This blog post was originally posted on recoverywarriors.com on May 2, 2016 and can be found here.
Let’s get one thing straight: Our body image has little to nothing to do with what we actually look like on the outside. Don’t believe me? Explain then how someone whose body is wasting away can still feel obese? Or how your body image can sometimes drastically fluctuate within the same day, even though your outward appearance has hardly (if at all) changed?
It’s hard for many of us to believe that our body image isn’t directly linked to what we look like on the outside, primarily because that’s the idea we’ve been sold for most of our lives. Advertisers love this idea, for example, because if we believe that we’ll feel better about ourselves if we only change x, y, or z about our bodies, then we’re more susceptible to buying products that serve to change those aspects of ourselves.
However, from what I’ve seen with both myself and countless others, is the truth of this quote: “Body confidence does not come from trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ body. It comes from embracing the one you’ve already got!” In other words, if we chase after this idea that we’ll finally feel great about our bodies (and in turn ourselves) once we are a certain size, shape, or weight, then we’ll likely be waiting to love ourselves for our entire lives.
I am constantly telling my clients that they aren’t just going to wake up one day surprised to find that they are all of a sudden in love with their bodies. Instead, positive body image is formed through the process of continually committing to unconditionally loving and accepting your body and yourself.
Much easier said than done, right? If it were easy, everyone on the planet would naturally have a positive body image without much effort. But alas, the reality is that many people (unfortunately) are walking around drowning in self-hatred, jealousy, and discontentment with their bodies.
While securing a positive body image is not necessarily “easy,” it is definitely something that can be obtained with persistence (and is totally worth the effort, if I do say so myself). I love the quote, “We don’t think our way into new ways of living; we live our way into new ways of thinking.” This is so true when it comes to our body images! Like I said earlier, you won’t just magically start loving your body out of the blue, and then, voila!, start caring for your body. Instead, it works the other way around. The more you commit to treating your body the ways in which it deserves to be treated, the more your mindset surrounding your body will begin to change.
For example, if in an ideal world, you’d like to treat your body with respect, kindness, gratitude, compassion, etc., then you can begin to consciously treat your body in those ways right now. You don’t have to “earn” this type of treatment by being a certain way; you can commit to treating yourself in these ways right this very second! The more you practice treating yourself in these ways, the more you’ll begin to view yourself and your body differently.
But what if you hate your body and don’t think it deserves this type of treatment? Well, then I’d say you’re in the same boat as any other person who is embarking on a journey to transform their body image! The key is to remember that while you can’t control the thoughts and feelings that come up for you surrounding your body, you can control how you respond to those thoughts and feelings and how you choose to treat your body.
For example, you can look in the mirror and think, “Ew…I don’t like the way such and such body part looks in this outfit,” and feel the feelings of disgust and insecurity. However, you don’t have to allow those thoughts and feelings to dictate how you go about treating your body in that moment and beyond. Those thoughts and feelings can still be there, but you can choose to say to yourself, “I choose to unconditionally accept my body in this moment,” and choose to treat yourself with respect, kindness, and compassion. The more you practice treating yourself in these ways, the more your mindset surrounding your body will begin to change.
I know that this idea of securing a positive body image probably sounds like a pipe dream, but I wouldn’t be sharing all of this with you if I hadn’t experienced this transformation myself. When it comes down to it, you’ve got to decide how much power you’re going to assign the thoughts and feelings you have surrounding your body. Are you going to allow them to dictate how you view and treat your body (and in turn, yourself)? Or are you going to take the reigns of your life and consciously work to treat your body and yourself with unconditional love and acceptance, regardless of the thoughts and feelings that pop up?
If we continue to chase after this idea that we’ll finally love and accept ourselves when (fill in the blank), then we will never truly be satisfied. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life hating your body, wishing it were different, and allowing your dissatisfaction with your body hold you back from the bigger purposes your life was intended to serve. Instead, you can commit to unconditionally loving and accepting your body and practice appreciating your body for how it can serve you moment by moment. I promise you’ll be much more content in the end!