The Body List

This simple list-making exercise can transform your body image.
Try this out.

No, seriously.

  1. Write a list of words that describe your body, both good and bad. Include anything and everything that comes to your mind, and keep going for at least 25 adjectives. Are you “strong,” “short,” “disproportionate,” “sexy,” “huge,” “clumsy,” “stocky,” or “delicate”?
  2. Next to each word, put a + if you feel that it’s a positive attribute, and a – if you feel that it’s a negative attribute.
  3. Now, examine your negatives. Next to each negative,write the reason you feel this adjective applies to your body. Be honest, and take your time doing this. (You can feel free to do this for the positives, too, but this is mainly meant to reverse ingrained negative body thinking.)

When forced to articulate your reasoning, you’ll see how much you’re unconsciously exaggerating negative perceptions of yourself. For example, let’s say you wrote “wrinkly.” What’s your reasoning? Are you seriously and deeply creased all over your body? Do passersby yell, “Raisin!” at you, and then scamper off, laughing? Say you wrote, “out of shape.” Are you comparing your current body to a body you once had? Or the body of someone else? Are you so out of shape that you can’t climb a flight of stairs, or lift a bag of groceries, or walk your dog?

I realize I’m being a bit extreme … but, um … so are you, in all likelihood. When we start body-bashing, we get caught up in a torrent of emotions without even ATTEMPTING to apply any logic. Sometimes simple reasoning, some thoughtful writing, and a healthy dose of eye-opening honesty can begin to erode years of willful misunderstanding and denial. Yeah, you’ve probably got a few wrinkles. You might not be built like Halle Berry. That makes you YOU, not inadequate, ugly, weird, or bad.

Next time you catch yourself ragging on your own beautiful bod, think hard about your reasoning. Can you talk yourself out of it? Outfox your instincts, and see uniqueness and value instead of sub-celeb physicality? It’s no silver bullet, but it’s a start.

Image courtesy leah.

Originally posted 2009-09-09 05:58:00.

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35 Responses to “The Body List”

  1. Christina Lee

    ha ha "crone"! yep you're right! and hey that body in that shot reminds me of mine (I need visuals sometimes)- made me feel pretty good actually!

  2. Zoma

    This is an excellent activity. I recently took a journaling class and we did a similar exercise. When I was really honest and stuck to the process, even though it was hard, it was an eye opener. Thanks for posting this. We all need to stop being so hard on ourselves and discover our fabulousness!

  3. Renee

    Thanks for the link love, and glad you enjoyed my article. I really don't know where I've been but I've been looking around, and you're blog is pretty darn amazing, I'm adding you to my blogroll 😀

    xx Rene

  4. dapper kid

    Oh my, I shall definitely have to sit down and give this a go. I think it's usually the way that we focus so much on our flaws we forget the good things. I suppose we think that others only see our flaws, but in reality they see all the good we sometimes forget. Hope you're having a lovely day 🙂

  5. Make Do Style

    Positive reinforcement/affirmation is proven to make people happier/content

  6. La Belette Rouge

    I once had a guy(likely for political reasons) in South America walk up to me and tell me, "you are ugly when you smile". 20 years later I think of his ugly action very often. Yet, I do the same thing to myself everyday. I am going to try this exercise. I could use some positive self-talk. Thanks, lovely!

  7. ohhoneyno

    great exercise sal! i'm going to try this once i get out of work.

    here's an "ask sal" question for you. you've blogged recently about your style icons, favorite style advice blogs, even magazines and catalogs you turn to for help and inspiration. so here's my question — which daily style blogs and fashion bloggers do you look to for new ideas and/or great reads? inquiring minds want to know — and to add to their ever-expanding blogrolls ;).

  8. ekerplay

    @ La Belette Rouge… There's no such thing as an ugly smile. It makes me very sad that this happened to you, though 🙁

    Sal, great great great post!!

  9. WendyB

    "Do passersby yell, "Crone!" at you, and then scamper off, laughing?" — I'm going to start doing this to people. Sounds like fun!

  10. kristophine

    This really hits home for me. The only gym I have access to is the university gym, so I only go from September to June–it costs a ridiculous amount to get a not-currently-enrolled student pass. So I've been sedentary this summer, and I've put on some weight. I complained to my sister about it, and she probably could have killed me through the phone, because her struggles with weight have been epic compared to mine. She said, "Oh, what, you're a size (redacted for modesty) now? My GOD. What a heifer. Seriously, shut up and chill out."

    And, thinking it over, I realized she was completely right–even if I never lose any of the weight I've gained lately, even if this is where my waist wants to settle, I'm still a healthy weight. I got no room for complaint. And it gives me booty, so I can't say there's no upside. I can finally feel okay about it when I look in the mirror. I have stopped compulsively pinching my flesh and telling my boyfriend how fat I feel.

  11. Couture Allure Vintage Fashion

    The photo reminds me of Trinny and Susannah. On their new show "Making Over America" last week, the woman that they were helping had a horrible body image of herself. She complained about her tummy, so Susannah lifted her skirt, pulled down her panties part way and showed the woman her own flabby stomach. On camera! It was great! I love Trinny and Susannah.

  12. Kate Coveny Hood

    This is an excellent idea. Comparing ourselves to what we "used to look like" is particularly nuts since we probably had all kinds of self criticism back then too! Maybe we should try to imagine what we'll think of our current selves 25 years from now. If the answer is, "I should have appreciated those perky boobs" then we're probably in good shape. If the the answer is, "I really should have eaten better and excercised so I didn't end up with xyz health issue," then we may have some work to do…

  13. Rita

    Thank you for this post. I struggle with this more and more lately. I needed to do this.

  14. The Barely Tattoo'd Artist

    Hells yeah! I think more girls and women need to actually make this list…it probably will help many of them with the self esteem issues that they suffer from time to time…

    Man, I get so pumped after reading your blog I just gotta smile…good start of the day or great ending to the day…

  15. gili

    Thank you so much for this. These are the kind of positive ideas that will break Western Society's obsession with "the perfect bod", specifically women having it.

    You're incredible.

  16. smaro

    brilliant activity. I am going to try this. I'm bad at the bod bashing but worse at more general person bashing..I am my own worst critic. This activity will be a good opportunity to reverse that. Thanks.

  17. Miss Peregrin

    You are amazing! And this is a great idea – I wish I could convince my friends to do it.