Learning to Love Your Body
Improving your self image
One of the hardest things for some women is to learn to truly love their body, flaws and all. There are numerous women who hide their body under shorts and T-shirts on the beach, or who avoid pool parties, to keep anyone from seeing what they consider a flabby stomach or heavy thighs.
Some women have pushed past this to bare their body online, and show their stretch marks and loose skin from pregnancy, and the other things that women typically hide from sight.
Learn how you can feel good about your body with the only major changes coming from your mental state – not your fitness level.
One mom’s perfect body
Mom and musician Kimberly Henderson made news last week when she posted a revealing photo of herself on her Facebook page. Henderson showed off her abdomen and the loose skin and stretch marks that resulted from her four pregnancies and the photo immediately went viral. She said, “I still wear a bikini because being a mother makes me feel beautiful.. Not having a flat tummy. It took a long time to get there.. Because I struggled so much with my body. I struggled so much because I was young and all these girls my age had perfect bodies and I was in my one piece bathing suit trying to hide all my flaws.”
Henderson has gotten more than 134,000 “likes” to her photo since posting it on June 19.
If you want to feel better about yourself, Jennifer Kind, MA, LPCi, CDWF, suggested following some of the amazing body positive blogs and such on social media to retrain your brain as to what a “normal” body looks like.
Kind also suggested that women check-in with their self-worth in general. “Do they love themselves aside from their body? What does what their body looks have to do with who they are as a person?” Women need to learn to disconnect the two, and see the amazingly beautiful things about themselves as a person.
How to improve your body image
“Almost all women in America struggle with body image in some way. Self-acceptance is key to not only loving our bodies, but our overall happiness. Here are several tips to help women love their bodies, imperfections and all,” said Sharon Martin, a psychotherapist in San Jose, Calif.
Here are Martin’s tips:
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison generally makes us feel worse. Remember you are unique and on your own unique journey in life.
- Focus on progress, not perfection. If you are waiting to achieve a particular goal or for the "perfect body" in order to be happy, you are wasting months if not years of your life in limbo.
- Practice gratitude. Intentionally look for the positives and gifts your body offers. Write down one of two body image or health related gratitude statements everyday and you will find your body love growing.
Don’t hate your reflection
Lisa Nordquist, a psychologist and personal trainer, said, “There is no meaner woman than the naked one staring back at you in the mirror.”
“We live in a supermodel-infused world with Photoshopped images pummeling us daily. Most women have a hard time with body-love or even kindness as we are constantly comparing ourselves to other women, namely models,” she said.
There are two elements to body love: feelings and behaviors. Both affect each other, she said. “When you feel good or better about your body, you take better actions Think of a favored silk dress. Do you throw it on the floor or send it for dry cleaning? When you make better choices/actions, you feel better about your body. Recall the last time you were super ‘good,’ you ate clean and exercised, and likely went to bed feeling good about your actions and awoke feeling lean or light,” she said.
Many women are working on behaviors, but don't know how to feel or think better about their bodies. To feel better about our bodies we have to infuse our body thinking and self-talk with real life relationship thinking and logic. Here are some of Nordquist’s suggestions:
- Understand you are brainwashed. The mean girl in your bathroom mirror has been smoking the Photoshop pipe since she was in her teens. Her perception is warped. Another way to look at it is if aliens landed on Earth tomorrow, would they know who's hot and who's not? The lenses through which you see yourself are distorted or at least smudged so remind yourself of this fact before you comment on your physique.
- If you must compare bodies, do so logically. You've likely been comparing your body to a 19-year-old Sports Illustrated model's body with no kids, cake, or care-taking going on for her. But you are not a model and revel in that: You can have cake! You likely have a full life, with people, work, giving, travel, life experience, kids, etc. When you look around you at the beach or pool, most women look more like you than them. Your body is reality, living in 4D, healthy and strong. Direct your thinking to treasure who you are and your life, your talents, skills and body at present, and rejoice that you have a healthy body to use (to enjoy cake).
- You are not your body and love doesn't come via your body. This is tough for us girls, it's a holdover from the truly sexist, powerless days. The last time you asked a friend to go out for dinner or to the beach, did you consider who will look good on the towel or seat next to you, or did you ask the person whose company you'd enjoy most? (The latter of course!) Stop kidding yourself that what is attractive about you is your looks or that your appearance is dominant in your level of life enjoyment. You being present, loving and yourself are the dominant factors in your life enjoyment.
- Babies have cellulite and they're cute. Your started out bald, without teeth and riddled with cellulite and everyone thought you were adorable. If you think about it, you find wildly unattractive and imperfect people irresistibly gorgeous. Allot your body the same courtesy you offer pets and children: Imperfect is lovely and loveable.
- Try the 2-minute approach. Take two minutes before you go to bed to write at least two things about your body for which you are grateful (heartbeat, immune system, pretty eyes, etc). Second, write two little ways you treated your a little body better today (took home half of your lunch instead of overeating or took the stairs not elevator). Redirecting your thoughts about your body to gratitude and acknowledgement will seed that mindset and thoughtful and healthy behaviors.
- Love will move mountains. We mistakenly believe holding disdain or loathing will help us to change our behavior in regards to our bodies. But the opposite is true. You take good care of the things you value and love, and you appreciate them more. Your love will move and change your body. If love seems too far, aim for kindness and respect of your body and all that it does for you each day.
- Be a truck. If you're a truck, be a truck, if you're a wagon, be a wagon, and let go of trying to beat yourself into being an Italian sports car. I remember seeing people drive around in kit cars in the 90s. These were cars that looked like a Rolls Royce via set of faux panels to make the car look like a fancy make and model, while in truth it was a VW Bug underneath. As you can imagine, they didn't look very good, but instead looked like they were trying really hard to be something they weren't. People are the same way. We are best when we are ourselves. So be yourself, embrace the make and model you are instead of trying to make yourself into the race car you see on the magazine cover.