Maybe you don’t love your body. Or maybe you wish you could change it in some way. You’re definitely not alone. More than half of 2SLGBTQIA+ people reported feeling anxious or depressed because of their body image. 

And no wonder. With social media, rigid beauty standards, heteronormative body ideals, body dysphoria, discrimination, and everything else, it’s pretty hard not to struggle with feeling bad about your body these days.

So how do you do it? How do you actually love your body? There are often a lot of self-love quotes out there like “you just need to love yourself” or “embrace all your curves.” While sure, that sounds nice, how do you actually get there? Here are a few practical tips to actually start loving your body.

How to actually love your body:

Bring on the compliments

It’s time to get real—what do you love about yourself? Maybe it’s your beautiful curly hair. Or your big brown eyes. Or your long legs. Every day for the next week, write down one part of your body that you love. Then hang that piece of paper up in a place where you’ll see it every day (like a bathroom mirror or a closet door). Can you think of more than seven things? Even better! Write it all down.

Really look at yourself

Challenge yourself every day to set a timer for five minutes, take off all your clothes and stand in front of the mirror. Then really take a look at yourself, taking in every part, every curve. When you’re first starting out, those five minutes will feel like an eternity. But over time, it will get easier and easier to see how beautiful you truly are.

Come up with some nicknames

Almost everyone has a part of their body they don’t like. Maybe for you it’s your legs. Or your stomach. Or your back. No matter what it is, these body parts deserve love too. Try giving the part a name. Sounds weird, I know. But when you give it a name, it makes it almost easier to show it love. For the longest time, I hated my stomach with a burning passion.

After I named her Bea though, I found it made it easier to be nicer to her. What to name your parts? Anything you want really. As long as its positive (no hurtful nicknames), whether you go with Coach, Sparkles or Little Miss Sunshine is entirely up to you.

Show your body love

Criticize. Mock. Punch. Pull. Squeeze. How often do you hurt the parts of your body you don’t like (either verbally or physically)? I know back when I used to hate my stomach, I used to squeeze it so hard it would hurt. It was almost automatic. The truth is, all this hatred isn’t healthy.

Instead, try showing your body love. If you criticize your arms, be kind to them and thank them for all they do for you. If you squeeze or pull on a body part you hate, instead gently hold, rub or hug it (yes, you can give yourself hugs). It takes some practice, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Focus on function

When you’re first learning how to love your body, it might be hard to focus on how it looks. That’s okay. Focus on function for now. For example, if you can’t love how beautiful your legs are just yet, just thank them for all they do for you (i.e. walk, run, dance, etc.). Just by showing your body love and gratitude for all it does is a good enough way to start as any.

Take care of your body

Treat your body well by working out, getting enough sleep, eating well and drinking water. Now to be clear—I’m not saying you need to exercise and diet to hit a certain dress size or number on the scale. I’m talking more about feeling good by giving your body what it needs. So whether that’s practicing some self-care, taking up a sport you love or getting your daily ZZZs, love and care for your body. 

Put things in perspective

Whether it’s a targeted ad for weight loss gummies or a celebrity’s flawless Instagram post, it’s easy to get in your own head about how you look. This is where you need to give yourself a quick reality check.

That picture she posted? She probably took and retook that photo fifty times before editing it and adding filters to it. And that ad for some dumb product? Remember—they are trying to make you feel insecure about your body in order to get you to buy things. Because heaven forbid, if you actually felt good about your body, then they wouldn’t make any money.

When something comes across your feed and you notice yourself feeling a little insecure, try and look at the situation from a new perspective.

Surround yourself with positivity

Let’s be honest—from influencers on Instagram to models in magazines, we’re fed a lot of toxic messaging about what the so-called “perfect” body looks like. This is why it’s so important to steer clear of the negative to make room for the positive.

Are you following anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself when they show up on your feed? Stop. Mute or even unfollow them because it’s just not worth it. Trade in the negative accounts for the positive ones like body positive influencers, inspiring quotes and even cute puppies.

Hold off on comparing

Whether it’s a celebrity or a friend, sometimes we wish we looked a certain way or had something someone else has. As hard as it is, don’t fall into the comparison trap. Remember—your body is beautiful exactly as it is. Our culture often makes it seem like there’s only one ideal we should strive for. But the truth is, we’re all beautiful, conventionally attractive or not.

So sure, maybe you don’t have her legs. But you know what? You’ve got amazing hair. And eyes. And so on and so on. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, practice turning inward and appreciating all the beautiful things you’ve got going for you.

Wear what makes you feel good

Maybe you love long flowy dresses. Or ripped jeans. Or Hawaiian shirts. No matter what your style is, wear more of the clothes that make you feel good. Because when you feel good in what you’re wearing, it makes it that much easier to feel confident in your body.

Practice self-compassion

Alright, what kind of mean things do you say about your body? Go ahead, I’ll wait. Now ask yourself—would you say those kinds of things to your friend or significant other? No, probably not.

We can be our own worst enemies. This is why self-compassion so important. Next time you catch yourself criticizing your body, stop and pretend your best friend was saying that about their body. What would you tell them? Then practice saying that to yourself.

Final thoughts on loving your body:

Loving the skin you’re in isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work. I went from absolutely hating my body to loving and appreciating every roll and every curve. While it’s not easy, with time and a bit of practice, you too can learn how to love your body.