Body Image Mantras for Doubters

I have a background in New Agey-ness. Honest. I worked at a metaphysical book publisher for years, and I did so because I’m a double Capricorn with Taurus rising and am quite sure that information has real bearing on my life path. I have experienced the power of visualization, seen spells work, and received practical, helpful advice from Tarot readings. I don’t just want to believe, I actually do. In more cases than not.

But there’s a certain segment of self-help, New Age, advice-y stuff that makes me go, “Eh.” And for years, that included mantras. I talk a lot and write even more, so you’d think that I’d GET how powerful words can be. Especially in repetition. But I didn’t. Until I hit a wall in my own body image work and started reciting a few on my own. And they worked.

For doubters like me, I think mantras must be kept simple, positive, and universal. Looking in the mirror each morning and saying, “My body is lovely and unique in every way, and will remain so no matter what,” is absolutely worthwhile. But it’s also a bit convoluted. A variant on the phrase above, “My whole being is beautiful,” might work better, and even encompasses the you beyond your body. Doing, “I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s beauty ideal,” hits an important note, but does so from a reactive standpoint. In my experience, mantras resonate when they’re affirming, so focusing on the positive always helps. Try, “My beauty is unique and true,” instead.  And although something specific like, “My hips and curves enhance my fabulousness,” will work wonders if you’ve honed in on a specific body area that troubles you, “My figure is fab,” might stick in your mind a bit better in the long run.

Here are a few other body image mantras that might work, even for staunch for mantra-doubters:

  • Thank you, body, for all that you do.
  • I am strong, I am good.
  • When I see myself, I see beauty.
  • My body is sacred.
  • I am powerful and strong.
  • My beauty is my own.
  • I love who I am, body and soul.

You can also go the cheeky route – blow yourself a kiss, experiment with, “Hey, good lookin’!” do something playful. But for any mantra – fun or serious – to be effective, it must be consistent for a decent chunk of time and it must be out loud. I know that last bit may sound like a deal-breaker to some of you doubters, but I’m TELLING you. Saying something out loud gives it a power that reciting it internally seldom can. Think about putting on your favorite dress. If you look in the mirror and are pleased, you’ll smile. But if you look in the mirror and are blown away by your own hotness, you’ll exclaim aloud. Which of those expresses the stronger emotion?

Mantras aren’t for everyone, and I’ll admit to falling off this bandwagon myself fairly regularly. But I’ve been amazed by how these seemingly small, easy, simple phrases can shift my self-perception and boost my body image when repeated regularly. And I’m hoping this little tribute to them will drag some of you doubters over to the other side.

Image via Rosie Molinary.

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  • Oh, I’m a believer in mantras from way back. Years ago (has to be at least 25), I was having issues with my writing and stumbled upon a mystery writer named Larry Block who put out a tape with ‘positive sayings’ for writers and the one that has stuck with me ever since was the very first one: “Writing is easy and fun for me.” There were others about how you have an important message that you must communicate, that everything you write/say is important and so on, but that first one is the one that has stuck with me and it certainly helps with writers’ block. It is NOT silly or stupid or useless to stand in front of the mirror, look at yourself and say those things. Think about all the times you have stood in front of the mirror and said negative things to yourself – the least we can do is balance all of that off.

  • You *know* I believe in mantras – in my work we call them “cognitive re-structuring”, but it’s a similar idea. We’ve been conditioned for a long time to think a certain way, and it takes time, repetition, and encouragement to change our beliefs. Mantras help! One of my favorites: ” I am strong and worthy.”

  • I’m having a hard time believing it, but because I respect your views so much, Sal, I’m going to keep an open mind.

    I don’t know, I guess sometimes affirmations or mantras seem like trying to get blood from a turnip. If I’m morbidly obese, for instance — a life-threatening condition for many people — I’m not sure telling myself I’m powerful and strong is what I need.

    But I could be wrong. Maybe the internal messaging could encourage self-acceptance to the extent that I would, out of self-love, find the help I need for my health.

    Good to think about. Thanks.

  • I love this post, Sal! So well written and so true!

  • This is great! I too believe in mantras. Also mood therapy and mindful thinking. We can change a lot with our thinking patterns and in turn change our world. Most often I find that people just don’t believe we have this much power and influence over our own lives, thankfully we do!

  • Oh wow Sal, WORD. All of it is true. I’ve experienced reiki, also had some truths revealed during tarot readings. Yeah, I’ve seen spells work too. And I’m a Gemini, through and through.

  • Aziraphale

    I’m allergic to new age woo in general (sorry, Sally!), but actually, I do see the point of mantras. I think, especially as young women, that we automatically do the opposite all the time — we repeat negative things inside our heads, like “Look at all my zits” or “Why can’t my belly be flat?” and so on. Why we do this is a big topic that has been endlessly discussed! And adopting a positive mantra, like the ones you suggest, is one step toward putting a stop to all the negative self-talk. It’s a conscious choice and an effort at first, but can be turned into a habit, like many things, until you start to really believe what you repeating.

  • omg mulder was my first love. capricorn pride!

  • LG

    Self-help seems way different to me than new age! I scratch my head trying to put astrology and, say, cognitive behavioral therapy in the same bucket. Nonetheless, I understand how a mantra could help change the thoughts and therefore feelings about our bodies. The same as if I don’t feel like cleaning the kitchen, but I get started on it anyway, I’m more apt to continue and finish it. Sometimes the motivation comes in “doing”, regardless of whether the feeling is there. Anyway, I like the mantra about thanking my body for what it does. :0)

  • I don’t have body image ones. I probably should though. I do have bad day, sick kid, screaming baby, tired mama, pokemon conversation, labor (though not for me ever again), and so on parenting ones though. I read them in a magazine when I was pregnant with my 9 year old and thought they were dumb till I had him. They are “you don’t have to like it you just have to do it” (think cleaning and homework on a bad day) and “the only way out of this is through it”. I guess they aren’t positive but the latter has kept me moving in lots of situations and tend to fit my personality well.

  • Which is why poetry and plays are best read out loud – they can be TOTALLY different to how they sound in your head.

    Words are extremely powerful, as is intent. Think of day to day dealings with people and that comes through loud and clear. I choose to believe that there is magic (for all that we know the process of decay, watching kitchen scraps turn into compost turn into soil – to me that’s magical!), that what we “know” and understand is not definitive.

  • I don’t necessarily believe in mantras, but I believe in theme songs. I become badass by playing The White Stripes’ “My Doorbell” in my head when I need some struttin’ mojo. It’s not the words, it’s the rhythm.

  • I had a girlfriend who edited New Age books. She used to tell hilarious stories about working with a writer who supposedly channeled her books. She’d advise the writer, who told her that she would have to consult with her “channel” before any changes could be made.

  • LaChina

    I’m not sure about mantras regarding the body, they seem a bit generic. But I strongly believe in positive self talk. So, if my face breaks out, I remind myself that my hair looks great. If I’m feeling bloated, I say my legs still look nice or something along those lines.

    However, I strongly believe in the Buddhist 5 Rules of Happiness for good living;

    Free your heart from hatred
    Free your mind from worries
    Live simply
    Give more
    Expect less

    I still have a way to go, but love the concepts.

  • Debbie

    So what do you do when your body is not being strong, powerful or good? What do you do when you’re sick for months at a time and can’t move off the couch for entire days? I’m seriously overweight and can’t exercise because of my medical condition and find myself constantly locked into a battle with my body just trying to get through the day.

    It’s difficult to love your body when it doesn’t love you back.

    Sorry to be such a downer, but it is what it is.

    • Sal

      Hi Debbie. It can be incredibly challenging to keep a positive attitude when you feel like your body is fighting you back. This post talks about body gratitude in the face of challenge and illness, so it might be helpful: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/04/reader-request-body-gratitude-in-the-face-of-illness.html Be sure to check the comments, too, for reader input and ideas.

      • JA

        I struggle with this to–I’m disabled with health problems, and unable to exercise. The book that I have found useful is “How to Be Sick” by Tony Bernhard. She talks about dealing with chronic illness from a Buddhist perspective.

        • Sal

          Thank you for recommending that book, JA – I’ll check it out.

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