How To Love Your Body
I grew up just like you: Hating my body. And I am still like you: a little bit farther down the road than I was at 16 but still have moments of dislike for my body every now and then.
I have been working on loving my body for 10 years now and I am still not there yet. And sometimes I wonder if that magical moment of acceptance will ever come. I mean, am I the only one that looks at all the #aeriereal models and others on social media crowing about how they love their admittedly unconventional yet beautiful bodies and wonder if it is really true?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the body positive movement! I do! But I would love a roadmap of how to get there.How do we go from growing up being taught that we have to change to look beautiful to just deciding that we accept ourselves cellulite and all?
Here is the answer my friend: It is a long, hard, non linear and not glamorous process. A journey in patience and dedicated love (of yourself).
So wherever you are on that journey, my dear friend, here are a few nuggets from one pilgrim to another to help you get a few steps farther down the path:
1. Appreciate your body for what it can DO
Who likes to be judged solely for how they look and not what they can do or who they are? No one. That’s just superficiality at its worst. So let’s stop doing that to our bodies then!
If you want to move towards body positive self-love, focus less on what your body looks like and more on what your body can do!
I might not have a 6 pack but I can do a headstand! How cool is that? My body is strong enough to get through an hour of spin class. It carried me 500 miles across Spain. And not only that, my body pumps enough blood every minute to keep me alive. And breathes without me even having to try! At the very least, that is something we can love our bodies for.
And our bodies are so different that your body might be able to do something different than mine. Has yours carried and fed a child? Has it fought hard during an illness or injury? Take a moment and appreciate your body for what it can do!
Note: remember, when thinking about what your body can do, don’t focus on what your body cannot do. Because we all know what rabbit hole that leads to. Marvel in the wonder of what it can!
Here’s an action point. Try to challenge your body. Do something you have never done before or work on a new goal. Like learn to rock climb or choose a yoga position to work on. Your body can do more than you give it credit for!
Question to ponder: What can your body do? How can you show that you are thankful your body can do that?
2. Pick one part of your body that you actually like and ride that wave of love to body positivity
What is that one part of your body that you actually really like? Not a part that others like. And not a part that you pretend to like. Think hard: what part of your body would you not change even if you could? There is something I promise you. Maybe you have awesome nails. Or naturally long eye lashes. Or color highlights in your hair that come out in the sun. Or maybe you have a speckle of yellow in your eyes. Or maybe you have a cute little innie belly button.
For me, it’s my lips. I love the shape of my lips. How they are not super full but not too thin either. How the top lip creates that perfect hipster-mustache shape.
Choose a part of your body you love and dwell on it for a bit. Show it off. If you love that one part, the love will soon spread to other parts of your body too!
In fact, you know what? My toes might not be so bad either. ;)
Question to ponder: What part of your body do you really like?
3. Go to another culture
Imagine this: You walk into a room of people and they all turn around to look at you. But instead of judging, you know that they are looking at you in awe. Like you are a goddess. You are stunning in their eyes. And you stand a little taller. No more trying to be smaller or more invisible. You are proud to be in the body you have. You feel like a queen. You can do anything in the world.
It’s not a dream, my friends. This fairy tale world is real.
This is where I get to plug one of my favorite things in the world: travel! There are so many different countries and cultures out there and they all value different things in physical appearance. For example, my crazy white skin is not the ideal in America. But they love it in India. America values skinniness but here in Zambia and other parts of Africa, it is the big-bodied ladies that get all the attention.
Here in Zambia I feel like a queen, strong and confident. And sadly, I swear I can just feel the negative body thoughts flood into my mind as soon as I step into the airport in America. It is like they feed it to us through the air. So subtle but ever present. It is in the way people dress (have you ever noticed what we choose to show or cover up?), in who is on the cover of the tabloids in the shops, or even who gets the job as news anchors on the tv monitors around the terminal.
Living in Zambia has been like body image therapy. There have actually been times I have worn a contour dress here and not even thought about sucking in! Now THAT is freedom.
Note: I am not naïve to the historical and colonial reason that some cultures value certain physical appearances. (ie. why they value whiteness here in Zambia). But my point still stands that if you experience another value system, you will realize that the one narrative that you have been told your whole life is in fact not the only one. Just be careful of playing into the power structures.
Question to ponder: Where in the world might some aspects of my body be more appreciated?
4. Develop and unconditional love for your body
“I just want to get back to how I looked back in [insert year].” Anyone else heard or said that before?
One thing that I have always been confused about is that they tell us as young girls struggling with self confidence to work on loving ourselves the way we are. But as soon as I get to a point of accepting myself the way I am or the way I look, I change. I don’t stay the same.
Bodies are dynamic things, changing every moment. And that’s not a bad thing! It’s actually so cool! Your personality, character, and interests change with time. But even more fundamentally so does your physical body. Your fat deposits move around, your metabolism changes, and your cells regenerate like crazy. In fact, almost all of your cells are completely new from even a few years ago. (Fun fact: did you know that some of the oldest cells in your body are your coreas?!)
Part of self-love is accepting our bodies, yes, for how they are now. But also how they have been and how they will be. It is an exercise in unconditional love. Like a promise that you make. Love for yourself cannot be static. It is a dynamic love that grows and changes right along with your body.
Question to ponder: How can I unconditionally love my body?
5. For the love of all that is good in the world! Put the effing phone down!
Let me tell you something you already know. Instagram is not reality. Look around you. Does everyone look like an insta model? No!
Spending huge parts of your day in insta-land tricks your mind into thinking that that world is normal when it is not.
I am guilty too. There have been so many times I scroll through my feed filled with skinny, toned yoginis in deep back bends and I beat myself up for not being as limber, thin, or strong as them. But then I go to teach a class and most people can’t even get up into a back bend let alone come onto their forearms or whatever cirque du solei pose these insta-yogis are doing! And my students even comment on how flexible I am! “What?! I was just beating myself up about that.” I think.
So put the phone down and remind yourself what is normal.