In my work as a Sex and Relationship Therapist, I often meet women who struggle with self esteem and confidence. I think of self esteem on a sliding scale that depends on many factors – some of these can shift with our daily emotions while others are more deeply fixed and relate to the core beliefs we hold about ourselves.

Self esteem and confidence are interconnected. Confidence manifests in our behaviour as an expression of self esteem, which I tend to define as a measure of value. When women ask me how they can develop their confidence we always look closely at how the sliding scale of self esteem shifts for them because every woman is different.

Body image is one of the most significant building blocks that lead to healthy self esteem, yet so many women struggle in this area and feel huge shame around acknowledging the problem.

We learn from an early age that we are judged by physical appearance – you only have to look at fairy tales or Disney movies to recognize messages of competition on the basis of beauty and innocence. You only have to watch MTV or read magazines to notice the specific qualities that women are valued for by the media. I’ve lost count of how many women I’ve met whose critical parents have given them the idea that their body is too big, too small or just not good enough.

Thankfully we’re starting to drop fake images of perfection and find our own truth.

When I think about my own journey with body image, I can see exactly how I internalized the critical voice and always desperately wanted to look like someone else. On a spiritual level I detached from my body and this manifested as an inability to fully find joy in life, a healing issue that lay at the core of my dance with with Type 2 Diabetes, a weight related problem that’s taken a good ten years to finally resolve.

But as I’ve stepped into my personal development journey with more authenticity and embodiment, exploring my own feminine healing through Taoism, spirituality and a Tantric path, I’ve learned to value my body as a magical interface between who I am and the world around me. Understanding that inhabiting my body is the perfect place to be because it offers me such a beautiful array of joyful experiences has helped me take enough ownership to be truly grateful for the skin I’m in.

Demystifying and honoring my female body has contributed to the 86lb weight loss I’ve enjoyed over the last year as I’ve tackled self-sabotage patterns based on limiting beliefs about my value and potential. The positive impact on my own life, career and relationship has been huge.

So as a Therapist and a woman, here are three simple tips I’d like to share to help you improve your body image and have fun along the way:

1) It’s all about perspective

Look in the mirror every day, several times a day if you can! Stop focusing on your imperfections and notice the beauty, then amplify it. We all have parts of ourselves that we like, so place your awareness there…whether it’s the colour of your eyes, the shape of your lips or the shine in your hair. Don’t just glance – really look because your inner beauty will shine through! Compliment the best bits of yourself and find gratitude for what you see. I can guarantee that over time, you’ll develop greater self acceptance and those imperfections won’t be so significant.

2) Touch yourself!

Yep – that’s what I said! Massage yourself lovingly with nourishing natural oil or body butter after each bath or shower, mindfully observing the contours of your body and the feeling of your skin. Mindfulness is about suspending judgement. Just experience the feeling and take your time to get to know your physical form. This helps you make friends with your body. When you know yourself intimately, love and awe for your body will naturally flow.

3) Make joyful choices for your body

Your body is worth the highest levels of care, nutrition and nurture so start to honor this by making joyful choices for it in every way. When I paid no attention to my body’s needs, my body image hit rock bottom and my health spiralled downwards too. Junk food is no longer comfort to me because it’s toxic and unkind. Pampering routines are a necessity rather than a luxury because my body deserves to be at its best. Take pleasure from your new found focus and feel your sense of pride elevate as your body starts to glow with vitality. You’ll notice a physical difference that will fuel your confidence regardless of your shape and size.