There’s nothing quite so complex and tenuous as our relationship with our bodies. This has never been more true than in a technology-enabled culture with an endless stream of messages that suggest how we should look. Even the healthiest, thinnest, fittest, youngest, prettiest among us can present a list of their least favorite body parts. It’s fair to assume that it’s nearly impossible to cultivate a healthy relationship with our bodies without some intentional work around the topic.
With this in mind, here are 3 simple (though not always easy) ways to reinvent your relationship with your body:
1. Acceptance and Compassion
In order to embrace your body, you must first accept your body as it is. Period. Flaws and all. When was the last time you stood in front of a mirror and really looked at yourself? Most of us live in a certain amount of denial about what we really look like, either fearing we are more overweight or pretending we are thinner than we really are. Or maybe we imagine that our thighs are the size of tree trunks, our breasts too small, our belly too paunchy. Whatever the case, few of us carry around an accurate picture of how we appear. This reality check is an important step in moving towards a loving, compassionate, high regard for your body. Take a few minutes to be with yourself in this way. Notice the parts of your body that you appreciate. Focus on the gratitude you feel for your toned shoulders or your gorgeous eyes. Speak out loud to your long strong legs or your warm, contagious smile. Connect with at least one thing you can honestly say you love about the way you look.
Now turn your attention to a part of your body you are embarrassed about or ashamed of. Hold this part of your body in your gaze. Don’t look away. Imagine you are talking to a small child and either silently or aloud, tell this part of yourself that you love it. Hold it gently, with love and compassion. This is a part of you. To feel shame and embarrassment about a part of your body is to reject a part of yourself. As you work to shift the expression of these feelings, remember that your old perspective is based on a story that you made up or were fed by people other than yourself. This is about you and only you.
2. Comparison and Celebration
We hear often that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. That’s good in theory, but it’s part of human nature. Why fight our natural tendencies? What’s actually more useful is to compare with the intention of celebrating our differences. For instance, I have a particularly short thick waist. I always notice when someone has a long thin torso or a well-defined waist; and when I do, I catch myself just shy of envy and choose to admire what I don’t have instead. At the same time, I remind myself that my short torso affords me long legs that I show at every opportunity. There’s beauty in the wide range of physicality. No woman is perfect. Each of us has reason to celebrate ourselves and each other.
3. Commitment and Care
We often cannot change the parts of our body that we wish we could. For instance, it’s just not possible to grow six inches or suddenly install pretty feet! What we can do, however, is make a commitment to inhabit our bodies with confidence and grace. How we treat our bodies is integral to how we feel about them. Whether you’re an athlete or a couch potato, finding a way to intentionally move organically alters the way we experience our physical form. Whether it’s yoga, walking, running, dancing, surfing, swimming, spinning—making a commitment to exercising on a regular basis boosts our mood and our self-esteem, thanks in part to the endorphins that are released. An exercise ritual lowers our aggregate stress-level and sends a message to our sub-conscious that we care about ourselves. In this state, we naturally feel better about our bodies—especially for some of us who struggle with health issues or injuries. When we honor our physical needs through exercise, diet, sleep and moderation, we commit to a partnership that nourishes this complex and subtle relationship. Bottom line… we have one precious life and one beautiful body to live it in. Make the most of this opportunity by meeting it with love, compassion and care.