I think it’s key to feel our feelings — whatever the feeling that comes up. All feelings are valid. So if you’re feeling like crap about your body, then you’re feeling like crap about your body.
It’s something to acknowledge, accept and feel — instead of beating yourself up for beating yourself up.
But sometimes these feelings and thoughts stick around too long. And they start dictating our decisions to not take kind care of ourselves (which only boosts our negative body image). They become overwhelming. All-consuming. Stressful.
The dislike for our bodies starts spilling into other parts of our lives: We start restricting what we eat, participating in punishing physical activities, skimping on our sleep and believing we’re generally unworthy and undeserving.
This is when it can help to remind ourselves of the brilliant machines our bodies truly are.
I recently read a quote by Confucius: “I was complaining that I had no shoes ’til I met a man who had no feet.”
I wrote the quote in my journal, and it’s helped me navigate the cycle of negative thoughts. Because our brains naturally tend toward negative thinking. Cultivating gratitude can act as a life jacket during a torrent of terrible remarks.
Instead of complaining that I have a big stomach, maybe I can be thankful that my stomach works properly, and I get to enjoy foods of all flavors.
Instead of complaining about my blemishes, maybe I can be thankful that my features are a combination of both parents (one of whom no longer walks this earth).
Instead of lamenting that some of last year’s clothes don’t fit me, maybe I can be thankful that my doctor just said I’m in good health.
Instead of complaining about my “weak abs,” maybe I can be thankful that I’m able to spend 30 minutes running up the stairs and doing sprints.
Maybe I can be thankful that my legs can move me wherever I want to go. Maybe I can be thankful that I can type this post without any trouble. That my brain, while a bit tired and stressed, isn’t foggy or too forgetful.
That my arms can lift little loved ones. That my hands can feel the softness of my favorite blanket. That my ears can marvel at this magical violin playing. Maybe I can be thankful that my heart beats and my breath is available to me at any moment. At any moment, I can breathe in, and breathe out, and restart.
I know that sometimes gratitude can be annoying and feel fake. But when we’re stuck in a web of body hatred, it may help to put our bodies and our lives in a bigger, more compassionate perspective.