Unhindered Conversations: How to Overcome Body Insecurity
Combat body insecurity with empowering advice from four women. Discover their tips and go on your own journey of self-love and acceptance.
It's hard to be body-positive when the first thing you hear from well-meaning relatives or friends is, "Ang taba-taba mona!" In the Philippines, unsolicited comments from family and friends are not uncommon, and while they're not meant to hurt you, they can contribute to body insecurity.
What Causes Body Insecurity?
Body insecurity refers to feelings of , discomfort, or dissatisfaction with your body. This anxiety can stem from a perception that your body doesn't meet societal, cultural, or personal standards of beauty or attractiveness. Certain practices, mindsets, and factors can intensify these feelings.
1. You compare yourself to others.
Comparing your body to others or to unrealistic portrayals in media can cultivate feelings of inadequacy. Twenty-nine-year-old Ayana Tolentino, a senior writer, reflects on this influence in her teenage years. "When I was in high school in the late 2000s, every teen girl celebrity from my favorite TV shows was extremely skinny. I wanted to look like Mischa Barton and Leighton Meester. In my mind, how they looked was the teenage girl ideal – anything less was just a disappointment."
Comments on your size, shape, or looks can also influence how you perceive yourself. "In late elementary, early high school, there were lots of pretty girls in my batch," shares twenty-seven-year-old Jan Dabao, who works in client services. "I noticed I didn’t look much like them. There were girls who'd comment about my weight to me, which made me feel out of place.
For thirty-year-old Louise Egea, a graphic designer, there was an expectation to look like other girls with smooth, hairless skin that weighed heavily on her . "I always felt pressured to remove body hair."
2. Your job or environment gives you no choice but to adhere to beauty standards.
Adopting and internalizing societal can also lead to a negative self-view. "I used to work in an industry that put a high premium on looking good to feel good and being perfectly polished and poised to look credible," shares thirty-seven-year-old Zo Aguila, an entrepreneur. "It came with the job description. I enjoyed dolling up (I still do!), but it’s no longer because I have to look the part."
Personal standards unconsciously imbibed from family or society can lead you to focus on perceived flaws. "I'm insecure about my , lack of muscles, my stretchmarks, and my ," lists thirty-year-old Louise Egea, a graphic designer. She admits to absorbing these standards from those around her, causing her to find "imperfections" she believed needed fixing.
Sometimes, a sudden change in weight can become a daily negotiation between acceptance and resistance. "My body looks very different now compared to my early 20s and before 2020. I've gained a lot of because my lifestyle changed so much. Sometimes I’m okay with the extra weight, sometimes I’m not," muses Ayana.
How Do You OvercomeBody Insecurity?
While overcoming a negative can look different for everyone, there are universal strategies that can support you in this transformative process.
1. Recognize your feelings of insecurity.
Realizing that you have these uncomfortable feelings is the first step toward accepting them. "Now that I live in Boracay, beachside has become normal," says Zo. But she admits that being comfortable in her skin can still depend on her mood. "The difference now is that I know it's okay if I feel one way or the other. I now understand that feeling great about my body is okay and not feeling good about it is okay as well."
The growth towards a more positive body image often emerges from introspection and experiences that redefine your relationship with yourself. For Louise, growing older brought clarity. "When I was younger, I didn't feel comfortable in a swimsuit because of my . As I got older, I realized that they're normal and there's nothing more beautiful than being comfortable in your own skin."
2. Practice self-acceptance.
Today's social movement and mindset towards advocate for the acceptance of all bodies regardless of societal beauty standards. This can encourage you to accept and appreciate your body as it is, regardless of size, shape, color, age, physical ability, or appearance."It's a work-in-progress," admits Ayanna, who believes it's okay not to love your body all the time. But it's vital to accept your body."To me, body positivity means trying – always trying – to accept your body for what it is and working with what you’ve got."
Self-acceptance not only improves your own relationship with your body but also positively affects how others feel around you. "I think that when I accepted my shape, it became easier for people to be comfy around me too," says Zo."It changes your aura. You're more open and receptive. You're kinder and less critical of others."
3. Challenge beauty standards.
Recognizing that existing societal standards of beauty can be unrealistic, and pushing back against them can also help you practice self-acceptance. "I saw girls who were a bit thicker and not model-skinny, and I still thought they were beautiful," says Jan. "I realized there are many ways to be pretty and hot and I found my own unique way that made me feel confident."
4. Celebrate your body's abilities.
When Louise catches herself being critical of her body, she makes it a point to stop thinking of how it looks and focuses on what it can do. "I'm grateful for what my body does every day."
Ayana emphasizes a shift towards "body neutrality," noting that, "I’ve spent so much of my life obsessing over my appearance. These days, I want to focus more on what my body can do rather than what it looks like." Adventures like hiking in Masungi have made her proud of its capabilities, dispelling long-held toxic beliefs.
5. Educate yourself.
Discover the diversity of shapes and sizes around you instead of relying on the media's depictions of reality. Jan found empowerment in life drawing classes. "While studying their anatomy and trying to capture their features, I was inspired by their confidence and vulnerability." She eventually modeled, too, and found it incredibly freeing.
6. Seek support.
Talk to trusted friends or family about how you feel. Sometimes, verbalizing these feelings can be therapeutic. Consider joining a body positivity group or seeking therapy. "It helps to express those negative thoughts by talking to someone you trust, like a therapist or your partner," suggests Ayana. "Sometimes, saying your critical thoughts out loud to another person puts them in perspective. Like, 'Oh, I’m being too harsh on myself. I should work on my inner dialogue.'"
Surround yourself with people who encourage and affirm you in various aspects of your life. "It always helps that I'm surrounded by people who support whatever journey I'm on," admits Zo.
7. Practice self-care.
When rooted in and affirmation, your beauty routine can be an act of self-care that improves how you see and feel about your body. It's not about adhering to unattainable standards, but about feeling confident in your skin.
Ayana recalls a time when her mother struggled with . "Because of her experience, she was adamant that I wax my underarms and never shave them to avoid darkening them," shares Ayana. "I think it’s a major insecurity because it’s another sign of imperfection, like having breakouts or ."
Personal acceptance and reshaping perceptions are essential to combatting insecurities. But the decisions you make regarding your skincare regimen can also be empowering.
Just as some choose skin care to address acne or pigmentation, you might opt for solutions that cater to underarm concerns, like Dove Radiant + Care 3% Niacinamide + 10x Vitamin C&E Dark Marks Reducer 40ml Dry Serum. This deo serum features skin-conditioning ingredients that work to give you radiant and nourished underarms.
Another skin-pampering formula is Rexona Advanced Brightening Deodorant Dry Serum Anti Stain, which blends natural ingredients to protect your skin, so you feel confident all day.
Many people struggle with their body image, so know that you're not alone. If you feel vulnerable to societal pressure, nurturing internal narratives of kindness and resilience can help you arrive at a place of genuine self-love. Overcoming body insecurity is an ongoing process, so be patient with yourself.