I sometimes catch a glimpse of my naked body in the mirror and feel really ok about what I see. In fact, sometimes I actually like what I see.
This is kind of radical thing for me personally, but also, certainly in the world we live in today.
Even writing that down, that my naked body is ok, that I don’t hate it anymore, that there are actually things I like about it, almost feels shameful. I’m not supposed to feel that way and even worse, if I do, I shouldn’t dare to admit that! There’s a part of me that knows that it’s not normal in our society to feel ok about my body. It’s vain or conceited, not being humble or modest if I decide I like my body as it is. As women, we’re supposed to hate every part of ourselves – we’re too big, too small, too loud, too quiet, too aggressive, not assertive enough, she wears too much makeup, she should wear some make up etc. And I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I majorly missed the mark. Never able to get it right. Never enough. Never ok.
But I’m done with that. It’s too exhausting to keep up.
This whole body acceptance thing is not something that came easy to me.
In fact, it’s only been the last few years when I could see my naked body and not feel total revulsion. Or even see myself fully clothed and not find 8 reasons not to leave the house.
My body is not perfect by the standards that most others would hold it up to. And I’m pretty sure if you saw me naked you could find plenty of things to find fault with if you wanted to. But I don’t really care anymore about what other people think of my body. I’m no longer trying to manipulate it for the approval or benefit of some unknown person.
But it’s more perfect to me today than it has ever been.
Honestly, this is ironic in a way, that at 38 years old, my body, which is starting to show visible signs of the effects of gravity, the beginning of wrinkles, and let’s not forget lots of loose skin and stretch marks from many years of yo yo weight gain and loss, is more pleasing and accepted by me now than it was when I was 28 and 20 lbs lighter than I am right now.
This doesn’t mean that I’m walking around thinking I have the greatest body on the planet. And it doesn’t mean that there aren’t days or times when I stumble back into a fixation on something I don’t love about my body. Usually it’s when I put on something that doesn’t fit right (though buying higher quality clothes has helped in that area!) or when I haven’t gotten enough sleep and I suddenly notice a change in my face that I hadn’t noticed before. For a short while, my old critic will come up behind me and whisper in my ear “What is that? You should fix that. That’s ugly.” But instead of listening to her whispers and letting them fill up my head with with her unsolicited opinions, I shush her and tell her to go home. She’s not welcome here anymore.
That’s just one thing I do that has helped transform acceptance of my body.
How did I get to this place? To a place where I can walk by a mirror and see my body with all it’s possibly imperfections reflected at me and not want to run screaming?
It was a conscious choice because my quality of life was going down. It had become more tiring and painful to continue doing what I was doing (focusing and indulging in the negative thoughts I was having) than it was to decide to take active steps towards changing it. Deciding to start doing things differently, and keep coming back to doing them differently when things weren’t so easy, felt better and easier than staying where I was.
Over the next 5 weeks I’m going to share the most concrete changes I’ve made towards my body acceptance that you can start doing too.
This is Part 1.
I shush the critic when she whispers in my ear and tell her to go home.
When my old critic appears, and she does, she always will, I used to hear her words and thought they were truth. I kept putting my focus on them, constantly double checking to see if she was right. I’d have a thought pop up and then indulge in it by constantly putting my focus back on it.
Please don’t feel defensive when you see that word “indulge” – this isn’t a blame thing. While we can’t control what thoughts pop into our head in the first place, we do have control over what we do with those thoughts, how much attention we pay to them – and we pay a ton of attention to these awful and cruel thoughts. It’s become really easy to go there because we have programmed ourselves to go to that place. But we can also unprogram ourselves. It takes time and practice, but it can be done.
To illustrate how we “indulge” our thoughts, think about the biggest crush you had when you were in school. You might have passed him or her in the hallway, brushed elbows with them or maybe say hi and where did your brain go for the rest of the day? You would find yourself thinking about them over and over again. You’d be on the school bus thinking about them. You’d be laying in bed, thinking about them. You’d have this person on your brain all the time, even if you barely saw them that day. Running into them caused the first thought about them, but it was your brain, and the reward it received thinking about them that made your attention go back again and again. Even though it felt like some otherworldly cause was pulling your attention to it it was actually a choice you made because there was a benefit to it. You wanted to think about them because it felt good (you got all tingly and hopeful!) and so you purposely put your brain to work by indulging in thoughts about that person. Believe it or not, there is or was a benefit at some time to you thinking these terrible thoughts about your body – you may have started doing it because you thought it would protect you in some way or it would help you reach goals that would make your body more accepted by others. It may not be helpful now (and probably has done more harm than anything else), but it’s origination was probably out of love or protection.
We have thousands of thoughts each day and most pass on through with barely a notice but the ones we deem important show up again and again. It’s not really that your brain knows your mortgage needs to be paid or that a doctor’s appointment needs to be remembered that makes it something you remember to do. It’s that you’ve put your attention on it time and time again and now your brain knows that this is something it has to focus on. We do this with our worries, with our fears, dreams, daydreams and even with love (yes those crushes develop because we see/interact with someone over and over). We choose to think loving thoughts about people over and over again. For a lot of us this is an unconscious action, but make no mistake about it, the repetition is an action. This is good news though because that means once we become conscious that this is how our thoughts work, we can take different actions.
Remember when I said we can reprogram our brains?
One of the first steps to accepting your body is to reduce the amount of air time the inner critic gets. When thoughts come up that you don’t want to indulge in, you don’t want to give more power to, gently tell your inner critic her to keep her opinion to herself, that you don’t appreciate or agree with that information and then actually visualize sending her home, visualize closing the door behind her as she leaves. Visualize yourself locking the door with a key and then put the key in your pocket.
The next time she arrives, she will have to knock first and you can decide if you want to take that key out and let her in.
You may find that she has other ways in, maybe she sneaks in through a window or someone else who lives in the house let her in. She’s a crafty one. But if you keep asking her to keep her opinion to herself and continue to escort her out. She will show up less and less and she will have less power over you when she does.
Please know that this isn’t a one time or two time thing you can do and have it work. We have to be just as vigilant in trying to change as we are with our indulging in thoughts. If you previously thought about how gross your thighs or belly were 15 times a day, be prepared to show your critic out the door 20 times a day, every day for awhile. Don’t give up. Notice how many times a day your thoughts try to go there. Write it down if you have to to help keep you conscious. How long it will take to reduce the frequency is different for everyone and this is just one step of many that you can take to feel more loving towards your body.
But I know you are getting to the place where you want that more than you want whatever it is your critic is trying to get you to change. Keep remembering that.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this series next week!
Could you use some support in this area? Schedule a free consult with me here.
You can also download a free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldn‘t Be a Workout: Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!). It’s my starter tool pack for those who want to begin changing their relationship with food.