Mondays can be rough for many of us, and this doesn’t create the ideal environment for building a better body image. To help you turn that around, every Monday features a tip, activity, inspiring quote or some other tidbit to help boost your body image – and kick-start the week on a positive note.
Got a tip for improving body image? Email me at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com, and I’ll be happy to feature it. I’d love to hear from you!
Many of us view our bodies as the enemy. As the very thing that prevents us from looking the way we want to. From making us feel comfortable, proud and beautiful.
Or we view our bodies as a foreign entity. Or a blemish. Or a symbol of our deep disappointment.
I think yoga instructor and blogger Kimber captures this eloquently in her post on Finding Fullness:
“When I first contemplated the possibility of being my body’s best friend, I realized that not only was my body not my friend, but it was barely an acquaintance, and not someone I would voluntarily hang out with. My body felt like a vaguely hostile stranger who was probably stalking me, my mind frequently snarling rude remarks at it to keep its distance. I didn’t need to be friendly. I needed a restraining order. At the best times, my body felt like the unwelcome relative you find sprawled out across your couch and halfway over the coffee table every morning. When will they just leave me in peace?”
While viewing your body as an adversary or a stranger runs deep, I do think there are certain small steps you can take to start patching up your relationship – at least to get reacquainted.
Here are three not-so obvious ideas:
1. Say “Hi.”
Kimber suggests simply saying “Hi” to your body when you look in the mirror. I love this tip!
Yes, it seems strange at first. And, unfortunately, so many of us are more comfortable with being critical (i.e., launching a litany of negative, nit-picky remarks).
“For some of us, looking into the mirror and just saying “Hi” without any other words, judgments, or commentary, is weirdly difficult. We suddenly notice that we have an automatic commentary that starts up the minute we get a glimpse of our reflection. “Looking like those prunes you ate this morning, huh?” Or, “Didn’t take long for that birthday cake to find your thighs, did it, Fatty?” Criticisms arise instantly about our weight, our size, our age, the details, and the whole of our appearance.”
She suggests we say hi to our bodies and our supposed flaws (“to the pimple under your nose”). If you notice you’re starting to criticize, she says to turn away from the mirror, breathe in deeply and then turn back around.
Still not working? Try this:
“Turn the “Hi” into an aspiration. Say to yourself, “I wish to someday be able to just say ‘Hi’ to myself in the mirror.” That’s enough. Gently aspire to it.”
2. Be with yourself.
Sometimes, we see our bodies as the enemy when something deeper really lurks. We might “feel fat” and unattractive, but really we feel anger, frustration or anxiety.
We might feel uncomfortable in our own skin but really it’s the discomfort from a decision that’s been weighing on us or something as simple (and as difficult) as tension.
For some reason, it’s easier to say that we feel fat than we feel tired or stressed out. Or we feel angry with a loved one. I’m not sure why that’s our go-to phrase.
Gail, from A Flourishing Life, talked about the idea of befriending your experience and starting to feel your feelings in a non-judgmental way. This acceptance can help with your body image, too, and with quelling the criticism.
She suggests readers “Simply notice what is happening in your inner landscape in any given moment.” Specifically, “When you befriend your direct experience, first notice it, then allow yourself to feel it as it actually is.”
Befriending your experiences is also akin to self-love. Surprised?
Gail writes, “You cannot be more loving toward yourself than to let yourself be as you are.”
Here’s her example:
“Say you look inside and you notice fear. Ask yourself, “What is this fear?” You will become aware of thoughts about fear and physical sensations. Draw your attention away from the thoughts, and go right into the sensations in your body.
Whatever you notice – tension, contractions, burning – feel it completely. Give the sensations space to be without turning away. Take the time for them to be felt completely. Then keep exploring to the next layer, and the next, to see what you discover.
These are the inner experiences that have been driving you – and waiting for your loving attention. Because it’s love that heals our inner turmoil.”
3. Write your body’s story.
What if you put yourself in your body’s shoes? OK, that sounds a bit weird. But what if you considered how your body feels after a body-bashing session? What if you let your body speak?
I can say that my body, years ago, would’ve said how tired she was with yo-yo dieting. How sad she felt when I avoided certain activities because I didn’t think I looked good enough. Or when I cried in the closet, exasperated that nothing fit and everything felt wrong.
How misunderstood she felt when I blamed her for being ugly, instead of looking into what was beneath those thoughts.
Empathizing with your body, even just a bit, can help you explore what’s underneath your strained relationship. And it can slowly help you repair it.
Do you see your body as an enemy? What are your tips for befriending your body? How have you made peace with your body? What is your body’s story?