How do you start loving your body?
Just type in “woman”, “body” and “beauty” and you will get tons of articles representing unrealistic standards of the “perfect body”. These standards negatively influence our body image resulting in over 80% of U.S. women and 40% of men being dissatisfied with their appearance and feeling the urge to change their bodies. At age thirteen, over 50% of American girls are unhappy with their bodies. At age seventeen, this percentage has gone up to 78%. A shocking observation.
For years my life was filled with counting calories, binges, beating myself up at the gym doing crazy workouts, and having negative thoughts about my body. This love-hate relationship resulted in an eating disorder, which lasted for a decade. We tend to believe that changing our bodies will make us feel better, but no matter how close you get to the beauty standards set by society, positive feelings will be short-lived and result in something else you want to change.
It’s not really about the body size
Whether your body is a size zero or a size twenty, loving your body lies in changing your body image, instead of changing its appearance. Body image is the way you perceive your body and how you believe others perceive it. It relates to the feelings about it and the sense of feeling connected with your body. Body image lies at the core of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Whether you are recovering from an eating disorder or not, developing a positive body image and loving your body just the way it is, is crucial to your happiness. Letting go of unrealistic beauty standards opens up the door to nurturing and loving your body.
However, body love is a tough journey, especially when you’ve been hating and criticizing yours for so long. It requires patience and investment. Feeling the urge to change your body’s appearance stems from dissatisfaction with the way it looks. How can you beat this negative body image and start loving your body?
1. Forgiving your body
The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.John Green
When you spend years of your life trying to change your body’s appearance and criticizing the way it looks, you probably didn’t treat it kindly. Let’s face it, the perfect body doesn’t exist. Unrealistic standards created by media and society aren’t representing any kind of beauty. They are designed to sell. When you feel bad about yourself, you are more likely to buy their products. If you want to love your body, you should start by forgiving it for not being perfect.
2. Focus on the amazing functions of your body
Despite everything your body went through, it functions. Inside, there are millions of microscopic systems working without you even noticing. Your body is a unique and incredible creation. So instead of obsessing over how it looks, you can focus on the benefits it gives you. It will help you to see the negative consequences of destructive behaviors.
3. Become friends with your body
Put every negative feeling aside and write down every positive aspect of your body. Think about the things your body does for you every single day and what you can do with it.
Once you do this, you’ll realize your body isn’t so bad to hang out with. You don’t need to love it yet but become its friend. Consider your body as your buddy, with whom you work together to fulfill your dreams.
4. Accepting Your Body
Loving your body takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. Once you become friends with it and realize the benefits of your body, you can start accepting it. Look at yourself in the mirror without judgment. This doesn’t mean your inner critic won’t speak up. However, you have the decision to silence that voice by not listening to it and decide to be kind to your body.
5. Appreciating your body
Once you accept your body the way it is, you can start learning to appreciate it. You don’t need to celebrate it yet, just be grateful for every aspect of it. When negative feelings arise you can say to yourself, “I am valuable no matter what size” and “My beauty doesn’t depend on the way my body looks.” Think about your passions and the dreams you want to fulfill and the role your body plays in fulfilling those dreams.
6. Develop positive self-talk
Challenge your negative thoughts and use positive daily affirmations like, “I will be kind to my body today” or “I will like my body today just the way it is.” Over time, with enough intention your positive affirmations will become your reality.
7. Develop a body-love practice
Nourish your body with a body love treatment. Think about taking a scented bath, a gentle massage or dancing around naked. Anything you like benefits your body and will make you feel connected to it.
After years of battling with my own body image, I can now look in the mirror and be happy with my reflection.
I found peace. Not in changing my body, but in changing and growing the way I perceive myself.
And the funny thing is, when I was able to love myself, I was also able to live the life I wanted and do the things I found important. Being beautiful and having a positive body image is a feeling that comes from within and deserves to be unlocked. Loving your body is hard, but the process is gratifying and worth it. What does it give you? Your life!
(Last Updated: August 19, 2022)
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