Q: No matter what I do, I don’t “love my body”, the way everyone says I’m supposed to. How do I do that when all I see in the mirror is fat and ugliness?
A: Hi Lisa. I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way about yourself and your body. I know how painful those feelings can be to carry around with you each day.
“Loving” your body can be a tricky thing. I know there is a lot of pressure out there right now in social media and other places to “love” our bodies the way they are. This can lead to unintended consequences for those, like you, who just don’t feel like they can get there (at least right now).
However, hating your body won’t get you to a good place either, so the first step in this journey is to try and get to a place of compassion. Being compassionate towards your body is a much different feeling than “loving” your body – at least for now.
Compassion is defined as follows: “Sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. In other words, you are able to recognize you are suffering, and look upon your body with sympathy and a desire to alleviate the SUFFERING.”
This part is important. You don’t have a desire to alleviate your body, you have a desire to alleviate the SUFFERING. You don’t want to feel pain and anger and frustration towards your body anymore. The goal here is to get you to sympathize with your body, and begin to understand that it isn’t working against you… you are on the same team.
But how do you DO this?
- Start with gratitude. It is well documented that practicing gratitude can bring about positive feelings in all areas of your life. Sit and write, or just list in your head, all of the things you have to be grateful for in your life. And, if you can, include one physical attribute. If you make this a regular practice (it can take less than five minutes), I promise that you will have an easier time finding positive emotions and things to be thankful for.
- Once you get good at this, try adding in more physical attributes to your gratitude list – I am grateful for my long, brown hair. I am grateful for my blue eyes. I am grateful for my sparkling smile. I am grateful my body can walk up three flights of stairs. The more things you are grateful for, the easier it will be to add to this list.
After you have gotten to a place of compassion for your body, we next want to move you to a place where you understand that acceptance and change can happen at the same time. It IS possible for you to have a desire to change your shape AND accept yourself just as you are.
I know that might sound a little backwards, but this is one of the best ways to work on body confidence – realizing that it’s ok to want to change and continue to be an even better version of yourself while also accepting where you are right now.
This is an acceptance and change model.
We don’t need to hate ourselves “until” we get to a new shape, and we also don’t need to ONLY accept our shape and not have a desire to want to change it. Both can be true at the same time.