Walking and relaxing on water, Shutterstock

Dear Girl Who Hates Her Body,

You look at your body in the mirror and grimace. Ugh. It still looks like crap. You touch your body in disgust. You spend hours in your closet trying on every piece of clothing you own. And still nothing fits. Nothing looks good. Everything is wrong. You feel wrong.

You wake up at 5 a.m. when the world is still dark and drag yourself to the gym. You don’t want to be there. But what other choice do you have?

You feel like an alien in your own skin. Trapped. Suffocating. So unsure. It’s uncomfortable this body of yours. You wish so desperately you could just exchange it.

You look at thinner girls knowing they are happier, yearning for their lives. You think that if you just lose weight, you’ll not only feel better about yourself. You’ll also be happier. So much happier. You can finally take good care of yourself, too. Because you’ll finally deserve it. How do you care for something you hate?

Please know that your feelings can change without your body ever having to. These words are not some fake pep talk meant to placate. They are truths.

Please know that you can start taking kind care of yourself today, without changing your body. Without trying to “earn” the right to practice self-care or help yourself feel good. Get enough sleep. Eat nutrient-rich foods that you enjoy. Pamper yourself. Prioritize your health (whatever this looks like for you). Be selective about the people you are intimate with. The people you let into your heart. Do they truly care about you?

Do what you would do if you loved your body, if you felt beautiful in your own skin. (You can even make a list of these wonderful things. Pick the one that feels easiest, and start there.) Because if we don’t get enough sleep, if we don’t eat enough, if we don’t take compassionate care of ourselves, how can we feel good? How can we feel well-rested and energized? How can we feel relaxed? How can we not feel jittery, restless and deeply uncomfortable? I think the key, at least half of it, resides in our habits, in taking care of our bodies, in treating them as though they were sacred temples (to the extent that we can). With respect and tenderness.

And, yes, exercise is important but not because it might help you whittle down your waist and thighs. It’s important because it alleviates your anxiety and lowers your blood pressure. It’s important because it boosts your energy and clears your mind and helps you sleep. It’s important because it’s fun and helps you come alive. But, again, it’s about doing what you love, moving in ways you love, which may or may not include waking up at 5 a.m.

If it helps, talk to someone. Work with a coach. Find a class that promotes body acceptance. Dig deeper to see why you’re feeling this negatively. Is it all about your body? Or is it discomfort about something else? Has your body become the scapegoat for everything that doesn’t feel right?

And please know that these furious feelings about your body, as deep-seated as they are, don’t have to be permanent. You can work through them. You are strong enough. And you are worth this work.

Photo from Shutterstock.