It’s not about radical love and positivity, but rather, acceptance and balance.

By Amy Marturana Winderl

Some days, as hard as you try, you might just not be feeling yourself. Even if you regularly put in the work to foster good self-esteem, no one’s perfect. There are just going to be those days where you feel uninspired, unmotivated, and straight up blah about yourself. In a funk, if you will. You probably wouldn’t be able to find a single person who doesn’t feel that way every once in a while.

Know that on those days, you don’t need to force radical positivity on yourself. A lot of confidence-boosting advice focuses on body positivity and ~loving your body~ all the time, but the reality is that, sometimes, we just need to reach a place of acceptance to power through. 

“Body positivity requires embracing and trying to get to a place of love, whereas body acceptance is more this idea where you can look at yourself and make peace with the fact that there are going to be things about yourself that you like and things that you don’t like,” says Marilisa Morea, PsyD, clinical psychologist and owner and director of Monarch Therapy and Wellness Center in Thornhill, Ontario. Instead of expecting yourself to get to a place of full-on infatuation with every inch of you (which, for many of us, just ain’t gonna happen), it’s more realistic to accept that there are some things you might not love about yourself, some things you do love or at least like, and be able to find the balance.

“Body positivity requires embracing and trying to get to a place of love, whereas body acceptance is more this idea where you can look at yourself and make peace with the fact that there are going to be things about yourself that you like and things that you don’t like.”

Dr. Morea

Here, Dr. Morea shares her best tips and tricks for improving your confidence and self-esteem when you’re in a not-super-positive mood about your body and mind. It involves a lot of reflecting and accepting—no toxic positivity required.

1. First, come back to your breath.

When we’re being really critical of ourselves, the best thing to do is interrupt our thought patterns and actively challenge them, Dr. Morea says. “To be able to do that, we have to calm our body first.” Deep breathing exercises, like box breathing, are a great tool to whip out. You can also pop on a calming podcast or song, she recommends, and focus on regulating your breathing to the beat.

Once you’ve given yourself a minute or two, think about what triggered you and what your negative thoughts were. You can then challenge your feelings by looking more clearly at the facts. Some questions Dr. Morea suggests asking yourself: What thoughts and emotions came to mind? Are they based on facts or feelings? How can I challenge those thoughts, and what would be an alternative thought that includes self-love? 

2. Use this super simple grounding technique.

Another way to reset is by using a grounding technique. Grounding techniques are meant to reign in your racing thoughts so that you can focus on the present and think more clearly. Dr. Morea says that these often engage the five senses, but she recommends a simple method that uses only sight. 

“Pick your favorite color and go around the room and count 5-10 objects in that color and say those things out loud,” she recommends. “What that does is take you out of what’s going on in your mind and forces you to come back to your present moment.” Try this when you’re stuck in a social media comparison loop, obsessing over something you just saw in the mirror, or spiraling about a conversation you just had with a colleague.

“Pick your favorite color and go around the room and count 5-10 objects in that color and say those things out loud. What that does is take you out of what’s going on in your mind and forces you to come back to your present moment.”

Dr. Morea

Once you’ve taken a beat and grounded yourself, you can then run through the same mental exercises to reflect on what triggered you, what emotions you felt, if they were based in facts or emotion, and how you can reframe your thinking to be less negative.

3. Focus on something your body can do.

Sometimes we all need a reminder that when we are patient and compassionate with ourselves, we can accomplish what we set our minds to. Dr. Morea suggests focusing on skill-building in those moments when you need a little self-esteem boost. “Pick up a new hobby or restart something you used to do and dropped to remind yourself that if you set a timeline to learn something, you can and will do it. You’ll realize that you might make mistakes but always learn along the way,” Dr. Morea says. It’s a much-needed exercise in remembering that setbacks happen and you can still achieve great things, even if it takes a little work and patience.

4. Remind yourself of the good things you’ve got going on. 

A mistake people often make is letting their confidence ride on one specific area of their life. But when your self-worth relies too heavily on that one thing, what happens when it slips up? “If you don’t have a buffer, your whole sense of identity and worth also comes crashing down,” Dr. Morea says. To avoid that, she recommends spreading your eggs in multiple baskets, so to speak. “Then, if one area isn’t going so well, we can tap into another one and feel better about our lives.” 

To do this, she recommends writing down positive affirmations or just random positive notes about yourself on sticky notes, and leaving them on your mirror or other places you’ll see them throughout the day. (Like that work presentation you absolutely crushed or the fact that you made a whole human last year.) They’ll serve as reminders of what’s going well when you need to jog your memory most.

“If one area [of your life] isn’t going so well, we can tap into another one and feel better about our lives”

Dr. Morea

5. Reflect on what you love about your people.

This exercise is meant to help you recognize that you’re waaaay more critical of yourself than anyone else you love, Dr. Morea says. Create a list of things you like and things you dislike about a close friend. “The list of things you like will be easier to write, and much longer,” Dr. Morea says. Seeing how easy it is to see someone else for mostly the good (with the flaws just being background noise) can help you be a little more self-aware and hopefully look at yourself in a kinder, more forgiving light, too.

6. Accept what you can change—and what you can’t.

“There are going to be parts of us that we just can’t change,” Dr. Morea says. “If you’re putting all your energy into those things, that is so much wasted energy.” She suggests taking a moment—after you’ve done some deep breathing or quick grounding work to clear your head—and think about whether the thing you’re caught up on is something you can even feasibly change. If the answer is no, then your only option, really, is to accept that and move onto what you can change about yourself to improve your confidence and your life. 


For example, maybe you can’t realistically change the overall shape of your body or the texture of your skin. But you can try being a little kinder to yourself, or buy clothes that look good on the body you have, or move in ways that make you feel confident and capable. “Those are tangible things you should be putting your energy into because they can be resolved,” Dr. Morea says.

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