We think that in order to have a healthy body image, we must love our bodies. We assume we must celebrate our physical traits every day. Basically we assume we must love every inch of our skin. We assume that if we don’t, if we don’t love our hips, for instance, or that weird birthmark on our bellies, or we wish we had thicker hair or we wish that our legs were longer, then we can’t have a healthy relationship with our bodies.
But that’s actually a myth.
A healthy body image isn’t about being head over heels for our appearance. It isn’t about appreciating every body part.
As Jennifer Rollin told me in our illuminating interview, “while I believe that all bodies are beautiful, the more important and helpful message is that your worth and value have nothing to do with your body or appearance.” Elsewhere she said, “I believe that having a healthy relationship with your body is spending not a lot of time and energy thinking about your body—because you are so busy living your amazing life.”
So if you’ve been having a hard time with embracing your body, and you worry that you’ll never love it, maybe a better next step is to focus on your life. Maybe a better next step is to build a life that you genuinely want—without waiting until you look a certain way or weigh a certain weight. Maybe a better next step is to start right now.
What does an amazing life look like to you? How does it feel? Who are you surrounded by? What are you doing? What does your morning routine look like? What does it smell and taste like? What about the evening? What do you do before bed that nourishes your soul? What do you stop doing? What do you say yes to? What challenges do you welcome? What hobbies do you engage in?
Write about your responses. Write about your amazing life. Explore the details in a journal. Find images that illustrate your inner thoughts. Then take one small step to building this for yourself. Don’t look at your weight or any other parts of your physical appearance as some limitation or obstacle.
While not everything you desire will be possible, there are ways you can still capture the essence of your wants and wishes. Maybe your amazing life includes owning your own home, which isn’t possible right now. So instead you start making your rental apartment feel like home, like a comfortable, cozy space that soothes you.
Maybe you want a compassionate partner but haven’t been able to find one, so you focus on deepening other connections and cultivating compassion in other ways: spending quality time with close, supportive friends and family; reconnecting to yourself through journaling and taking yourself out; volunteering at an organization that’s meaningful to you.
Maybe you focus on sharpening your sense of wonder, so you’re awake to the magic of the everyday.
We think that having a healthy body image means embracing everything about our looks. But really it means focusing less on what we look like, and focusing more on living our lives, focusing more on building lives that we enjoy, lives that include the things that bring us joy and peace and whatever else we want to experience.
When we stop focusing on our bodies, it frees us up to focus on the bigger things, on building our dreams, on responding to our deepest needs, regardless of what we weigh or look like.