When I was in elementary school, I often compared myself to the “before and after” pictures in weight loss ads in the newspaper and because I had a round stomach, I proclaimed myself as fat. My father told me it was never too early to start watching my weight if I was worried.
When I was in middle school, all the girls decided we needed to go on a diet of salads for lunch every day. When I told my mother, instead of being proud of me (which I thought was an appropriate response to an 11 year old announcing a diet!), she cried because she felt her own struggles with her weight had subconsciously been projected onto me.
When I was in high school I decided to screw it all, and I just wore giant jeans and giant t-shirts to hide my figure. I didn’t want anyone to look at me, and I barely even looked at me. It was only in college when I studying abroad in Italy with very fashionable roommates that I realized having and dressing a body didn’t have to be a bad thing, but it still took a few more years before I started changing my relationship with myself.
I’ve been actively loving my body for the last 10 years, and I really ramped up the self-love when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and my body started to fail. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and it’s easy to forget where I started and my own struggles. When I hear women disparage their bodies, their looks, their styles, I am genuinely shocked today. It’s one thing to want to improve, but it’s quite another to hate a part of yourself.
I knew I wanted to write a post on how to love your body, but I had brief amnesia. I thought to myself, gosh, I’m so lucky I grew up in the 90s when J. Lo and Beyonce and even Sir Mix A Lot were embracing curves. But the media only has a small part to do with it. As many people were praising these women, there were just as many disparaging them. My mindset chooses which comments I listen to because it reinforces my current belief system, and thankfully, my mindset is in an incredibly positive place.
A few years ago I ran a sewing blog and ran a challenge for the sewing community. It was very simple: we show off the dresses and blouses and pants we make, not just because we’re happy but also to show fit and any alterations we made, so why not show off our intimate makes? A good portion of the community embraced the idea, but I was not prepared for the outpouring of love and grief we all have for our bodies. Women, regardless of size, were sharing how difficult it was to even look at their bodies, and best of all, they found it incredibly freeing to post pictures of themselves, even if it was within the private group I created.
Within this challenge, as I listened to every single woman (including one incredibly tall and thin saying her shoulders were too broad to pull off 20s dresses, her favorite decade) grapple with her flaws, I realized how ridiculous we all sound. We are all so beautiful, and the more we embrace ourselves and our differences, the more we shine.
But that’s easier said than done. So how do you get started?
- Tell yourself you’re pretty every day. Stand in front of the mirror and say it. Out loud. Every morning. If that’s easy, start to find all the ways that you’re pretty. When I first started doing this, being “pretty” meant that I wore dresses and make-up every day; it meant effort. But I can be rather lazy so it wasn’t long before I started finding things to appreciate about myself that involved no effort.
- Compliment yourself. Every time you pass your reflection, tell yourself you look good. This one might feel weird if you’re used to trashing your body, but you learning to receive compliments is key. One of the first things I did many years ago was change the standard greeting in my phone from “Verizon Wireless” to “Hello Gorgeous!” I got a lot of comments on that from others, but I didn’t care. Why shouldn’t my phone call me gorgeous?
- Pamper yourself. You know how it feels great when you have a day at the spa because someone is lavishing your body with attention? You deserve that on a regular basis. Buy fancy lotion, buy bath salts or bath bombs, and recognize that every moment you spend treating your body well is a moment your body will do more for you.
- Thank your body for its service. Look, you put your body under a lot of pressure, whether it’s constantly running around or constantly sitting at a desk – your body is probably straining itself in one way or another. I’ve written before on self-care and how a big part of self-care is mothering yourself, and that includes thanking your body. A few years ago, I could barely walk across my apartment, and I would really only have about 4-6 hours of active time each day. It could have been easy to fill myself with disparaging comments on how I couldn’t even sit up on my own, but instead I was just SO GRATEFUL that I found a way to prop myself up that didn’t hurt. My body tries its best, and sometimes it succeeds more than others, but it’s always there for me, and how can I not love it?
- Only compare yourself to yourself. I speak on body image a lot because it’s impacted me a lot throughout my lifetime. Now that I love my body and have no problem flaunting it, I am promptly dismissed with the statement, “Well, if I had your body, I wouldn’t have any problems either.” It doesn’t matter whose body you have – if your head isn’t in the right space, you’re going to hate it, and science totally backs me up on this. If you feel stuck in a negative space, check out the book Psycho Cybernetics. It delves into how to change your subconscious programming so that you can achieve peace and happiness, and it’s all based on science and studies that actually work!
- Consider energy work. I’ve done yoga and acupuncture and even gone to a few reiki session, and I’ve always thought it was nice – like a massage where the effects last for a few days. But I’ve found a new energy worker who offered a “Glo Up cleanse” over the summer, and it was intense. For two weeks I had every negative thought I’ve ever had about my body come up, things I hadn’t thought of in years, and once the memories were released, I felt and continue to feel such incredible love and confidence, more than I’ve ever felt before.
- Be patient. I point out that I’ve been working on my body confidence for 10 years because it’s a process. I had 20 years of negative body image talk before that, from other kids at school, people in the media, everywhere. We’re bombarded with it, and it’s going to take more than a minute of telling yourself how much you love you each morning to get over it. But go ahead and take that first step anyway – it just gets easier and easier.
Click here for more information on the Noor Blanket, featured in this week’s post.