Adapt To What You Can’t Change

How do you make peace with less lovable body parts? First, realize that the problem is not the feature itself; the problem is that it bothers you.

Here are some techniques for changing your perspective.

1. Exercise: Resizing

Remember in the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Telltale Heart,” how the faint sound of the murdered man’s heartbeat seemed to get louder and louder until the culprit went mad? This is a good example of things taking on exaggerated significance.

If you seem to be blowing things out of proportion—suck them back down to size!

An NLP (neurolinguistic programming) technique that works well for some people is this: Relax, close your eyes, and breathe comfortably for a moment. Imagine the feature that bothers you. See it clearly in your mind. Make the picture as vivid and real as you can—see it in a real setting, with specific sounds and lighting and associated details.

Now begin to see a box around the scene, like the frame around a picture. Imagine the frame shrinking, and watch the picture shrink as the frame closes in. Make it smaller, smaller, smaller, until it seems miles away and the sounds are lost in an echo, as at the bottom of a well.

Imagine it continuing to shrink until—poof !—it vanishes. Immediately call to mind a happy memory, with all its associated details. Fully see this happy scene in vivid color, filling the screen in your brain. Now smile broadly and open your eyes. Practice this visualization regularly.

2. Celebrate It

One of the most liberating techniques I’ve discovered is to actively celebrate the part of your body you don’t like. If you can make that part of you seem lovable, it may just become more lovely.

Unless you’re in a group of women all trying this together, you’ll want to do this exercise when you’re alone. The idea is to put the body part on display nonverbally—using gesture and body language—and experience how it feels to do so. Exaggerate it. Thrust it forward. Flaunt it. Put on some music and do a dance featuring it. Be bold with it and make the universe acknowledge it.

3. Creat Your Own (Virtual) Community

Think of ways to create a setting that normalizes your body. For example, create a collage of photos of people who look like you. Find photos of nonmodels, of “real people.” Cut photos out of newspapers or out of your church bulletin. The Web can also be a source of photos.

Crazy as it sounds, you can actually do an internet search for “big noses” or “small breasts,” and you’ll often find images to choose from. (I recommend doing this with your search engine set to exclude explicit images.) You’ll even find, in some cases, other people “celebrating” the body trait you deplore.

By doing this, you can become your own media source in the cause of beauty diversity: Flood your brain with images of normal people who look just like you. Take back the airwaves!