“Our body is…a vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~ Buddha
At what point do we consciously become of aware of our bodies? You see babies staring at their own feet in wonder or grabbing your nose happily.
For most of us, though, there comes a time when judgment enters the equation. We aren’t just looking at our nose aware that it exists as part of our body, but judging it by saying it’s too big, small, crooked, etc. I don’t recall the exact moment that judgment entered my body view equation, but I do know as far back as 4th grade I felt that I should be skinnier in general and so forth. The thing is, I’ve looked at pictures from that time period and I was a healthy, slim child, just with a distorted image of myself. It made me realize that even now when I look at myself and judge or wish I looked different in anyway it’s just the same distorted body image and someday in the future I’ll look back and realize I was great just the way I was. That’s the problem with this cycle, though; it doesn’t allow you to enjoy yourself now, in the present. And let me tell you, it matters. It matters that you waste countless hours distraught and concerned with your weight, size, etc., it matters that you hold yourself back from trying new things for fear that you won’t look good, it matters that you never know what the next moment holds and you don’t want to spend your last minute of life unhappy and self-conscious.
I must admit I am a bit nervous writing this; I mean I’ve never been this openly honest about body image and until recently I thought I was this rare specimen ill at ease in her own body. As is usually the case, reading has taught me a lot and opened my eyes. People like Tammy were brave enough to mention their history with disordered eating, which in turn gave me courage and confidence. The Body Myth really helped me realize that I’m not alone and that other women everywhere feel the same pressure to be unrealistically thin. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising is a very interesting dissection of advertising – particularly the dangerously thin women we are shown everyday as the “ideal woman.”
Once I consciously realized the wasted time and energy being used on body image woes I decided to take action. Hopefully these strategies can help you, too.
- Get Rid of Your Television
Seriously. You may think (like I once did) that you are not affected by advertising, after all you know they are just trying to get you to buy something. The truth is subconsciously we take in all these images and if we don’t match up perfectly, judge ourselves as less. Trust me, you really won’t miss the TV and if you’re trying to simplify your life you don’t need to be inundated with commercials anyway.
- Stop the Negative Talk
Why is it that we are meaner to ourselves than we would ever be to someone else? Make the decision to respect yourself as much as you would a stranger. Whenever negative self talk starts up, be aware, stop it, and replace it with a compliment. It can also be useful to write down the negative thoughts and then write next to them a positive statement. For example, “my thighs are too big” replaced with “my legs are strong and get me where I want to go.”
- Compliment Yourself Daily
You know how good you feel when someone compliments you? Well, it feels just as good to compliment yourself. Each day think of a genuine compliment for yourself. Maybe you stayed very patient and upbeat during a stressful moment or cooked a great dinner for your family. Whatever it may be take a moment to appreciate yourself.
- Do Something For Others
I know, I know. You’ve already heard that volunteering makes you feel better about yourself. Well, it really does work, so do it.
- Appreciate What You Can Do
There’s a great line in a Regina Spektor song that goes, “I’ve got a perfect body, but sometimes I forget. I’ve got a perfect body ’cause my eyelashes catch my sweat.” We forget that our bodies are these impressive, complex, functioning machines. Let go of the worries and appreciate all your body does. It takes you where you want to go, it nurtures others, it gets oxygen and pumps blood without you ever giving it a thought. Pretty freakin’ amazing if you ask me.
Have you struggled with body image or another type of self doubt? What strategies have worked for you?
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