Write about feeling terrible about your body.
Respect your feelings. Release them. Write about why you feel terrible. Write about the sensations swirling through your body. Write about the thoughts you’re having. Write about where your discomfort, your sadness, and your pain might originate. Get curious. Get curious like you’re talking to a friend and trying to better understand what they’re experiencing. Get curious without judging how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking.
Remember how incredible your body is. Remember that you are made of 7 octillion atoms. Remember that your bones are stronger than steel. Remember that a single step uses up to 200 muscles. Remember that, if uncoiled, the DNA inside our cells would stretch 10 billion miles.
Do something creative (like any of these activities). Channel your pain and discomfort and sadness and anxiety into a mandala, into a collage, into a poem, a painting, an art entry in your journal.
Do something that comforts you and contributes to your well-being. Which might be putting on sweats and listening to soothing classical music. It might be going to the beach and watching the waves. It might be reading a new novel or memoir. It might be putting a few drops of lavender essential oil in your hands and massaging them.
Do something that feels fun or empowering, or something that rejuvenates, reinvigorates or relaxes your body. Practice yoga that honors your body (and your heart). Take a walk. Take a kickboxing class. Swim. Dance to your favorite song. Ride your bike. Ask yourself, what kind of movement would feel really good right now?
Take a nap. Go to bed early. How many times do you feel terrible simply because you’re sleep-deprived?
Try a gratitude practice.
Try a joyful reminder, which comes in the form of a quote—like this quote from John Muir: “As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
Or this one from Muir: “The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”
Or this one from Iris Murdoch: “People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”
Listen to the stories of your body. Write about these stories. Write about when your legs sustained you. Write about what your scars and stretch marks symbolize. Write about your wrists. Write about something your hands have held. Write about what your nose has smelled. Write about a silly story your smile lines have kept.
Re-evaluate. Are you surrounding yourself with people who make critical comments about your body or others’ bodies? Are you surrounding yourself with people who can’t stop talking about diets and calories and I can’t eat that cake!!! Are you surrounding yourself with things that make you feel bad about your body—workout DVDs you don’t like, diet books, “health” or women’s magazines, diet foods (e.g., “guiltless desserts,” no-fat frozen meals)? Are you following people on social media who glorify diets and weight loss and spread body shame? (If you’re not sure what information to consume, this might help.)
Be gentle, patient, understanding, and compassionate with yourself. Tell your inner critic that you appreciate her concern. But you’re going to pass on her protection. For right now.
Feeling terrible about our bodies often turns into feeling terrible about ourselves. We feel like we’ve fallen into a dark, negative abyss. When you feel this way, remember there are things you can do—like those mentioned above. Remember that these feelings won’t last forever. Remember that your body does not define you. Remember to breathe, and be kind.