Selective Focus

improve body image

Focus is a choice.

When you look in the mirror and see nothing but cellulite and wrinkles, chin hair and knee fat and tiny boobs, it may feel like you’re seeing these things because they’re SO obvious, or SO horrible, or SO defining. You may assume these things are all there is of you to be seen.

But you are, in fact, choosing to focus on those aspects of your physique. You need to learn about your entire body – both the things you adore and the things you resent – in order to nurture and understand it. But while acknowledging the aspects of your body you don’t adore can be a helpful practice if you want to maximize your figure and look and feel your best, obsessing over them can become dangerous and counterproductive.

Practice looking in the mirror and focusing on your favorite physicalities: Your glistening hair, perfect complexion, sculpted shoulders, long legs. List them off mentally – or even out loud – when you study your reflection each morning. And make an effort to include THEM ALL. Don’t gloss over your healthy nails, graceful ankles, or long eyelashes just because they may seem like minor details. Run through the litany whenever you pass a mirror for more than a moment, and eventually the good will naturally eclipse the bad. It may take months or years, but it will happen if you let it. And what a gift to see a version of yourself staring back at you who is chock full of physical prowess and grace and beauty.

Train yourself to celebrate the good instead of lamenting the bad. Choose to see your strengths, embrace your enviables, and acknowledge your assets. Focus your attention on the body you love, and let it blossom.

Image courtesy Christi Nielsen.

Originally posted 2009-07-09 05:53:00.

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39 Responses to “Selective Focus”

  1. Christina Lee

    this is definitely hard- I tend to choose mirrors that flatter me more and avoid the others (not the point you're making, I know)

  2. madam0wl, a.k.a Sandra

    So true. This reminds me of how I'll be leaning into the mirror, complaining about zits or hairs that need tweezed or something and Stew will be all "don't even worry about it" and then squeezes my ass. Truly I don't think he even sees…

    I am a firm believer in checking yourself out throughout the day, giving mirror affirmations. Now I should go get dressed so I have something to look at.

  3. Laura.

    yay! this is something i am learning to do (and i find myself doing this a lot more since reading your blog), and you know what? it helps! it's not always easy, by any means, but when i find myself starting to critique too much, i catch myself and start over again with the positives.

  4. Becky

    Funnily enough, my healthy nails and long lashes are two of my traits I'm so proud of! My manicurist has told me several time, "you're so lucky, your nails look like they have a natural french manicure" and I get asked frequently if my lashes are fake. I've come a long way in the body image department, but my awareness and appreciation of those two things have boosted my self-esteem long before I became thankful for the body I have!

  5. metscan

    Yes, this needs to be done. I´ve also been told that I should compare myself ( if I really must ), with women my own age. Media, especially magazines show women half my age, and those are the ones, I compare myself with. No wonder that I don´t want to see myself in the mirror.

  6. Jaka Merriman

    Perfectly timed for me. After the holidays and in the midst of planning for my wedding (now past), I managed to wind up weighing the most I ever have. I've been walking around, looking at mirrors, and tearing myself apart. If anyone else had treated me that way, I would never speak to them again.

    Yesterday I realized that I was just looking at the "bad" things. That, like you say, the things I was seeing were the ONLY things I was seeing. I made the promise to myself that I would look at the whole picture – because when I do that, 9/10 times I realize how pretty I actually am.

    Thank you for the confirmation of my own decisions. <3

  7. budget chic

    This is so true, I'm trying to do this. I obsess over my weight all the time. I already accepted my thinning hair LOL. Don't know why I can't resolve the issue about my weight. This is an ongoing battle with the need to lose 5 or 10 pounds constantly even though my body is telling me that it does not want to shred anymore weight. It fights with me every day, I lose 3 — four weeks later it puts it back on. LOL. I need to be more accepting of where I'm in my life and how things are and stop fighting with my body but accept the good features I already have. Thanks for the reminder Sal. Lord knows we need it!

  8. Melissa

    I couldn't have said it better myself. It's all about focus, though I know personally that is easier said than done sometimes.

  9. daddylikeyblog

    Girl, I LOVE this post! It's so specific, but so true and such a huge deal. I actually hadn't even thought of the fact that maybe it's my hyperfocus on my belly that makes it seem like a giant, horrible, life-ruining feature. So strange how I'm a very smart and rational person when it comes to anything BUT my body image! 🙂

  10. futurelint

    This is why I like little mirrors or even bathroom ones where you can't see EVERYTHING at once… full length mirrors can be overwhelming! For me it's much easier to focus on the positive when there's not soooo much to look at!

  11. i_b_erin

    We are all STUNNING!!

    And on the days I start to focus on the negative, I put on a sassy outfit, that makes me feel alive!We have so much to be thankful for, and need to remind outselves that.

    Someone once told me, when you feel your worst, try and look your best.
    It helps!

    I am STUNNING!

  12. smaro

    I have say, listing off your best bits in a changing room mirror is nigh on impossible! The lighting and mirrors in changing rooms are awful!! So watch which mirror and which reflection you choose to mentally list of this positive, body loving mantra. Soft natural light is usually best! Sorry, not the point, I just say Christina Lee's comment.

    More to the point, has anyone heard of a show called 'How to Look Good Naked'? I am not sure if it has migrated state-side but it is the brain-child of a kooky, highly gay, woman-adoring Korean-British stylist called Gok. His show is all about refocusing a woman's body image to see the whole picture and the real size and proportion of her good and bad bits

  13. Jennifer

    Thanks for another great post. You're spot on. I spend so much time thinking about my too-flabby belly or my frustratingly zitty complexion that I forget to appreciate my shapely calves or my smooth shoulders. But those things are worth just as much — more? — notice as the bits of me I like less. I've never thought about it consciously, but when I admire some part of me in the mirror I always end up feeling better and sexier than when I focus on the negative.

  14. dapper kid

    Absolutely beautiful post. Something I shall definitely try to do more often 🙂 I guess when we see the bad, we forget to see the good, which is the good everyone else sees.

  15. Clare

    Thanks for the reminder, Sal. I needed to read this post today…I've been tending lately towards focusing all of my self-esteem and body image on my shriveled, immobilized, and still very broken arm. I just need to work on my perspective. So thank you!

  16. elena-lu

    yes i train my brain to see me beautiful no matter the mirror for that is what i am and what we all are its just we get caught up on little things

  17. Sharon Rose

    Hi there-I do try to look at myself in a full length mirror, so I'm not focusing on one particular area.

  18. Make Do Style

    I've never had a flat belly but I'm going to pretend or go mad like Madonna!

  19. lisa

    Thanks for this reminder about counting our body blessings, Sal. 🙂

  20. jennine

    absolutely! i think this rule generally applies to most parts of life… i might even say maybe to a little gratitude list in the mirror? i don't know.. anyway, i need to stop focusing on the features i don't like about myself…

  21. Diana

    Once again, Sal, you never fail to inspire.

    I've noticed that I have a habit of obsessing over perceived flaws that no one else notices. A few weeks ago, I became obsessed that I needed to wax my chin and my cheeks, because they were so "hairy". I even booked an appointment, but when I got there and told the lady that I wanted to wax it, she said "Why? It's just peach fuzz?"
    Isn't it funny how we focus so much on things that no one else even gives a second thought?

  22. Winnie

    Definitely true, we all need to learn that we all have good features even if we try and avoid mirrors…definitely something that you have to get used to.

    I love your posts Sal, today someone said the colours in my dress suited me and I replied with 'yeah, I know, I love it' and accepted the compliment 🙂 you'd be proud!

  23. WendyB

    My chin hairs are so huge that I can't see past them! Sorry!

  24. Cupcakes and Cashmere

    as sad as it sounds, i really do have to train myself not to focus on the bad. thank you for the encouragement as always! xo

  25. Allie

    They say that's the difference between guys and girls, that guys see the good things and the girls nit pick.

    And it's proved to me to be true.

    But great post Sal, this is something I struggle with too.

  26. Rachael

    What a fabulous post! You are one inspiring woman!

  27. ~Hurricane B~

    I added a link to your blog in my last post, I love your uplifting blogs. I think it is amusing that all of us, have some of the same issues, yet we always feel we are alone. That not one soul can understand the horror of having to pluck a chin hair, or having a wobbly bit that annoys us.

    You are 200% right on trying to focus on the good stuff, another thing is that we all need to accept, I mean REALLY ACCEPT people's compliments, we, or I should say I have the worst time really taking a compliment, I say thank you and then blow it off.=(

    Have a great weekend Sal,

  28. Nadine

    You're so right: I think I should paint your words on my mirror.

  29. Lesa

    You made my day–I weigh so much more tha I ever did, and that is all I focus on–and I obsess. However, thanks to your post I realize I have been neglecting my hair, which I love, my skin, which looks pretty darn good for an almost 48 yr old if I do say so myself! and my blue eyes. Thank you!

  30. Annie Spandex

    The bathroom mirror at my boyfriend's is really flattering–something about it, it's like soft lighting or something. I'm always like, "Oh! Lookin good." Lol…

  31. S

    Wow. This was a lovely post. It is so true that people focus on the negative aspects of themselves (for me, facial hair that apparently only I can see & acne scars from my teen years).
    It's time for me to only focus on the positive as everything else brings on anxiety that only brings me down.
    People would be so much happier if they didn't dwell on the negatives.

  32. The Raisin Girl

    My shoulders are unbelievably sexy. I try to focus my attention on that and find ways to work around my tubby tum. Which never goes away no matter how much weight I lose.

    It's a good practice. And strangely, one I always apply to other people, but never used to apply to myself. I would see, okay, maybe this person has a really boney face, but look at how beautiful their eyes are! Or how glossy their hair! And with me, it never occured that I might have hidden beauties along with all the glaringly obvious flaws I couldn't help seeing.

    Hooray for the day I put on a tube top and discovered my sexy shoulders!