This Is What Self Care Looks Like For Women Learning To Love Their Bodies
We asked women to share the habits that help them remember how great they are. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Taking selfies.
This will slot me into every millennial stereotype and sounds almost insufferably narcissistic but I Snapchat a selfie to my close friends every morning (saying good morning, usually, with some high-level pun work included). It takes me about a minute to do, but the act of paying attention to my own face and seeing it in flattering light leaves me feeling super-duper validated all day. —Rega Jha
2. And keeping some just for yourself.
This is wildly embarrassing to admit but any time I see myself and I think I look good, I’ll take a bunch of selfies or shitty mirror pictures. I never post them anywhere, but every time I’ve felt shitty about myself/body/face/style since I started, I’ll literally just flip through all these pictures of myself to be like, Nah self, even if you feel bad about the way you look right now, you KNOW (aka you have photographic evidence) of how good you CAN look five seconds from now. —Krutika Mallikarjuna
3. Treating yourself the way you’d treat a friend.
A thing I have found really helpful lately is trying to channel how I feel about the way my female friends and acquaintances look — which is overwhelmingly positive, regardless of whether they have a body like the one I “wish” I had or one like mine or one bigger or different than mine or any number of variations — and trying to apply that same thought process to myself. I know so many pretty ladies with different kinds of bodies who I think look smoking all the time, so I just try to pretend I’m friends with myself and tell myself that I would totally think I l looked awesome, too. It doesn’t ALWAYS work but it helps. —Summer Anne Burton
4. Suds-ing up.
I feel like whenever I’m getting myself clean — in the shower or even just washing my hands — I slow down for a minute to really appreciate and think kindly towards my body. I don’t even know when this little ritual started, but I notice when I’m scrubbing or rubbing shampoo in my hair I feel close and safe with my own body, and there is a moment of peace. Sometimes I can hang onto that good feeling all day long. —Sarah Karlan
5. Making sure your closet is filled with clothes that fit comfortably.
I’ve learned to stop throwing away my “fat” clothes — sure, it feels good to get rid of them but it feels TERRIBLE to have to go out and buy more when my weight, inevitably, goes back up. This goes double for bras, which are just SO expensive. Also, I got rid of my scale a long time ago. I gauge my weight based on how I look and feel and how my clothes fit. —Deena Shanker
6. And buying clothes you actually like.
I actually started to get comfortable with myself in college, after I had gained about 20 pounds of extra weight on top of already being “too big for my height” according to that dumb BMI chart. What helped me most was forcing myself to buy cute clothing — especially underthings — for my size. If I’m going to be bigger, I might as well dress cute! I also started concentrating on my hair, face, and nails — nourishing them, making them cute, and generally being proud of them — because they’re part of my body, but they don’t have anything to do with my size. —embeebee
7. Taking time to relax.
Loving my body is a very complicated thing — I don’t necessarily love it as an object so much as love what is is capable of and what I can do to it; I like the potential it has as an agent of what my brain wants to do. A thing that helps me love it as a thing in and of itself to appreciate is taking a bath, though. I make a huge ritual of it and set my intentions for the week in the bath every Sunday, and exfoliate while I think about the stuff I accomplished during the week. Steaming my body and letting out all that bad energy that accumulates through the week is also super important to me. Bath time 4ever. —Arabelle Sicardi
8. Ignoring the scale.
I no longer weigh myself! It’s something small that I used to do that would trigger massive anxiety for me. Trying to be a certain weight is something I grew up doing, and I no longer let that control my actions or thoughts. I know when I’ve gained weight, because my pants won’t fit, and when that happens I just opt for a salad instead of a burger. Eventually I get back to my happy place, but I no longer have a number circling around my head and taunting me for weeks on end. —Erin LaRosa
10. Understanding that perspective can be flawed.
I’ll often look back on pictures at times where I felt really self-conscious and realize I had little to no concept of how I actually looked. I’m definitely not the best judge of my own appearance, which is an odd thing to realize since I spend the most time with me. —Alex Alvarez
11. Finding beauty in other women.
As a transgender woman, who started her transition late, there’s a lot I don’t like about my body. Hormones can only be so effective. My main way of feeling better about myself is to compare myself to cisgender women, but in a good way: “That cisgender girl has smaller breasts, just like me, and she’s perfectly normal and beautiful. That cis girl has straighter hips, just like me, and she’s perfectly normal and beautiful. That cis girl has a squarer jaw, and she’s normal and beautiful. If I share so many things in common with cisgender girls, how can I not be normal and beautiful myself?” —suddenly-sara
12. And telling them about it.
Complimenting other women. Honestly telling others that you think they’re beautiful somehow boosts my mood and helps me see myself from another angle. If I find all these different women and their bodies beautiful, then mine is beautiful as well and deserves the same love I give others. —theacemerperson
13. Being kind to your reflection.
I no longer allow myself to look in the mirror unless I say one thing positive about myself. Me today: “Hi Lara, love your dress today.” —Lara Parker
14. Watching porn.
When I first started therapy following a very bad breakup, I couldn’t believe that anyone would find my body desirable. I had never had sex that didn’t hurt, and a part of me believed that I deserved this for having a fat body. Obviously, that was WACK-ASS THINKING, because I am a glorious female warrior and goddess of all that I survey, but I truly believed it. My therapist at the time suggested I seek out feminist erotica and porn that intentionally shows people’s bodies in all their glory — fat, thin, stretch-marked, wobbly bits, uneven boobs, body hair and all — experiencing pleasure without fetishizing them. This really helped. I was actually kind of surprised by how much it helped. Sorry to scandalize you, mom. —Kaye Toal
14. Living in the present.
I try to regularly remind myself that no matter how I feel about my body currently, I’ll one day wish I had the body I have now. I am in my prime; I will never be this young again, and I don’t want to waste my time with my current body putting it down. I also tell myself that it’s perfectly fine to want to be smaller/fitter/healthier, but that I don’t have to wait until I get there to love it now. Loving what I have now while working on something different will make the journey, and life, much easier. —Tracy Clayton
15. Decorating your body.
I’m pretty insecure with my body but before I get into the shower, I draw a smiley face on my tummy, because if it can be happy, so can I. –anonymous
16. Maybe even with a tattoo!
I’ve always been self-conscious about my hips (every summer brings that uncomfortable moment of buying large bikini bottoms to go with my small bikini top), but I figured they won’t be changing anytime soon, so I decided to embrace the broad, fleshy expanse as a canvas for a tattoo. Now those large bikini bottoms look bangin’. —Claudia Koerner
17. Challenging standards of beauty.
As a Mexican-American woman growing up in a predominately white community it took me a long time to realize that just because I don’t have a light complexion with blondish hair and blue/green/hazel eyes doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful too. Finding positive role models in cinema, media, and life helped tremendously. —terreisa
18. Redefining size.
Lifting weights has taught me to find beauty in my strength. I no longer work towards losing something but instead toward gaining something. I have a hard time saying that I’m bigger than I’ve ever been because I’m also stronger and healthier and happier because I constantly push my body further than I knew was possible. —Mackenzie Kruvant
19. And redefining strength.
I’m 24 and I was born with a congenital heart/lung defect. I’ve had a handful of major open heart surgeries, among other surgeries for health problems. I have scars that are visible to everyone. My body, while “broken” inside with a crappy heart, one working lung, etc., is my body. It’s kept me alive much longer than the doctors told my parents when I was a baby. I proudly wear my scars. I love and respect my body. While some may call it flawed, I find it beautiful and strong. —asitypethis
20. Thinking about your impact on others.
When I can’t love myself for me, I try to think of how hating on my body or saying shitty things about myself would affect the li’l future feminists who are all around us. My mom talked shit about herself my entire life and I do NOT want that to be me, so when I can’t be strong for myself, I try and do it for feminists. —Julia Furlan
21. Thinking beyond your body.
A good trick is to look at yourself in the mirror for five minutes without moving at all. Don’t play with your hair, pick at your pores, etc. After five minutes, just smile at yourself. Eventually, since you’re not moving but your brain is still going, you start to realize what makes you you is the soul inside you. Your body is just a shell that your incredible life force lives in. Once you realize that you learn to be a little easier on your sack of bones and flesh. —Ashly Perez
22. Exploring alternate realities.
I play a lot of video games. A lot. What I like to do is create my characters based off my body type and appearance. There is nothing like seeing yourself saving the world. I can hunt massive monsters. I am the Inquisitor. I can even play guitar with the best of them! —dagger32
23. Getting naked.
I’ve started spending as much time as possible naked. I noticed that I was spending almost all my time in clothing (aside from showering) and it was making things worse because a) I didn’t like the way I looked in clothing and b) it disconnected me from my body. So I decided to spend more time with just my body. I don’t cover up in the locker room, and I sleep naked, and it’s actually helped me become more comfortable with it because now it’s part of me. –Anonymous
24. And then dancing.
I’ll dance naked in front of a mirror to awesome music and tell myself, “I looooook good.” –Chelsea
25. Experimenting with makeup.
When I started researching makeup to write a few portfolio pieces, I realized I’d never really worn foundation or done anything to my eyebrows. Since getting into makeup and beauty, I’ve really come to appreciate the fact that I have naturally beautiful, flawless skin, and eyebrows that just grow on fleek. Top that off with thick, shiny, luscious hair. So by learning about makeup, I’ve learned to love myself even more. —cwnerd12
26. (Lipstick specifically)
Lipstick fixes almost everything. When life sucks and the patriarchy is getting you down, a fine lipstick in your favorite shade (I love dark wines!) makes all the difference. —ladyypreshpresh
27. Stepping out of your fashion comfort zone.
Sometimes I catch myself admiring another lady’s outfit and then thinking about how “that looks great on her, but ~I~ could never pull it off.” Then I deliberately make it a point when I go shopping to find something similar and try it on. A lot of the time it works JUST FINE on me, and sometimes even turns into a style I wear all the time. Living by internalized rules about what I “can” and “can’t” wear based on the shape of my body is a downer and a waste of time, and I’ve found this to be a good way of walking back that judgy little internal voice. —Rachel Sanders
28. Just buying the pants.
For years I obsessively restricted my eating, and then for a couple more years I restricted it less so. During that time, I gained weight and felt really bad about it. I graduated from college and started a new job. I became obsessed with buying pants, and devastated every time I tried on a pair. I wanted something perfect: not too expensive, work appropriate but cool, flattering. I explained how much of a failure the search had made me feel like to an older friend and she laughed. “Just buy the pants!” she said, recommending I just go for a pair, and not expect them to solve my problems or perfectly embody my identity.
I did what she said — bought some pants, didn’t love them, got rid of them, bought more pants — but for whatever reason, think of that phrase all the time. Every time I know I’m working too hard to police my body or setting unreasonable expectations for how I’d like to feel, I’m like: “Fuck, just buy the pants.” –Anonymous
29. Leaving love notes to yourself.
I give myself daily positive affirmations by just doing the simplest things; whether it’s just writing the tiniest heart on my hand or thigh in pen, or writing, “You’re beautiful!” on sticky notes and putting that on my mirror. It makes all the difference. —junkiexprincess
30. Or a love list!
I have a list of everything I love about my body — my dark long-lashed eyes, my high waist, my long legs, my dark curls — taped to my mirror, written in giant letters so I can read it every time I want to love my body. —sociopathofalltheprettytardises
31. Finding a power phrase.
One way my friend makes herself feel great is surrounding herself with the words, “Je suis une deesse” which means “I am a goddess” in French. It empowers her. —willamettstone
32. Or a daily mantra.
When I was recovering from an eating disorder, one of my online recovery friends told me to look in the mirror every morning and say, “I love myself unconditionally, no matter what. Food is my friend, not my foe.” I genuinely feel like it helps. –Anonymous
33. And saying it again and again.
Being a large lady and disabled, mine has been a love/hate relationship with my body. What I do to deal with that is, after a shower, while I’m brushing my teeth and putting on all my lotions, is to really look at my face. I look at my eyes and nose, which I really like about my face. I work with my hair to get it the way I want it. Then, just before I leave the bathroom, I look in the mirror and tell myself, “You look good.” Same when I’m just about to go out. Once I’m all dressed and ready, I look in the mirror and say, “You look good.” —uraniabce
34. Keeping your own sexy secret.
Wear a bra and/or panties that make you feel cute, pretty, sexy, whatever you want to feel. No one but you can see it, but it can make you feel good the whole day. —mpromise268
35. Focusing on the basics.
I look at how much my body can do. It carries me. It breathes for me. It pumps blood through my veins. It can give people hugs. It can work hard. It can feel pleasure. It can feel pain. It is truly incredible, and its value should not be limited by what it looks like. —naivevegas
36. Finding the stories in your “flaws.”
I stand in front of the mirror when dressing and automatically see my flaws. Then I remind myself that this soft tummy held three perfect children; these saggy breasts nourished three children; my dimply butt has sat and rocked away fears, heartbreak, and 4 a.m. earaches; my flabby arms soothe, love, and reassure with just one hug; my thunder thighs have paced the floor all night with a colicky baby, raced to the finish line cheering my kids on, and walked a thousand adventures with them. My body is magic. My body is home. –Anonymous
37. Embracing vanity.
I love to make myself look beautiful, not for anyone except myself. I put on lotions that make me smell like vanilla and makeup that makes ME feel lovely. I allow myself to be vain. I feel like women often don’t do this because there is so much shame behind a woman loving herself, like they are full of themselves, but I think it’s really quite beautiful. —queenofrussia
38. Standing up straight.
I refrain from slouching. Having good posture makes me feel more confident. —icecreamcakeandchocolate
39. Being your own nude model.
One day I took a nude picture of myself and I looked like a piece of art. I realized then that my body is a work of art and while not everyone may like it, all that matters is the artist’s opinion. And I am the artist. –Anonymous
40. Losing those PJs.
I sleep naked. It’s way more comfortable and I feel better in my own skin. I don’t feel like I’m covering anything up and it helps me get used to my little flaws. —eh-malee
41. Exploring sports and exercise.
For me it’s all about sport activities. Not in a looking-good-in-the-mirror way, but in sweating, running, making today more than yesterday, feeling how all your muscles are working, feeling endorphin that fills your body. Best feeling in the world. It’s all about step-by-step doing more, and feeling better about myself with each day. You run and somehow everything starts to look so simple and easy to solve. It’s of course different for every woman, but I found the way to love my body and myself in sport. —evleoni
42. Figuring out triggers and avoiding them.
I don’t keep a full body mirror in my house anymore. It helps me massively! I also tell the doctor I don’t want to know my weight when I go to the office. I don’t want to know the fluctuations. —Julie Gerstein
43. Highlighting what you love.
I try and pick at least one body part or feature that I really love each day, and then I’ll dress accordingly. Am I having a great boob day? Then I’m gonna wear my best bra and the lowest cut shirt I can get away with. Great eye day? You bet I’m loading up mascara, Rose Tyler style. And if I’m not feeling fab? Then I’m gonna be as cozy as possible. Bring on the slipper socks and fuzzy scarves. —themcgeek
44. Looking through someone else’s eyes.
Write about their body from the perspective of a lover or good friend.
Imagine how someone who values and adores you would see your assets and flaws, and realize that’s how people you care about actually do see you. It’s how you are. —tiltilla
45. Treating yourself like the babe you are.
I check out my own butt in the mirror whenever I can. It’s not the greatest butt even, but it still helps with my self-esteem. –Anonymous