Do you love your 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 that I am not healthy unless I love my body.
1. I do not see myself as an improvement project
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. I celebrate my what my body can do
My body can dance. When I silence my mind and let my intelligent body feel the music, my body knows how to be the music. Being the music is why I began taking ballet classes as a teenager. And when I look in the mirror during dance class, I no condemn my body for not fitting a strict body profile. I celebrate it for moving me in exhilarating, exhausting, expressive ways.
My body can cook nourishing meals. My body can take me on walks around my neighborhood, through the woods, and around the lake. My body can play the piano. My body can cry tears of joy, it can feel the warmth of a cozy fire, it can embrace those whom I love. My body can do all of this and more. That is cause for a daily celebration of my body.
My body is worthy of my unreserved delight for what it can do, without scrutiny of what it looks like.
3. I send love to my harder-to-love body parts
The next step, although more challenging, offers a greater reward. I practice consciously sending love to the parts of my body that, thanks to the media, I’ve deemed imperfect, unworthy. Consider 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 physically reject that part.
4. I set a 5-10 minute time limit for my makeup
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. In my body love journey, I’ve limited the time I spend on primping. First, I narrowed my cosmetics to just a few non-toxic staples. Then, weird as it sounds, I set a time limit for doing my makeup even when I have ample time to get ready. If I allow myself more time, I find myself going back into an obsessive, critical, analytical, corrective mentality about my appearance.
5. I NEVER EVER EVER verbally criticize my 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.
That is why I never ever criticize my body in front of myself or others. And I don’t criticize other people’s bodies, either!
It can be difficult not to think criticisms about your body, but it is certainly in our capacity no to speak these criticisms. And I’ve found that, with this awareness, I think more positively about my body.
6. I’m A Recovering Body Perfectionist
I told you this story in my Confessions of a Recovering Health Perfectionist post. Just like I’m a recovering Health Perfectionist, I’m a recovering Body Perfectionist.
An influential professor in my life once discussed spiritual transformation:
Look at your life in terms of your personal myth, which is another way of saying your life’s journey. Where is the transformation? Real healing doesn’t occur unless there is transformation. And transformation is not saying, ‘I want to be healthy so I can go back to normal.’ If you go back to normal, you have not transformed, you have not taken the opportunity to grow spiritually.
I used to wish for a perfect body. When that didn’t happen, I wished for was the sudden ability to love my body without any difficulty. And because neither wish was granted, I grew. I transformed. I learned.
And now, I’ll take that transformation over a perfect – and even perfectly healthy – body.
Are you on a body love journey? What challenges do you face? Do you have any words of advice to share?