'I Hate My Body': What to Do If You Feel This Way

Ways to improve your body image

Verywell / Alison Czinkota

Having a body is no easy task. Just like our minds, our bodies are pretty inescapable. And while having a body alone can be a tough thing, loving your body can sometimes be even more difficult. Whether because your body doesn't work perfectly, or you don't like its shape or size, it's common to feel that you don't fully love your body. These feelings are normal, and tend to come and go throughout life.

There comes a point, though, when you may be focusing too much on hating your body. It can impact the rest of your life, ruin your relationship with yourself, and even potentially lead to eating disorders or illness.

Let's look at how you can tell if your complicated feelings about your body are affecting your mental health, and what you can do about it if so.

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Signs Your Mental Health is Being Impacted

The toll of disliking your body can show up in many different ways in your life. These are a few of the ways you can tell if your dislike of your body is negatively impacting your mental and emotional wellness.

Your Stress Is a Time Eater

Are you spending so much time thinking about how you hate your body that it interferes with the amount of time you have in general? This is a major sign that your hatred for your body is taking a toll on your mental health.

Even if it doesn't feel like you're spending all your time thinking negatively about your body, that doesn't mean it isn't affecting you.

Take a pause and think about how much time you spend actively feeling and thinking badly about your body, and about how often your body is on your mind.

Whether it's a few minutes or a few hours a day, the result is undue stress that your thoughts are causing.

You Experience Dysphoria

Dysphoria is a state of feeling uneasy or unhappy. This could be related to anything, including financial situation, personal life, work life, as well as our bodies or gender.

Dysphoric feelings about your body could manifest as simple as feeling like your body just isn't OK, or as complexly as taking physical action like undereating in hopes of changing your body.

Dysphoria can come and go, and doesn't necessarily occur all of the time. If your feelings about your body ever reach the point where you feel hopeless, and like the discomfort of being in your body will never end, you have experienced dysphoria.

You Experience Dysmorphia

The word dysmorphia looks somewhat similar to dysphoria, but they are entirely different things.

While dysphoria is a feeling of deep uneasiness, body dysmorphia is the act of obsessively feeling that your body is flawed.

Often, people who experience body dysmorphia see their own bodies differently than other people see them. You may think that a part of you is disfigured when it isn't, or that your body is larger than others' even if it's the same size.

Sometimes people with body dysmorphia experience eating disorders, but that isn't always the case. Dysmorphia is centered around the inability to let go of the idea that your body, whether a part of it or all of it, is wrong and just not acceptable. While you don't have to always love your body, it is important to accept it.

You Feel Triggered By Body Discussion

This sign that your hatred of your body is negatively affecting your mental health is tricky, because in our society people say a lot of inappropriate things about other people's bodies. In general, it's best to simply never comment on another person's body unless they invite you to. If you get upset when people talk about your body, that doesn't mean you hate your body.

However, if someone discussing your body makes you upset in a way that's hard to let go of, such as if it ruins your day or your week, or if it makes you act in a reactionary, negative way towards the commenter, your dislike of your body may be serious enough to be affecting your emotional wellness.

This is especially true if the comments made about your body would be considered benign, or even pleasant, by someone else, such as telling you that an article of clothing you're wearing looks good on you.

How to Develop Love for Your Body

Feeling stuck and hopeless in your body is common, and it doesn't have to be where your story ends. There are many things that you can do to begin the journey of loving, or at least appreciating and accepting, your body.

It's important to have positive feelings about our bodies because having only negative feelings about a topic we can't get rid of makes us feel stressed and upset, and that isn't a productive way to go through life.

Moving into a space of loving, or at least accepting, your body helps you to have less stress in your life at large. It can help you be a happier person, too.

Make a List Of What Your Body Can Do

Sometimes we get so caught up in feeling like our bodies aren't good enough, we completely forget about all the amazing things our bodies can do. When you're in a place of feeling hatred for your body, it can be very helpful to detail out for yourself all the ways that your body is succeeding. This can help you feel proud of your body, and realize that it's doing the best it can.

Some questions to ask yourself to get started include:

  • Are you breathing? The answer to this is probably yes, since you're alive and conscious. Do you realize what an amazing feat that is? Your lungs are ingesting oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide, and that's an amazing thing to be able to do. Your body is doing everything in its power to keep you alive right now. It is here for you, keeping you alive. Nothing else in this world has the sole function of keeping you with us, and that's something to be thankful for.
  • Can your eyes see? If so, that's great. If not, how have you learned to compensate for not having that sense? It's a huge accomplishment to be able to use your body without that!
  • Are your legs able to walk? Or even run? If so, that's great. If not, how have you learned to compensate for not being able to walk? It's a huge accomplishment to be able to move through daily life in your body without being able to do that.

There are many more questions you can ask yourself, but those are some incredibly straightforward ones to begin this journey. The more we can appreciate what our bodies do for us, the easier it becomes to accept them as they are.

Practice Body Neutrality

Body neutrality is the radical notion of accepting your body and appreciating it for what it can do, regardless of how it looks or how it falls short in function. Practicing it can involve everything from eating more intuitively to not punishing yourself with exercise.

Practicing body neutrality has numerous mental health benefits. It can lead to having more empathy and less judgment towards others, and to lower stress levels.

It isn't a quick thing to do, but it's a worthwhile time investment because of these benefits. You can start by trying several body neutrality practices at once, or begin with just one at a time.

Do Kind Things for Your Body

With all our bodies do for us, it's kind of strange how little we do purely for them. Our bodies are busy taking us places and functioning, and we often don't do anything to thank them.

Thanking our bodies for all they do doesn't have to be expensive or complex. You could thank your body for its work by taking a nice warm bath. You could relax for an evening instead of socializing when you feel tired. You could buy a new lotion and massage your arms and legs while you moisturize. Anything that you can do to give your body the love it deserves is excellent.

Create Boundaries Around Body Discussions

In a world where commentary about bodies is rampant, you can protect yourself from getting triggered by setting clear boundaries with friends and families. That might involve letting them know what topics of conversation are comfortable for you, and which ones aren't.

It might mean telling them that you don't want your looks commented on. Or, it could be sending them information about how to discuss bodies in non-harmful ways.

Whatever you choose, it's an empowering task that gives you more autonomy with your body.

Practice Stress Relieving Activities

Minimizing stress is one of the best things we can do for our mental wellness. It may not be possible to reduce or eliminate stress, but we can choose how we deal with it. Taking on a stress relieving activity, whether breathing exercises or taking a walk, is good for all aspects of ourselves.

Even just a few short minutes can have an effect on you for hours afterwards. Practicing stress relieving activities can also help you to think more rationally about your body, and to operate from a less upset mental space.

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.