Love your body. Self love. You’ve got to love yourself before you can love anyone else.
These are all things we hear regularly from body positive guru’s and pinterest quotes.
These are all things I’ve tried to tell myself for the past few years.
But for most of us loving our bodies and our selves seems like such an impossible task, especially if we’ve spent many or even most of the years of our lives actively hating our bodies and who we are.
So instead of attempting a great leap from self loathing and not being able to look in the mirror to reaching body love and a state of oozing confidence in a few days, it’s more realistic to start with body acceptance or body neutrality.
Body acceptance or body neutrality is a state of being where you may not actively love your body or even like it that much, but where you can accept your body for what it is.
Where you focus not on what you look like, but how kind you’ve been to yourself and others that day as a measure of achievement.
It is the ability to stop obsessing about your body and the way it looks.
It’s the realisation that your body’s shape, size, attractiveness, ability etc does not define your worth as a person.
It’s the capacity to wake up in the morning and decide what you want for breakfast based on what you feel like, not what you look like or as a way of punishing your body.
Its the potential to eat a slice of cake without worrying about calories or feeling guilt.
It’s realising that you are worth caring for, worth love, worth respect, worth joy no matter what your body looks like.
Once you have been able to accept your body, you can work towards loving it, and yes maybe one day you will be able to celebrate it and show it off and relish every inch of it. But lets just start with accepting it today.
Remember body acceptance and body love is a life long journey. It’s something you have to work on for the rest of time, even the most confident of people have bad days.
Start small and congratulate yourself for every small step you take away from hating yourself. And if you have a bad day, remember be kind to yourself.
If you are interested in trying to become more body accepting here are 6 ways I have been working towards my goal of body and self acceptance, maybe try one of these things if you’re able and see if it makes a difference to you.
- Get used to looking at and touching your own body. It’s hard to accept your body if you are not aware of what it looks and/or feels like. Many people who hate their bodies never look at themselves in the mirror, they never let themselves be photographed. They have no idea how they really look. A lot of people who have real shame around certain parts of their body will also never touch that body part and never allow others to touch it (tummy for example). Practice looking at your body. Become accustomed to it. You might not like what you see at first, but if you can, keep trying. Keep trying until you are comfortable looking at yourself in a neutral way. And also touch your body in a loving way. Do not pinch, grab and twist or poke your tummy if that is the area you struggle with, try rubbing some moisturiser on it instead, care for it without judgement.
- Curate your media. Change your social media feed. Stop buying women’s magazines. Start opening yourself up to the fact that there is no normal, and that there are multitudes of bodies in the world, all of them beautiful and different and amazing in their own way, all of them able to do different things. If you only see one type of body (read thin, white, able-bodied ) celebrated in the media you begin to think that only one type of body is acceptable. So, for example, stop following before and after diet photos on Instagram, stop pinning “beach body ready” routines and “clean eating tips” on Pinterest, stop engaging in conversations about weight and diets on Facebook, stop buying women’s fashion magazines that tell you, you need to buy stuff and lose weight to be acceptable. Instead, follow body positive and body acceptance social media pages, follow people of different body types, skin colours, abilities, races etc. open yourself up to different things and step out of your comfort zone. Follow social media accounts based on what the person does and achieves and what there values are, instead of what they look like.
- Stop obsessing over the scale. When I am in the throws of my eating disorder, I am slave to the scale. My mood for the day would be determined by what the number on the scale said. Some days I would weigh myself three or four times a day. It was an obsession. Now I will try to go several months at a time without weighing myself and I try not to let the scale rule my life. Instead of measuring yourself with a scale, measure your self by how well you feel, how kind you’ve been, what your body can do, how you have lived by your values, how many people you’ve made smile that day.
- Stop comparing yourself to others.Stop comparing your body to other people’s bodies, your abilities to other people’s abilities, your life to other people’s lives. For a start you are hurting yourself- life is always a competition if you are constantly comparing yourself to others. That in itself is stressful, to always feel like you are having to prove yourself and your worth, and always sizing other people up is not a good way to live. Secondly, when you compare your life and body to others you are making assumptions about them that do not lie in truth. Sure you could look at your colleague at work or that other mom on the playground and think, oh she always looks so pretty. She’s so much thinner than I am, I look terrible next to her. Her life must be so easy. When in reality you know nothing about her life. She could have terrible body image. She could be in an abusive relationship. She could have a terrible illness. She could not have enough money to pay for food. She could be looking at you and thinking “I wish I was her, her life must be so easy.” In reality everyone’s life is different. Everyone has there own challenges to face. Everyone has there own battles. Therefore there is no room for comparison, because life isn’t a level playing field. The next time you find yourself negatively comparing yourself to another person, acknowledge their beauty and then remind yourself that their beauty does not mean an absence of your own. Which brings me to my next point….
- Be Grateful. Stop thinking about all the things you hate about your body, your life, your self and try to start practising gratitude for the body and life you do have. Sure, you might have faults, everyone does, but give yourself permission to say something nice about yourself. Be grateful for your twinkly eyes, be grateful for your shiny hair, for your cute toes, for your complexion, for the ability to see, to run, to move. Whatever it is there is always something to be grateful for no matter how small. If you can only find one thing to be grateful for on you body, that’s fine, start with that. And the next day try and find two, then three, then more. Until you realise that there is so much more about you to love than to hate.
- Start challenging what you think about other peoples bodies One of the problems with diet culture and Western culture is that it not only makes you hate your own body, but it makes you judge other people’s bodies, and judge others worthiness on the way there body matches up to societal expectations. Next time you see a woman wearing something that society doesn’t deem “flattering” and you tell yourself “she shouldn’t be wearing that! who does she think she is? or “she can’t wear that, she’s too fat!” or “he cant wear that, that’s for girls”, whatever it is, stop, and question where this belief came from. You weren’t born hating fat people. You weren’t born thinking men cant wear pink, fat women can’t wear horizontal stripes, dark skin isn’t beautiful. You were taught this by diet culture. By Western society. It’s then that you realise that YOU can choose what is beautiful. You can choose to accept others no matter what, and you can choose to challenge your own thoughts about “Rules” around bodies. Push yourself to stop negatively commenting on other people’s bodies. Stop judging other people’s worthiness on their bodies. And maybe one day, you will stop judging your own.
Some days I do all these things, other days I have a bad day and I feel less than, I compare myself to others and I judge others on what they look like. We are all human, we all fail from time to time, we all have bad days. But power and recovery comes from accepting the bad days, learning from them and moving forward. Taking another step and trying again tomorrow. Try taking one step to body acceptance today and see how you feel. Start where you are. Whatever you look like. Whatever you feel like. Accepting yourself will get you further than hating yourself ever did.