This post is part of Just Love Yourself Month, an exciting new addition to the Positively Present! This month of self-love is inspired by my new workbook, Loving Your Self, which was designed to empower and inspire self-love. Learn more (and pick up your copy!) here.
Your body, at its most basic, is an amazing thing. It helps you breathe and move and talk and think. It takes you where you want to go, and it allows you to express who you are. But despite all of this magic that goes on inside of us, we often take our bodies focusing our attention on what we think we should be instead of celebrating what we already are.
Loving your body is hard. No matter what you look like, you've probably had moments (or years...) when you don't feel love for your body, when you wish you could look like someone else. And it's no wonder! We’re all inundated with images of the “perfect” body. From films to TV shows to advertisements to the ever-popular fashion blogs, we’re surrounded by people and images of what bodies are “supposed” to look like. But look around you in the real world. How many “perfect” bodies do you see? How many people do you know who are completely (and truthfully) in love with their bodies?
You probably don’t encounter many people who look (or feel) perfect, and that’s because most people (yes, probably — or maybe even especially — the gorgeous models you see in magazines) struggle to love the physical parts of themselves. It is a challenge for everyone to practice loving his/her body, but it’s a challenge worth taking on.
No matter how you feel about your body right now, it’s important that you try your best to love and accept it for what it is, flaws and all. It is the only body you have, and it deserves your love and respect. Loving your body can be laborious, but if you don’t do it, you’re going to have a very hard time loving yourself — or your life. Your body is a big part of who you are — like it or not — and if you don’t make an effort to find a sense of love for it, you’re missing out on a deep and lasting acceptance that will transform the way you see your world for the rest of your life.
Loving your body is such an important aspect of self-love, so we’re going to look at five things you can do right now to promote body love.
STOP COMPARING YOUR BODY.
One of the main reasons we struggle with loving our bodies is because we compare what we look like to what others look like. This is a slippery slope to self-loathing. You will never look completely like someone else (just take a look at some of the people who have had major surgeries to look like celebrities — yikes). You will always and forever look like you. But, in spite of this knowledge, you probably compare yourself to other people. This is normal, but not useful. Consider, for a moment, what you would think about your body if you had no other bodies to compare it to. It would be pretty interesting, wouldn’t it? Try to look at your body in isolation, without comparing it to anyone else (or to what it used to look like). When you do this, you'll notice that your body is what it is; it isn't something to be judged, but something that can be observed and appreciated for its current state.
PUT AN END TO COMPLAINTS.
If you want to fully love your body, it’s important to try your hardest to put an end to complaining about it. There are probably parts of yourself that you don't love (and may not have loved for a long time) and sometimes complaining about them becomes a default. For example, if you hated your nose as a child, you might still look in the mirror and say, "Ugh. My nose." But do you really dislike it? Perhaps you've come to accept it, but just keep complaining about it because you've done so all your life. Or, if you haven't accepted it, what good has it done you to complain about it? None. All it does it bring down your mood and negatively influence the way you feel about yourself — two things that are never good for you. Often we get so used to complaining about certain aspects of ourselves that we don't even realize it. These complaints just become part of our inner monologue. But all of these little complaints add up. Every complaint you make is a choice to focus on the negative over the positive, an act that makes it very difficult to love your body.
CELEBRATE YOUR POSITIVE TRAITS.
Whenever you find yourself feeling unhappy with your physical self, that's the best time to remind yourself of your good traits. We all have them — parts of our bodies that we really love, even if we never tell a soul that we love them. It doesn't matter what it is that you love about yourself (it could be anything from your shapely physique to the softness of your earlobe!). What matters is celebrating that positive trait and choosing that celebration over complaining about the parts of yourself that you don't love so much. If you have time, write up a list of 10 things you love about yourself and keep it near your mirror. Every time you start to feel doubt about your appearance, look to that list and be thankful for the positive traits. Also, when you find yourself hating on your physical appearance (and we all do that from time to time), remind yourself that you're great at [activity/job/etc.], and focus on the non-physical aspects of your awesomeness. You are so much more than just what you look like!
EMBRACE YOUR FLAWS.
The ultimate (and hardest!) part of self-love comes when you embrace your flaws. Accepting them doesn’t mean you don’t want to change them; it means that you acknowledge them for what they are while trying your best to refrain from (too much) judgment. For example, let’s say you think you’re too scrawny and you’d like to gain some more muscle. Saying, “I accept my body as it is and I love myself for the size I am right now” doesn’t mean you won’t try to build muscle in the future; it means you are embracing your less-than-perfect self for where you are right now. Consider these questions: What don’t I love about my body? How can I change that? If I can’t change it, how can I begin accepting it? If you can't (or won't) change a physical flaw, you'll benefit a great deal if you choose unwavering acceptance. Strip that flaw of all societal standards and internal judgments. Don’t compare it to others or rate it on a scale of good/bad. Your flaw is what it is. Your body is what it is. Accept your own flaws the way you would accept a dear friend’s imperfections. Your flaws make you who you are, and if you can’t change them it’s much better to embrace them!
SPEAK POSITIVELY ABOUT YOURSELF.
Think about the words you use when thinking or speaking about yourself. Are the words often negative? Do you think of yourself in a positive light? And do you speak positively about yourself to others? Thinking and speaking of yourself positively is more difficult than it sounds. Most of us tend to be critical of ourselves (and especially about our bodies!), skewing toward the negative when it comes to our word choices. Pay attention to the words you use and, whenever possible, try to replace them with more positive descriptors, even if that means completely countering your current thoughts. For example, if you find yourself in front of the mirror thinking, "I look frumpy today," switch your thinking to, "I look fabulous today." It might sound silly or untrue, but it'll shift your focus from a negative to a positive place. Transforming your thoughts might make you see the good in the way you look, making you realize that maybe you're not looking so bad after all. For more on this, check out my post Using Positive Words to Promote Self-Love (with a free download!)
These five tips have helped me to learn to love my body when it was tough to do so, and I hope they help you too! It's important to remember that, though physical appearance is important — unfortunately that’s just the way society works — but it’s not everything. The more you realize your total worth as a person, the easier it becomes to love and accept your body because you're not valuing it more highly than other aspects of yourself. If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this mantra: I am more than what I look like.