Back in 1975, one psychologist and former Playgirl advice columnist offered a quirky solution for self acceptance. In her book 'For Yourself: the Fulfillment of Sexuality', Lonnie Barnach advised readers to put a bag over their heads with two eye holes in it and look at their bodies naked in all directions. She urged them to exaggerate their imperfections, stick out their stomachs, jiggle their thighs. Basically, play with their bodies.
The goal of this was to gain a perspective of your body from an outsider perspective, as if you're looking at it for the first time. (Ironically, as you do this, you're embodying the butterface joke, which pretty much sums up why women need exercises like this in the first place), but it makes for a crucial perspective shift. When you look at your body as if you're detached from it, you see it as it really is. Arms, legs, stomach, hands. A working, moving, body. You gain a new appreciation for it.
Barbach's book was an integral part of women's sexual awakening in the 70's, when sex became something empowering for women, rather than unfillfulling and all about the men. In her book, the idealized and vague romance novel scenes (the only accessible idea of sex women had around then) were swapped for graphic, step-by-step instructions for "taking charge of their sexual fulfillent." This led women to take charge of other aspects of their lives, especially their careers. And it all started with body acceptance. How 'bout that?
Can't get down with putting a bag on your head? We've got some other ideas to achieve that appreciation for your bod:
When you find yourself comparing yourself to others, remind yourself that it's a losing game. Even when you come out on top, it's not a sustainable method of self acceptance. Viewing life as a competition is a dangerous game to play. When you play it, you feel like there's enough beauty, talent, and success to go around. Is that true? Far from it. Beauty, talent and success isn't something that "goes around." It's not external at all. The only way to "get it" is to focus on being (and loving) you.
Seek out the books, shows, people that offer representations of bodies that you agree with. Shut out anything that make you feel like crap.
Focus on cultivating your brightest and most cherished talents. The things that make you, you. (We're willing to wager those aren't limited to something physical.)
Move your body and appreciate how it moves. How it gets you from point A to point B, lets you hug your friends, lets you laugh like a maniac. It's hard to hate it when you're fuly aware of how it lets you live your life.
If you have serious body image issues, seek help. It doesn't have to be a normal part of your life to hate your body.