“LOVE YOURSELF” “SELF-LOVE” “BODY POSITIVITY!!” “ACCEPT YOURSELF!” Is PLASTERED all over my Instagram, Facebook, social media channels and, well, honestly? It feels like it’s being shoved right up in my face…and while I’m sure they have good intentions behind these posts and their efforts to help others love themselves are appreciated, the truth is sometimes I feel worse after seeing. Like because I DON’T love myself currently or feel the way they say you should feel that I, well, let’s just say I have more work to do.
If you feel like I do, where you want to “LOVE YOURSELF!” as they say and wish you could one day wake up and look in the mirror and NOT think about how you look, or no longer feel fat, or wish you could change x, y, or z; you wish for that day where you’re just happy and the worries and stress over your body would just disappear, then know you are not alone- actually what you feel is quite normal and as you will learn in the post actually justified.
If you do wish you could change your body or just let go of caring so much about your weight, then if there’s one thing I can do for you today, I hope it’s this. I hope I can open the door to uncovering the path to your self-acceptance journey. It’s time to start your journey to finding peace and I hope I can help you take the first step.
Before we get started, first, I want to get this out there- there is an overwhelming amount of noise, chatter, within the body-positivity movement and as I said before it’s in good intention, but I learned it doesn’t make me feel better or help me accept my body. Why is that? Because it doesn’t matter what you see on social media or in advertisements or what the world shoves in your face- even if it keeps telling you to love yourself or changes the status quo to allow women to find themselves caught in the battle of comparison less often- telling you to love your body doesn’t actually HELP you make the internal changes to get to a place where you do love yourself. Telling you to love yourself doesn’t actually help you accomplish it.
The Body Positivity Movement is good for the world as a whole and for changing the future for young girls to get to live in a better, different future than we did and it IS creating a new future so women don’t have to grow up and go through the struggles we face today. Yes, that is invaluable to society….
While life-changing on a global scale, it loses its effectiveness on an individual level.
For you to truly find your way through the life-long journey of accepting your body and overcoming the ups and downs, the every-day struggles, of the body positivity journey, you need to equip your mind with the tools and thought processes it needs to work through the negative thoughts and battle the shaming experiences you face internally and externally.
Today on the blog, I am going to share Part 1 of our 3 Part Series, starting off with our Minds and how you can get started on learning what tools you need, how to use them to help you accept your body, and overcome the obstacles you’ll face along the way.
HEY SKIMMER!!! READ ME FIRST! If you are going to read anything in this post, start here. First and foremost I want you to understand three important things before you move on to reading this post.
1. You actually have to do the work.
I’m going to be blunt here. If you are looking for someone to give you the magic answer to help you beat your self-loathing habits or negative thoughts, if you think you can fix these “issues” overnight or within a week, if you are someone who gives up or stops reading after something tells you there’s work involved and I mean dedicated, consistent, time-consuming work…then I will say it right now, you won’t find what you are looking for AKA you will never reach the level of happiness and peace and comfortability in your own skin that you want. Harsh, I know. Changing your thought patterns is what is REQUIRED for you to think and feel differently about your body and that TAKES WORK. First, you have to learn the tools and techniques to rewire your thoughts and THEN you have to use those tools and education you’ve learned and practice them and use them on a daily basis. You have to implement them and often. Finally, then, you are ready to continue with your journey, being consistent and continuously learning and improving mixed with grace and forgiveness because this journey is NOT a perfect one and you shouldn’t expect it to be. If you want the results, you have to be willing to do the work. If you do the work, the results will be more than you could ever have expected them to be, in the best possible way.
2. Stop looking for answers outside of you- from your environment.
Piggy-backing off my first warning, if you are looking for answers or solutions or tips and tricks from your surroundings or other people- I will tell you right now, you will not find a sustainable or an all-knowing solution to help you solve this “problem.” You have to do the work and YOU have to experience the way these tools work for you or do not work for you. No one is going to be able to provide you with the answers you need for your own personal journey. If you keep looking to your surroundings or others for the answers you will never learn how you can be self-sustainable and you will always find yourself in comparison, with feelings of not enough, or I didn’t do it as well as I should have. You will find more moments where you feel like a failure trying to live by other people’s measures or systems that aren’t meant for you. You are the number one person in your life with your best interest at heart. Going through this journey, you will be the one to learn, grow, and evolve, helping you get to a place where you want to be. This journey will help you build that self-trust and genuine relationship with yourself that will, then, help you create that life-long sustainability you need to get through life.
3. This post is just a starting point.
Your journey will be a life-long journey, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t get easier over time. While there are many tools, exercises, and bits of advice I could share, I’d have to write a book to get them all done in one place. Keep in mind, I’m just sharing some of the many tools you can learn to help you along the way on your journey. This really is just a starting point, I’m just trying to open the door for you that way you can, then, discover the how’s and why’s and even find the motivation to continue this journey and keep moving forward on your own. Once you can understand that it’s the mindset tools, and the internal work of working through the thoughts and experiences you face, that are the changes that lead you to the results that you wish to see and need to cultivate a more body-positive, self-accepting mindset and lifestyle, you can then continue your journey of learning and growing and therefore ditch all the noise and chatter finding that sustainable solution to help you every step of the way on your journey.
So let’s get started.
As I have mentioned throughout the introduction of this post, if there’s ONE thing you need to transform your thoughts and feelings about how you feel towards your body, it’s to learn the shifts you need to make within your thinking process with tools to help you change your mind frame. I’m going to share some of those tools and processes with you and I hope this brings you clarity on what that it looks like from start to finish on how rewiring your thoughts work to help you go from thinking hurtful thoughts about yourself and navigate your way into a healthier and kinder mindset towards your body.
I know this goes without saying so I won’t go into depth here, but like every transformational journey, yes, the first step towards any type of change is always self-awareness. You can’t change anything if you aren’t aware of the problem in the first place. In this case, you need to be self-aware of your negative thoughts even more so aware of them IN the moment- the exact second you think them. You need to observe and catch yourself in the moment that you have any negative or hurtful thought(s) about your body, or just any thoughts or feelings that don’t sit right with you (i.e. comparison). If you aren’t aware of them happening in the moment then that prevents you from taking the right action to change them or make any difference for yourself because you are not even aware of them happening nor their impact on you. Start with checking your self-awareness, you’ll know when you are at the right point of awareness because you will find yourself in a clear state of “I’m well aware of my problems thank you very much.”
GET FED UP:
Once you have the self-awareness to recognize your thoughts, the next “phase” per se you need to reach to really get to the point of “we’re doing this” on your journey is getting FED UP with yourself, others (i.e. friends, family, even strangers), and society’s opinions and standards when it comes to women’s bodies, when it comes to YOUR body. I have found that real change, epic change, REVOLUTIONARY change for our individual lives are propelled by finally realizing that we are DONE with the opinions, we are done with standards, and we are once and for all completely FED UP with the negative feelings we have about our bodies. When you reach that point of no longer taking shit from anyone, including yourself, then I think you have reached the breakthrough you need to make real change happen for yourself. You have found your radical motivation to do better and be better for yourself and to want to change and to make that change happen and see it through. While some may say this isn’t exactly a “healthy” reason for the change, getting to your “breaking point” – what I AM saying is you need to find that place where you are READY, ready to take on this journey and not let anything or anyone stop you, you are READY to make change happen for yourself and not get in your own way or give up on yourself- you are willing to do the work and to educate yourself and learn what you need to do to make this change within yourself happen. You have to WANT to change and getting to the point of being so fed up with all the crap that you can’t tolerate anything but change and the work that comes with it will help you start and preserve throughout this journey. So what next?
BODY AWARENESS EXERCISES:
YES, there are actual exercises that you can do to help you gain perspective on body image. I learned some of these, personally, in therapy (yeah, therapy can help!). While I’m not going to walk you through every one of these exercises in this post, I will list an example and share how these exercises work (their purpose) and how these types of exercises can help you.
- Body awareness exercises help you to gain perspective on how your thoughts may have been morphed or warped by society, past experiences, influences by friends and families, culture, etc. You think about your body and even other people’s bodies a certain way- that’s just how you’ve learned to think about bodies in general. These exercises help you to understand the way you think and to see if you can come to an understanding that the way you think isn’t healthy or, simply, true or false.
- How they work. There are multiple exercises and each serves different purposes, but the one that was the most helpful for me was one I share more in-depth on in my post How To Love Yourself Part 1. In this exercise, you go to a public area (i.e. a coffee shop or mall) and you look at the people in your environment, you place yourself inside the mind and body of each person nearby, taking a walk in their shoes. For a moment you picture what it would be like to be them (in their thoughts- NOT your own- remember they are a different person living a different life than you). Next, you think about if you were them, how would you feel about your body (not your personal body- but theirs). Ask yourself if you were them- how would you feel about having their body. And you do this for as many people as you can, I would shoot high- as in 8-10 people. This exercise allows you to see and understand that each person has their own insecurities about their body. This exercise also teaches you to take it a step further and open your mind to see the perspective of how different ALL of our bodies truly are. Once you realize how different and unique each body is from the next- it opens you up to see that creating standards or the “perfect” body is not only unrealistic but an impossible task. There are over 7 BILLION people in the world, which means there are 7 BILLION unique bodies. While some may have similarities- it seems pretty mundane to take all that makes 7 Billion people unique and beautiful in their own ways and try to morph them all into one perfect “body image.” Secondly, this exercise exposes you to learn that while you may be worried about what other people think about you, how you look, or your body when you’re out and about- you will quickly learn that they are too busy thinking the same thing about themselves. Everyone in a single room is more likely thinking about themselves and worried about how they are being judged or perceived that they don’t even think about judging you or your appearance. Lastly, this exercise teaches you to understand the significance of how unique each person’s body is and how your own perceived judgments about your body or others are insignificant. What I mean by that is when you take the time to really walk in someone else’s shoes and in this case, multiple people, you find clarity in seeing how unique each person’s body truly is. When you think about the insecurities they may have about themselves and you think about how they have a big nose, or maybe that giant scar across their body, or a ‘funky’ birthmark, or their hair is frizzy, or their feet are big, etc. -you can learn that if you were that person with the big crooked nose- should you spend your life unhappy because you have THAT nose? That person is MORE than the “unattractive qualities you perceive them to have”- if you were them, you would know that you, yourself, have so much more to offer the world- you have gifts, thoughts, ideas, a personality. The way your nose looks is a silly, a foolish, scale to base your worth off of. This exercise can show you the insignificance of your own biases and prejudices, your opinions and judgments that society and others may have placed on you that you may, yourself, place on yourself and others. You learn how a body, is just a body, and doesn’t define a person. So if everyone doesn’t look the way people say they should; should all those people spend the rest of their lives unhappy because they DON’T look a certain way, you and I both know the answer to that question. Once you learn to love and appreciate how each person’s body is beautiful and unique and makes them wonderful, you can then turn that same thought towards yourself- after all, you, too, are just one of the many standing in that public place you’re in. Only your thoughts are magnified to you, but you really are just one amongst the crowd to everyone else there just as they are to you.
- These exercises are for you to learn and experience your thoughts and how they are limited to what you’ve been taught to believe and they also help you open your mind and grow to learn how that can be changed. To see things from different perspectives and to see firsthand how life can be experienced with changing your thoughts, opinions, and standards. I highly encourage you to research and find body positive awareness exercises and practice them regularly.
- Here is a workbook that I found helpful to further your education and give you practice on body awareness exercises: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-body-image-workbook-thomas-cash/1122972493
QUESTION YOUR THOUGHTS:
Throughout my experience with therapy and using the various body awareness exercises, I’ve learned one key tool that helped me the most to overcome negative thoughts. QUESTION them, challenge them. HECK, don’t just question your own thoughts, QUESTION other people. If they say something negative about someone’s appearance, ask them WHY. WHY do they think that? WHY does that matter? WHY is that significant? WHY do you believe that? WHY do you put so much value on that? WHY do you think that is true? WHY do you believe that about them or yourself? Become a questioner. Honestly, half the times you don’t even need to answer the question- when it comes to questioning yourself. Once you hear the question in your head it kind of snaps you out of the negative downward spiral and helps you remember who you really are- someone who doesn’t judge others based on their appearances including yourself. Hearing the question can get your head back in place and your feet back on the ground. Questioning your negative thoughts and judgments can also help you maybe learn where you did pick up some insecurities, more often than not they didn’t come from you- you picked them up from somewhere else. Most of the time we don’t put a value on things such as appearances and body shapes and sizes until someone uses it to hurt us. When you question those thoughts, you can question the origin of those thoughts and even question their value. Finally, these questions can show you your own strength in challenging the negativity that you will find yourself facing, and most importantly, it can remind you of what you value most and how little your appearance takes part in that.
FACT VS OPINION:
One of the most valuable tools you could have in your mindset toolbox is challenging your thoughts to the fact vs opinion match off. With the self-awareness you’ve cultivated, you can catch your negative thoughts and beliefs in action and when you do you can challenge that thought and ask “is this thought true?” -Your answer lies whether it is FACT or OPINION. Many of our negative thoughts about our body are opinions and as we learned in our body-awareness exercises, there is no right or wrong way to have a body- they are all unique and one of a kind. While the way you feel about your body feels very real to you (you are not alone in this, we all feel this way, because it is our body and our life and our experiences and struggles do matter)- you may argue that it IS a fact that you don’t look good with a muffin top in those jeans or your bat wings swinging in the air every time you wave hello is not your best attribute or if you desperately need to do some squats cause your butt is as flat as below sea level cities and as far from a Kardashian’s as the sun is the Earth….you FEEL that those are facts, they FEEL VERY real to you. BUT the FACT is they are all your opinions about your body and are NOT facts. How you feel about your body is warped by your own biases, you will always feel differently about your body because it is, well, YOUR body- you are NOT a good source of judgment on this matter. That is a FACT. Therefore when you find yourself caught in negative thoughts or judging yourself on how you look and you feel yourself getting worse and worse- Challenge yourself. Think and walk yourself through it. Are these thoughts valid? Are they true? Are they just my opinions? Are my opinions accurate measures? Once you learn to challenge your negative thoughts and prove to yourself otherwise, knowing FACT vs. a negative mindset, you can then move on to working towards more loving and positive thoughts, but we will get to that in the next section.
This mindset tool is NOT for everyone, but it was one of the most impactful, as Oprah call’s them, AHA moment experience that changed me for the better and if there’s a chance that I can pass it on then I feel it is worth sharing.
As I was listening to a podcast episode interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, where she says, “well, the thing is we’re all narcissists right? in fact…”. Then she goes on to share something she learned from her, then, husband José Nunes who said to her,
“look, the reason happy people are so great to be around is that most of us spend our entire lives just thinking about ourselves that’s sort of what it is to be a human being, but a miserable person thinks about themselves one hundred percent of the time because they’re so obsessed with their own misery and their own sadness and so distracted by their own pain that that’s literally the only thing they can think about. Happy people have a little bit more freedom where they only think about themselves 98 percent of the time and then they have like 2 percent left over to be engaged, and to be reactive, and to be playful and to be having a good time.”
Hearing that made me realize that when I am miserable all I do think about IS MYself. I think about my pain, my misery, my insecurities. When I’m with others all I think about is what I’m going to say next or what will think about me or what if I have something on my face and they aren’t saying anything to me about it. The last thing I’m thinking about is THEM. AND that is not the kind of person I WANT to be. I want to be thoughtful, someone who listens and allows others to feel loved, heard, understood. I want other people to know they matter to me and to feel better when they leave after spending time with me than when we first sat down together. I don’t want to be that person that spends an entire lunch or coffee date with someone only thinking about themselves. This created a shift within me. I learned that I if spend more time thinking about others and being the selfless kind of person I will always aspire to be, I, then, spend less time thinking about myself and my own misery and insecurities. I was awoken to the realization that I needed to remember my values and re-evaluate myself on how I’m living in alignment with my priorities. I value other people and I value my time spent with other people OVER my own insecurities and my appearance. They are MORE important to me than spending my time thinking about how my body isn’t the right shape or size to get the perfect Instagram photo or look the cutest in a certain outfit. Every time I live in the moment more for others I have less time to sit in my own misery. On the flip side, every time I find myself thinking about myself or how I wish I looked different or could lose x amount of pounds or change this about myself, I remind myself what I value more, what truly matters most to me and my heart and soul and I place myself back into the kind of person I want to be and let myself focus on the things that are more important to me. As I mentioned this re-framing of the mind might rub people the wrong way or bring up some resistance or defensiveness in some and may not be for everyone and that is okay, it was a technique that resonated with me on a deep level and did make a big difference in my life- but we are completely different people. What may work for me, may not work for you and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share our experiences and what we’ve learned in hopes to learn from one another or spark ideas or encouragement in each other along this path of body positivity.
Learning to love your body won’t happen just by telling yourself you love your body over and over again. Unless you believe the words you are telling yourself it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the words in your head or how much you see it all over the internet, you won’t feel any different until you learn to address the shifts within your mindset you need to make.
This journey to loving your body and improving your body positivity starts with your mind, in Part 2 of this blog post series we cover how to connect and build a healthy and loving relationship with your body. Finally, in Part 3 I share all about the journey that lies ahead and how to continue with your progress and how you can continue moving forward on your own.
I hope that this series opens your mind and helps you to see what you can accomplish to improve your mindset around your body. It takes work, but you, alone, are capable of changing your own thoughts and beliefs and that is why I know you can cultivate a happy and loving energy around your body and continuously work to sustain that feeling throughout your journey.
Now that you have the first set of tools to begin your work, I look forward to seeing your progress and continuing on to the next part in Part 2, Connecting and Building a Healthy Relationship with Your Body.