Cultivating Positive Body Image

hailey gardiner 4 ways to cultivate positive body image embracing our bodies acceptance

My Scoliosis Story

When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis. 

My doctors told me that the curvature of my spine was severe enough to consider correction through an invasive surgery, but my parents and I decided to try an alternative treatment.

To try and prevent my scoliosis from worsening, I learned that I would need to wear a full torso prosthetic brace for the next few years until my spine and body had stopped growing.

When I first received this news, it broke my little pre-teen heart!

I already felt like I was going through an awkward phase of breakouts and gangly limbs, and to top it all off I was going have to wear a bulky prosthetic under my clothes for 23 hours a day?

No sir! Not today!

I could take the brace off for dance class and to shower, but wearing the brace to school, church, and everywhere else made me feel incredibly self conscious.

My friends could wear tight fitting clothing, do sit ups in gym class, and get hugs from cute boys without giving any of those things a second thought. I, on the other hand, worried constantly about what people would think about me once they saw my brace and the physical limitations it placed on me.

This was my first time dealing with shame around my imperfect body. 

Nobody else was telling me, “You look weird.” No one ever said, “You have a crooked spine so that makes you less beautiful.” And nobody ever told me, “You’re different from the other girls so boys aren’t going to like you.”

But those kinds of negative thoughts crossed my mind often, and they weren’t helpful or healthy.

Love the skin you’re in.

At some point in my teenage years, I had a realization.

Despite my hopes and best efforts to correct my scoliosis, my crooked spine wasn’t going away.

I needed to accept my body exactly the way it was, and learn to take care of myself since this was something I’d be dealing with for the rest of my life!

I can honestly say, all these years later, that I am more content and confident in my own skin than I’ve ever been.

Here are four tips that have helped me cultivate positive body image and love and take care of my body, imperfections and all!

1. Remember that you are more than your body.

YOU are made up of a soul, body, and spirit.

Your worth cannot be measured or weighed!

You were made in God’s image. You are of infinite worth and potential.

Sometimes I think we get so obsessed with our external selves that we forget to nurture our inner selves- our spirits, minds and souls. We need to take care of our whole selves.

I am so grateful that I got to experience wearing that hot, uncomfortable, awkward brace almost all day, every day for a couple of years.

Underneath the brace, I was still me!

I learned (and am still learning) that I am so much more than my body.

My crooked spine is a part of me, but it’s not who I am.

Who I am is so much more dynamic and nuanced than what can be seen on the outside, and that knowledge gives me a great deal of confidence.

2. Reframe your thoughts.

It isn’t helpful to dwell on our imperfections and sink into negative thinking loops around our bodies.

No matter what shape or size it may be, your body is a precious gift!

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Corinthians 6:20

Knowing that my body is a gift from my Heavenly Father helps me to treat myself with kindness, and be wise about what I put inside and onto my body.

I want to honor and take care of my body because it is a beautiful, holy vessel for my spirit. I didn’t always see myself and my body this way, but as I’ve grown older and as I’ve gained experience, I see my body as being incredibly precious. 

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have or can’t do, we should spend more energy feeling grateful for what we do have and can do.

I can taste, smell, feel, and see. I have a healthy and strong body that allows me to run, dance, sing, laugh, read, write, love, and completely embrace and enjoy my beautiful life.

3. Speak kindly to and about yourself.

How often do you hear people complain about their physical appearance? It’s almost trendy to be constantly dissatisfied with your body and to express your dissatisfaction to others.

I believe that words are powerful. If you are constantly tearing yourself and your body down, you will start to believe and become what you say you are.

Become aware of the language you use around your body. Replace negative words and complaining with expressions of gratitude.

4. Embrace and celebrate your uniqueness.

Celebrate the little details that make you uniquely beautiful!

The marvel of our physical bodies is often overlooked or underappreciated. Who has not encountered feelings of low self-esteem because of physique or appearance? Many people wish their bodies could be more to their liking. Some with naturally straight hair want it curly. Others born with curly hair want it straight. Ponder the magnificence of what you see when you look in the mirror. Ignore the freckles, the unruly hair, or the blemishes, and look beyond to see the real you—a child of God, created by Him in His image.

Russell M. Nelson

I used to straighten my curly hair with a flat iron almost every day in high school. (Please enjoy this “pre-selfie” digital camera selfie). What a WASTE of time!

I wish that I would have just embraced my uniqueness and loved my curly hair sooner!

Fight against the urge to compare yourself to others.

Our bodies are so intricate and detailed, it is unfair and unrealistic to pit yourself against someone else, or to aspire to look like someone else. Embrace and love your own body- it’s the only one you’ve got!

hailey gardiner 4 ways to cultivate positive body image embracing our bodies acceptance

I’d love to hear your thoughts around positive body image in the comments below, or send me a message on Instagram!