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Overcoming negative self-talk about your body

Read actor Manav Arora’s story of accepting the way he looks by using positive self-talk

For Manav, acting is instinctive. He might feel hesitant to act in jest in front of friends and family members, but switch on the camera; and the actor in him springs to action. He is 25 now, and started his journey to become an actor whilst in college by doing a couple of street plays.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, his fall-back option, he started acting in a play that revolved around child sexual abuse. “I wanted to do theatre first.” Since the play catered to teenagers, most movements would be termed as “weird to look at it”, but exactly that made Manav comfortable in his own self. The rehearsals proved to be an excellent ground for experimenting with his body. It was then for the first time that he acknowledged his physical presence.

The play didn’t stage for another year, but Manav moved on. Meeting theatre director Omkar Bhatkar marked the turning point in his career. Thus began a furore of challenges where he was confronted with his own self. His next acting venture required him to act in a dhoti as he was playing the role of the mythological character of Karna. Five minutes before the play he got caught in a web of self-depleting thoughts such as “I do not look good enough” or “I have stretch marks on my shoulder.” That immediately hit his self-confidence. However, in that moment, he reminded himself that he came to Mumbai to become an actor. He shifted the focus of his thoughts back to the performance. He said to himself.

“This is my first play, this is what I want to do”

“What matters is how I perform and not how I look”

“It is now or never”

“I am enjoying the play and I just want to perform”

With an alternate thought process in mind, Manav went on stage with confidence, and the play went off successfully. However, this posed another challenge, “I realised I need to be body positive,” he says. Though he loved food, he found a way to work around his diet. There was no looking back for Manav after that. He has acted in several advertisements and films. He continues to enjoy food but does not forget to balance it out with exercise. Lastly, he keeps reminding himself that he is more than his looks. 

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10 ways you can CHOOSE THE LIFE YOU WANT

A compilation of tips by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, lecturer at Harvard University for positive psychology from his book CHOOSE THE LIFE YOU WANT.

1.Choose to choose 
Feeling trapped? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I have to do for my life to be the way I want it to be?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • How do I intend to get there?
  • Write about your options, discuss your situation with those you trust.
  • Refuse to accept, “I have no choice” as an answer.

Choosing to choose is not easy. It requires not only effort but also courage. It is about being deliberate and strategic instead of just going with the flow. It is about charting unknown paths instead of resigning yourself to the road already taken. It is about being willing to struggle and fail.

2.Be mindful of the wonder

  • Mindfulness is a choice, and it is something we can practice.
  • Read Helen Keller’s essay, “Three Days to See.”

What are everyday things that you overlook?

  • The sunrise
  • The song of the birds
  • The sunshine on your skin
  • The wind in your hair
  • The beauty of the sea
  • The gift of sight, hearing, feeling, touching, tasting

     

3. Reach in anger or take a step back
Psychologist George Loewenstein has conducted research on “hot” and “cold” states. A hot state is when emotions are at a high intensity and we feel a strong urge to do something or refrain from something; a cold state is when the intensity of the emotions is low and our rational mind is more dominant in the decision-making process.

Awareness of the state makes us more likely to take the necessary precautions when in a sexual encounter, or decide to take some time to cool off when in the throes of anger.

4.Think and act purposefully

  • Psychologist Mark Williams and his colleagues say, “Rumination is part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
  • Expressing your emotions will help you. Writing them down or verbalising them to a friend.

5.Carry yourself with confidence and pride

The way we hold our body sends a message not only to others but also to ourselves.

6.Make a difference

You can start by doing 3 good deeds for others. Write gratitude letters by highlighting how they have added value to your life.

7.Procrastinate or Just Do It

Feeling stuck, take five-minutes off. Do something fun, and get back to the task at hand.

8.Hold a grudge or forgive

Holding a grudge is like continuously pulling on the knot, and it becomes tighter; letting go of a grudge is like loosening our grip, and the knot becomes easier to untie.

9.Actively learn the lessons of hardship (Loss and grief)

  • Through hardship you learn: humbleness
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Resilience

10.Smile
Mind and body are interconnected. What we do with our body impacts our thoughts and feelings, and in turn, these influence our psychological reactions. Research into what psychologists call the “facial feedback hypothesis” shows that we can affect our own mood through our facial expressions – a smile will bring about a more positive feeling, whereas a frown will make us feel worse.

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