Stop trying to fix your body.
It was never broken.
EXTREME SELF-COMPASSION: THE SECRET TO FEELING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF
I am taking a meditation class right now that has an entire segment on self-compassion. It is one of those topics that you hear and think, “Yeah, yeah. Be nice to myself, yada, yada.” The topic itself is easy to dismiss. Instead of dismissing it as an esoteric principle today, try putting it into practice. Here’s how:
When someone or something gets under your skin or hurts your feelings today, instead of giving yourself the “buck-up-camper” or “they suck” speech in your head, practice giving yourself extreme self-compassion instead.
As yourself, “If I were a best friend sitting next to me, what exactly would I want them to say?” Then say that to yourself.
Oftentimes you just want to be heard and understood and validated. Your may want the best friend in your head to say, “Oh man. That sucks that they said that to you. No wonder your are upset. That wasn’t kind.”
Practice giving yourself extreme self-compassion at least one time today by asking yourself, “What do I want someone to say to me in this situation?” Then say it to yourself.
YOU DON’T NEED TO HIDE: HOW TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOUR LOOKS
I watched a video a few weeks ago of a woman who was very thin, but who had lost a large amount of weight and she had a lot of extra skin around her arms, legs, and midsection. She was so brave to go on camera, and just show us what she looked like, without apology. The message was, “I’m okay with my body, and you can be okay with yours.” This is a great example of body positivity.
I am so hopeful that the next generation of humans on this planet will be less judgmental of their own human bodies as well as other human bodies. It’s like the air we breathe–it seems so normal that 99% of the models we see are size 0. Our brains are so ingrained with the message, “Unless I am underweight, I am unacceptable and gross.”
In order for the next generation to naturally feel good about their own body, this generation has work to shift our culture. We get to work to be the change so future generations will reap the benefits.
HOW TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR BODY: GO TO MEXICO
My hubby and I love going to the Riviera Maya in Mexico. The beaches are beautiful, and the pace is slow and relaxing. One of the common experiences we have every time we go to Mexico is the shift in body image that happens while we are there.
The first few days of putting on a bikini as a 40-something are horrific and traumatizing. I look in the hotel mirror and after getting really grumpy, wrap a sarong around myself before heading out. The things I think about my body on day one of vacation are pretty scathing.
Then Mexico soaks into your skin. You look around and see all the other human bodies around you. Many of the bodies are bigger than you are, as old as you are, and are often wearing much smaller bikinis. And you start to notice after a few days that they look fine. There is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of.
By the last day of vacation I usually feel like the sexiest thing to walk the beach. The whole-body sarong has been replaced with my itty-bittiest bikini and I feel fabulous. Nothing has changed, but everything has.
Now why can’t we just LIVE this way in the US?
HEALTHY BODY MODEL
I have four sisters. We grew up in a sea of body shame and the message of thinness as godliness. One of my sisters has struggled with an eating disorder. A few of us, me included, have worked hard to dismantle the body police in our heads. And one of my sisters, lucky woman, has a healthy body image and didn’t attach to body weight.
My sister Adriana has lived in Guatemala for many years, and we see sporadically on visits. One year she came to visit and she had noticeably gained a butt on her normally thin and lanky frame. She commented, “I have gained some weight! I found a market in Guat that sells peanut butter and I have been loving it!”
There was no self-recrimination, no lamenting her new shape, no guilt, no apology, no shame. She eventually got used to the splurge of finding peanut butter, and she returned to her former lanky frame. There was no diet, no struggle, no celebration, and no mention of the weight loss. She is my healthy body model.
MODESTY VS SHAMING
Warning: this topic is a little dicey to talk about. I will try to tread carefully.
I grew up in a conservative religious household. One of the concepts I learned and lived was that girls needed to cover their bodies to show respect to ourselves and to God.
Unfortunately, the strict modesty message is easy to be both taught and translated into extremes. It isn’t uncommon to hear the message shift away from self-respect and in the direction of, “Your body is shameful. You need to cover up. If men see you and are turned on by you, it is your fault and you are sinning.”
If you grew up in a conservative religion or are a member of one today, you may want to be aware that many girls hear the message of “cover up” and translate it into “because my body is shameful.”
OVERCOMING THE CRITICS
When I was in my thirties I went through a closet transformation. I hired an image consultant to go through my closet full of Target T-shirts and jeans, throw out anything that wasn’t working, and go shopping for clothes that made me feel alive and beautiful.
I had an amazing experience. After years of pregnancies and raising babies, I felt like I was beautiful again for the first time in a decade. I wish that everyone around me had reflected back my positivity. Instead, I got some negative comments from people who were close to me.
I took on their criticism as I was somehow breaking the rules. I wasn’t allowed to feel great about myself, as is. If I felt beautiful in clothes and about my body, I was in the wrong. At the time, I didn’t have the life experience to put up a boundary and just say, “No. You don’t have a say in how I look. My body and the way I dress are for me.” I see this in mothers criticizing their daughters in dressing rooms, in husbands criticizing their wives on TV, in online trolls criticizing women’s bodies everywhere.
In summary, the secret to feeling good about your body and feeling better about yourself is to practice being good to yourself!