Have you ever met a meaner bitch than the naked one staring back at you in the mirror? Disney villains aside, I think not.
Living in a supermodel-infused world with Photoshopped images pummeling us daily, most women have a hard time loving or even liking our bodies. If you think about it, the general decency or kindness afforded to strangers is pretty much non-existent when it comes to yourself, particularly in the presence of reflective surfaces and photographs.
We live in a state of constant comparison: our bodies to other women’s bodies, including of course models & celebs. In the middle of summertime/swimsuit season and our body-love/hate has been once again sufficiently stirred up, but not really brought home or put into practice. We are not actually loving our bodies, we’re just talking about it and how we should.
There has been much upheaval in recent months–years–on this topic, with women vowing to love themselves as-is and stop hating and berating themselves. We’re all on board–we want it, love the idea, and champion the sentiments and videos on Facebook. But how? How do we love our bodies with a mind full of judgement and an internet/TV/grocery stores full of 22 year old stripper-fitness models? There’s a lot of the “just do it” mentality on the subject: just make that one-time decision and feel the love (similar to the fitness rhetoric). But is this a one-time decision or a belief system, the later which would require a more dynamic solution set. multi-pronged, series of decisions and shift in environments?
I have struggled with loving my body most of my life. There have been ups and downs, backwards and forwards, progress and reversion all with accompaniment of my various weights, sizes and state of fitness. One thing I’m sure of is that I, we, are brainwashed–completely brainwashed–to judge bodies with society’s beauty standards. Your body, the neighbor’s, coworker’s, or kid walking down the street are all susceptible to the beauty screen in your head. You know how I know? Kids. Kids, before they know “better” love their bodies fully and with gusto. They love your body too, and the neighbor’s, coworker’s, etc. They might even say the word “fat” observationally without any emotional load or bias to it. You and I were born body-loving and neutral on body judgement.
So how does brainwashing happen and can we really wash our brains of the perfectionist manifesto so rigidly ingrained in our neurons to create true body love? Most of us would settle for anything upwards of “not so bad” but we would kill for “I love my body!”.
There are 2 parts to body-love: feelings and behaviors. Both affect each other. When you feel good or better about your body, you take better actions (think of a favored silk dress–do you throw it on the floor or send it for dry cleaning?). When you behave better, make healthy choices, you feel better about your body (recall the last time you were super “good”, you ate clean and exercised, and likely went to bed feeling good about your actions and awoke feeling lean or light). So optimum approach for body love starts with dabbling in both feeling and behavior shift (which I cover in detail in the book).
To feel better about our bodies we have to infuse our body thinking and self-talk with real life relationship thinking and logic. I mean your kids isn’t likely a supermodel, is he? What about your dog, is it an AKC purebred? But unlike the Italian bikini model on the cover of that magazine, you absolutely adore, love, cherish, and will do anything for–and find them incredibly, undeniably adorable. Don’t you?
When I say “infuse our body thinking and self-talk” I mean a lot. A lot-lot. It took you years to be brainwashed into body-hate, so you’ll want to consistently input the opposite to have the mindset of body-love. As much as this subject is painful or important for your daughters/grands, is as much as you need to be vigilant to shift yourself. I don’t mean intense, just consistent–easy like a gentle breeze through you mind throughout each day. Here are my suggestions to get the gentle brain scrub rolling:
1. Understand you are brainwashed. The mean girl in your bathroom mirror has been smoking the Photoshop pipe since she was in her teens. Her perception is warped. Another way to look at it–and your 7 yr old boy will love this–if aliens landed on Earth tomorrow, would they know who’s hot and who’s not? The lenses through which you see yourself are distorted or at least smudged so remind yourself of this fact before you comment (aloud or to yourself) on your physique.
2. If you must compare bodies, do so logically. You’ve likely been comparing your body to a 19 yr old Sports Illustrated model’s body–no kids, cake, or care-taking going on for her! But you are not a model and revel in that: You can have cake! You likely have a full life, with people, work, giving, travel, life experience, kids, etc. When you look around you at the beach or office, most women look more like you than them. Your body is reality–living in 4D, healthy and strong. Direct your thinking to treasure who you are and your life, your talents, skills and body at present, and rejoice that you have a healthy body to use (to enjoy cake).
3. You are not your body & love doesn’t come via your body. This is tough for us girls, it’s a holdover from the truly sexist, powerless days. The last time you asked a friend to go out for dinner or to the beach, did you consider who will look good on the towel or seat next to you, or did you ask the person whose company you’d enjoy most? (The latter of course!) Stop kidding yourself that what is attractive about you is your looks or that your appearance is dominant in your level of life enjoyment. Your being present, loving and yourself are the dominant factors in your life enjoyment.
4. Babies have cellulite and they’re cute. Your started out bald, w/o teeth and riddled w cellulite and everyone thought you were frickin adorable. If you think about it, you find wildly unattractive and imperfect people irresistibly gorgeous. Allot your body the same courtesy you offer pets and children: imperfect is lovely & loveable.
5. Try 2 minutes of love. Take 2 minutes before you go to bed to write at least 2 things about your body for which you are grateful (heart beat, immune system, pretty eyes, etc). Second, write 2 little ways you treated your a little body better today (took home 1/2 lunch instead of overeating or took the stairs not elevator). Redirecting your thoughts about your body to gratitude and acknowledgement will seed that mindset and thoughtful and healthy behaviors. (Your body likes compliments and “thank yous” as much as you do.)
6. Love will move mountains. We mistakenly believe holding disdain or loathing will help us to change our behavior in regards to our bodies. But the opposite is true. You take good care of the things you value and love, and you appreciate them more. Your love will move you and inspire changes in the way you care for your body (which changes your appearance). If love seems too far, aim for kindness and respect of your body and all that it does for you each day (most of which you are unaware).
7. Be a truck. If you’re a truck, be a truck, if you’re a wagon, be a wagon. Let go of trying to beat yourself into being an Italian sports car. I remember seeing people drive around in “kit cars” in the 90s. These were cars that looked like a Rolls Royce via set of faux panels to make the car look like a fancy make & model, while in truth it was a VW Bug underneath the kit. As you can imagine, they looked ridiculous–like they were trying really hard to be something they weren’t. People are the same way: we are best when we are ourselves. So be yourself, embrace the make and model you are instead of trying to make yourself into the race car you see on the magazine cover.
I’ve heard it said that nothing is more important than you feeling good (within yourself). Your feelings about your body will carry far beyond your looks (think of the vibes, pos or neg, that people bring into the room w them). Nothing will make you look better in a swimsuit than a belly full of love.