What we think and how we feel about the vessel we’re travelling through this life in makes a big difference to our experience of life. If we hate our bodies, it can make enjoying life – fully, richly, wonderfully – impossible.
Too many of us have a relationship to our bodies that could be characterised as “in need of improvement”. Certainly that was true for me for many years. All I could see were the flaws in my physical self, never the beauty.
Well poohoo to that, I say. Life is far too short to hate your body. I no longer hate mine, in fact I’ve grown to appreciate it very much.
And here’s what I’ve learned.
1. It’s not cast in stone.
Whatever your current relationship is to your body, especially if it’s less than positive – you can change it. You don’t need any more information, or anybody’s permission, to feel good about your physical self.
And the flip side to that is nobody but you can make you feel better about your body. Sure, a compliment here or there (or even a daily diet of compliments) will give you a temporary lift – it’s nice to hear nice things about how we look. But unless you truly appreciate your body, those compliments will skim off your skin and your psyche like water off a duck’s back. They won’t sink in and make a whit’s real difference to how you feel about yourself.
The other danger is that we become too reliant on other people’s opinions of our bodies to make us feel good. We co-opt feeling good about ourselves to others. It’s a short-term game with a very poor payoff and a heavy price.
Only you can create a deep and abiding sense of appreciation of your body. The good news is: you can.
2. It doesn’t have to be painful.
You don’t need to delve deep into your childhood to discover the source of any negativity about your body. You certainly can do this, if you find it helpful. And some people do – they find exploring and unearthing the early messages about their bodies to be cathartic and helpful in their journey back to a healthy relationship to their body. But it isn’t strictly necessary.
You can change your attitude, and your feelings about your body, without that kind of examination of the early messages you picked up about your body and how you looked.
This is good news for those who have the belief that feeling better, or better yet – wonderful, about their bodies will first involve the recollection and reliving of painful childhood memories. It needn’t. You can start to love your body right now – no pain required.
3. It isn’t theoretical.
Learning to love the body you’re in is not an intellectual exercise. It’s a physical and emotional one. You have to feel it, experience it – not think or conceptualise it.
Learning to love your body is about getting into your body more – really feeling it from the inside out. Great ways to learn to love your body include:
- Move it! Cycle, swim, dance, do yoga, stretch, stroll, run, roll around, have sex, cuddle, garden, paint, bead, write by hand, hammer, pot, cook, bake, Zumba, pole dance, lift weights, surf, ski, paddle. There are endless ways to move your body – pick a few you enjoy, mix it up to keep it fresh, and make that body move!
- Learn to look at your body and appreciate it. Once a day, or at least a week, look at your body in a mirror and pick one thing you like about it. Perhaps it’s your eyes, or your arms, or your breasts, or your feet, or your teeth, your smile, your hair, your height, your posture. If it helps, pretend you’re looking at a photograph of someone else – someone you’re sure is beautiful in at least one (if not many, many) ways. However you get into it, it’s a wonderful way to start loving that body – appreciate it!
- Start to feel your body more, from the inside out. Close your eyes, tune in and you’re your body as though you were your own human version of a body imaging machine. What parts of your body feel good? Where is there tension or pain? Where is there energy flowing in your body? Where is it soft? Hard? Tight? Loose? Pay particular attention to parts of your body that feel good.
4. It’s not about thin.
You don’t need to be skinny or thin, or look like women in fashion magazines or in the movies, to love your body. You don’t need to be anything other than what you are right now, to start appreciating your body.
Let’s look at thin first. This is a misnomer about body image – that you have to be slim to feel good about the body you’re in. Nonsense! And the truth is that you can be thin and still dangerously unhealthy [which this article so articulately describes].
You can be thin and hate your body. Being thin is no guarantee of loving your body or of that body being healthy. Thinness has nothing to do with it, actually, I’ve come to believe.
Thinness is a red herring when it comes to healthy body image – a focus on being thin will only lead you astray when it comes to developing a healthy and strong appreciation of your body.
And let’s talk about those women we see projected in the media as icons of beauty. Often these women, the ones we see in fashion magazines and in the movies, don’t look like the images portrayed – there’s too much manipulation of those images to be anywhere close to certain they reflect reality.
One of my favourite quotes is from Cindy Crawford who said “Even I don’t wake up in the morning and look like Cindy Crawford”. Touché.
Choose to love your body
I urge you to love the body you’re in – the real, flawed, beautiful body you have. It’s the only one you’ll get in this lifetime.