Do you love your body?
If you are saying “yes,” than I exuberantly applaud you. You have successfully overcome the media’s message that we cannot love our body unless we are perfect. If you answered “no,” then perhaps the following steps to body love will play a role in cultivating healthy adoration for your miraculous body.
Body love is a tough journey, and I’m still on the path. Sometimes I’m bounding along, other times it feels like I’m trudging through a barrel of molasses. But no matter how difficult, I know loving my body plays an integral role in my overall wellbeing.
1. Give yourself permission to love your body
Commercials, advertisements and product packaging tells us that we have no right to celebrate our body. “You are an unfit beast covered in cellulite, wrinkles, zits and stretch marks. You are only allowed to love your body after our skincare product/exercise video/spa service changes your body.” This marketing message pulls us into a vicious cycle of body-hate. If we fix one thing on our Body To Do List, there will always be another item preventing us from body love.
Caroline Heldmen sums up this dangerous message concisely in her popular TED Talk, “The Sexy Lie“
We raise our little girls to view their bodies as projects to constantly be improved.
Body love begins with granting ourselves permission to love our body at every single moment. If mantras or meditation statements are your thing, repeat: “I give myself permission to wholly and ardently adore my body.” I don’t remember where I first heard the following simile, but it is ironically accurate: “Loving your body only when it is perfectly fit is like loving your kids only when they are perfectly behaved.“
2. Celebrate one thing you love about your body
We love Larry because he sings silly songs about hairbrushes, manatees and water buffaloes. This beloved animated cucumber gives a great example of how to love our body in his song, “I Love My Lips!”
Here is the challenge: find one part of your body and celebrate it with Larry’s unbridled fervor. Every time (every. friggen. time) you look in the mirror, focus on that one part of your body and tell yourself, “I love you, [fill in the blank].” Make it specific, if necessary, so you feel no hesitation in this love. For example, I am currently saying, “I love you, irises.” I tried saying, “I love you eyes,” but then I started internally criticizing my dark circles and sparse eyelashes. But I can express unreserved delight in my sapphire irises.
Of course, this is just one small step to body love. We’ll start with one thing, and then move on to two, three and then more things that we can count!
3. Send love to your “trouble” body parts
The next step, although more challenging, offers a greater reward. Practice consciously sending love to the parts of your body that are harder to love. Remember the saying, “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”? Despising a part of your body is emotionally toxic, while extravagant body love is profoundly healing. I also believe that it is physically toxic–the more we hate a certain part of our body, the more our body is going to reject that part.
I’m learning to send love and gratitude to one of my trouble parts–my hair. I’m making great strides to heal my chronic disease with diet and lifestyle, but some symptoms still remain. The most distressing? My drastic hair loss and receding hair line. It took me years to realize that the more I hated my hair, the more my body was going to reject hair growth. Instead, I need to sending love and joy to my hair follicles for the most potent source of nutrients to fuel their effort.
4. Find the cosmetic balance
In middle school, a relative told me, “Why don’t you start wearing makeup so you can be beautiful?” I summoned up the composure to squeak back, “But I am beautiful without makeup…” What I really needed was some cold water for that burn. This marked the beginning of my beauty product obsession. I would spend my carefully saved dollars on high-end items that promised perfect skin and hair. I spent hours on Youtube, watching beauty tutorials to master concealer application and hair curling.
Ironically, product-obsessed me didn’t feel prettier. Finally, this past year, I’ve made a conscious effort to free myself from products. I narrowed my body care and hair care items to a few non-toxic, homemade alternatives. As for makeup, I’ve found the balance for me. Wearing a small amount of chemical-free makeup (here are my favorites, all under $10) makes me look healthier (I’m still facing some big health issues) and therefore feel healthier. And, of course, there is that true cliché that makeup makes me feel more confident.
Finding the balance between highlighting our natural beauty and obsessively primping presents a challenge. So experiment. Find that freedom when you simplify, if you are a “product junkie.” And, on the other hand, perhaps you will feel a big surge of self-confidence if you invest in that new lipstick (lead and paraben free, of course).
5. NEVER EVER verbally criticize your body
When raising me, my parents did a lot of thing right… I’m sure you can tell, because I’m such a well-rounded, charming young woman But they did things wrong, too, like every parent on planet earth.
Even before we were old enough to speak, my mom has verbally criticized her own body in front of my sister and me. It would just be little remarks like, “I can’t wear this dress today, I’m having a fat day.” Or “my eyebrows are more uneven than usual.” Or “Darn these large pores on my nose.”
Unconsciously, as I grew up, I found myself repeating these exact phrases to myself! It is vital to body love that we speak gentle words about our body at all times. We need to foster body love in our friends and family members instead of teaching themselves to criticize their body. Remember how we were told to only speak words that build each other up, not tear each other down? We should approach our body with the same mindset.
Never verbally criticize your body in front of your friends, children or significant other. Never ever.
6. Accept what you cannot change, then let it go
In order to free ourselves from an unhealthy body relationship, we must free ourselves from regrets. Since I’m being unabashedly honest with you in this post, I’ll just continue without concern for your (or my) embarrassment. One example where I needed to free myself from regrets and accept what I can’t change? Cellulite.
I used to mourn the fact that I would not be cursed with cottage-cheese thighs if ate a traditional diet from birth and lived in a pristinely toxin-free environment. But guess what? That didn’t happen. I finally got it through my head that it is okay for me to accept this. Remember step 3? I needed to stop begrudging my thighs. Regrets only undermine our body love! These thighs are a part of ME, and body love is a holistic thing–it means accepting every part of your body. Besides, nothing is wrong with cellulite–the only problem is being inundated with media that tells us it is wrong.
I told myself, “I am not perfect. But I am a beloved masterpiece and it is right and healthy that I adore my body!” This is hard to say, but guess what? It feels divine as those words triumphantly fly from your mouth.