Learning to Love My Body
“Be careful about what you say about your body – she hears every word.”
It’s no secret that our society’s toxic beauty standards permeate our media, language, and self-esteem. Everyone, regardless of gender, experiences negative feelings toward their bodies. So how do we exorcise these damaging, ingrained, and socially-constructed thoughts? It takes work and active dismantling! Here are some tips I found to be positive and healing:
1.) Stop thinking negatively about the bodies of others. Firstly, it’s unkind and unnecessary. Secondly, if you’re verbally or mentally bashing someone else’s body, how can you expect yourself to stop bashing your own? Take it a step further and frequently compliment others. Finding love and positivity for others is the quickest way to find compassion for yourself.
2.) Stop reading those hideous “Lose weight fast!” magazines. They’re everywhere. Don’t even pay them any mind. I’ve never been one to read them, but it can be difficult to not scoff at their headlines while waiting in grocery store lines. I find myself glaring at them, letting their negativity in my head. It weighs on you, thinking “this is what other people find to be important”. Even if you want to love yourself and disapprove, letting those body-shaming words become a part of your day is counterproductive. So pay them no mind.
3.) Stop making self-deprecating jokes or comments about your body. Even if it is for humor. If you’re joking about something, you usually believe there is some nugget of truth in there. So if you make a crack about your “chubby cankles”, you’re not going to feel all that great about yourself. Why bring yourself down? You deserve better!
4.) Take a bubble bath! Except not in the bathtubs on campus. That’s how you get terrible and strange diseases. Honestly, taking time for yourself in this way is incredibly healthy. Spoil yourself a little. Buff your nails if that’s your thing. Put on a face mask. Show your body you love it! You’ll feel refreshed and healthy.
5.) I like to call my “muffin-top” my “cupcake-top”. A friend of mine told me that they make a sort of “thank you” list for their various body parts when they feel crappy about themselves. The lists usually focus on appreciating the functionality of her body, rather than judging the way it compared to the bodies of other women. It seemed like a fabulous idea – but I found myself only mentally complimenting the parts of my body I thought society would dislike the least. So I confronted the parts of my body I cursed most often, including my stomach. I stared at my abdomen for a long time in the mirror. Sucking it in, puffing it out. Poking it. Logically, I knew it was moronic to dislike it. I didn’t dislike anyone else’s stomach, big or small. Why did I dislike mine? To help with this process, I decided to rename it. When I look at it or think of it now, I do so lovingly.
6.) Learn to no longer need or want validation from others. This is a very tricky one, and I expect it will take years to master. It speaks to confidence and self-acceptance. When I was young, if I felt ugly, I needed someone else to tell me I wasn’t. If I didn’t think I was talented, I needed someone to assure me I was good enough. Now I want to do that for myself. Sometimes I think about something I’m proud of, or I’ll put on a dress I feel fabulous in.
7.) Work out, not for someone else to find you more attractive, but for your own health and enjoyment. Growing up fluffy, I always wanted to “fix” my weight. If I worked out, it wasn’t for my health or recreation. It was to be more “acceptable”. Now, I enjoy working out. I love the feeling of accomplishment and setting new goals for myself. It gives me an additional stress outlet. But sometimes it can be difficult getting rid of that old mind set. It’s hard to allow myself to feel good in that way without thinking to myself that I look ridiculous, because of my size. Now, I congratulate myself on small accomplishments. If I’m running, I don’t look at the numbers. I focus on the sensation of loosened muscles and a clear head. I listen to empowering music and I wear imaginary blinders. I don’t look off to the side and get competitive with the guy on the treadmill next to me. I worry about jiggling or red, blotchy skin. I turn all of my attention inward, thinking about my own strength. My goals aren’t related to my measurements or calorie-count. They’re to feel pride and to make time for myself.
8.) Express yourself through your clothing more. Wear whatever you want, when you want to. Don’t worry about pleasing anyone else. If you’re happy and comfortable in your clothes, that’s what is important. Will a piercing make you happy? Do it. Will cutting off all your hair make you feel powerful? Do it. Do you find painting your nails to be relaxing? Go crazy! Don’t worry about someone judging your makeup, waistline, facial/body hair, etc. Do it for you. All the haters have their own bodies, and they get to do whatever they want to do with them. They don’t get control over yours, too.
9.) Sex is great! Masturbation is great! Don’t feel bad about them either. Consensual sexual activity releases endorphins and can help you feel comfortable in your own skin. Don’t accept the notion that pleasure is something you should regret. Teaching yourself shame in this way is just another way of teaching yourself to hate your body.
10.) If you want to eat the cookie, EAT THE COOKIE. Sure, moderation is excellent. But don’t tell yourself that you don’t deserve something. Don’t fear food. Food is required.
11.) Admit that there is no one in existence exactly like you (sorry, twins). You’re special and treasured. There are immeasurable things that only you can offer this world. You are a walking masterpiece. Do not allow yourself to forget this.
What are some things you do to love and accept your body?