One of the things that comes up often for me, both personally and professionally, is what it really means to love our bodies. Of course I grew up absorbing all of the messages that the media and mainstream culture have to say about what I should look like and how I should feel if I deviate from that ideal. As I came to know myself and my values, I sought out alternate messages that prop people up, rather than tearing us down. Happily, there is a thriving body positive community out there, if you care to enter into it. I love to see messages that tell us to “start a revolution, stop hating your body” and remember “you are worth more than a number.” Great! I’m all for it. But then what? How exactly do we go about shedding a lifetime of implicit messages telling us we’re not enough as we are?
First of all, I’ve learned this is something that takes time. You know the line, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”? It might be cliché, but it applies here, too. Loving ourselves and our bodies is something that happens every day, not a fixed goal that you achieve and never have to think about again. Not to say that it doesn’t eventually get easier, because it does. If you are on this journey, or want to get started, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. If you have come out the other side, I hope that you can relate to this too, and remember what the struggle was like in order to support those around you who may still be fighting to use their voices and celebrate their unique bodies.
If I can offer a tip for getting started, or deepening the process, it is this: begin to notice. Begin to notice what your body feels like during different activities. Notice what you say to yourself when you catch your reflection in the mirror. Start to pay attention to the tone of your self-talk; is it disappointed, degrading, or just plain nasty? Practice becoming aware of your body as you go about your day. Do you feel disconnected? Try curiosity on for size, rather than judgment. Just notice. This process has been described as simple, but not easy. Well, it’s true, and worth it! Because once you start to notice what’s going on inside, you begin to open up to other options, like a loving word rather than a hateful one, or a softer tone as you allow yourself to be where you are. Build your trust with your own body, as you connect to that quiet part inside of yourself. If you are reading this right now, try closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Notice where you feel the breath in your body. Bring your awareness to whatever part of your internal world stands out to you, and imagine breathing into that space. Notice if you simply feel nothing, or become aware of a disconnect you hadn’t realized was there. Noticing, and eventually noticing without judgment, is a powerful tool that you have available to you right now. Always.