your brain When you find yourself opting out of something you want to do, like swimming, speaking up, or going to an event, shift your focus into your physical senses. What are you feeling, seeing, and experiencing through your body? What do you appreciate about those sensations and abilities?
Memorize our mantra: “My body is an instrument, not an ornament.”
Regardless of how you think you look, choose to use your body to participate, move, love, create, express, and play to prioritize the instrumental power of your body, not just its ornamental value.
Recognize your opportunities for resilience Body shame triggers are constant — seeing a photo of yourself you hate, body comments, weight fluctuations, illness, injury, aging, etc. How do you react? Likely by hiding (opting out of situations) or trying to “fix” your supposed flaws.
The problem is, these coping mechanisms don’t actually improve your body image, they just keep you preoccupied with your looks. It’s time to try a new response!
Body image difficulties can be a catalyst to propel you to practice skills and strengths that actually benefit you by building your body image resilience. You can become more resilient, compassionate, purposeful and powerful not just in spite of your pain, but because of what you learn through it. Practice these steps in a loop on repeat when your body image takes a hit.
Curate your body image environment Take inventory of all the people and places that shape your perception of bodies — your own and others’.
What do you see when you scroll? How do the characters in your shows look and how do they talk about bodies? How much body diversity are you exposed to? How do the people in your life talk about their own bodies or others’?
Take a critical look at what might be helping and hurting your body image — and then curate your media and social surroundings by making some changes and having some honest conversations.
Reconnect with the younger you What did you learn as a little kid about your body or your worth? What made you feel embarrassed? To root out those issues as an adult, you need to reconnect with the little you who felt ashamed.
If possible, find a picture of yourself from a time before you were self-conscious of your appearance. What do you see that looks familiar? What would you tell that perfect little you about their body, what they will experience in that body, and what the world will teach them about bodies? Try writing a letter to let her know who she is, what you love about her, and what you want her to know about her body and her incredible value, regardless of how she looks.
Shift from comparison to compassion It’s easy to envision others as competitors for scarce resources like love, beauty, and validation, but that mindset keeps us divided instead of united.
The next time you feel the sting of self-comparison or judgment against someone for how she looks, make the choice to extend compassion instead — to yourself and to her.
Reflect on the burdens she is likely also carrying in a world that values women’s bodies above our humanity. What if she’s just doing her best and so are you, and that’s okay, even if her choices look different from yours? What if her social media highlight reel isn’t totally realistic? (It’s not, and neither is yours most likely.) We’re all in this together.
Redefine your health and fitness for yourself When you learn to value your body for how it looks, it’s no surprise you learn to evaluate your health and fitness the same way.
When you objectify your health by measuring externally (by your weight, measurements, or dress size), you make it less personal, achievable and sustainable.
The better way is to focus on how you feel and what you do. Measure your fitness in terms of stamina, endurance, and strength — not by inches lost or gained. Shift your focus to internal indicators like blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, cholesterol, and respiratory and cardiovascular fitness. Research shows it pays to focus on enjoyable, sustainable physical activity, rather than weight or size.