Good morning Darling,
Let me start out by saying, I love you and see you, as you are right now. I accept you as you are right now, and thank you for sharing this time with me.
My darling, what do you think of the title of the letter I’m writing to you this morning?
Should I have chosen something different?
Should it have been:
Baby’s got back,
Real women have curves,
Reach out and touch yourself.
I wanted to title this post in so many different ways. But I settled on “Your Body Is a Wonderland.” But if one of those serves you better, feel free to use it.
Now close your eyes, and imagine John Mayer singing to you.
Or visualize whomever you want to picture singing the lyrics from the song to you, as you lovingly look at your body in the mirror.
Ummm, what a juicy image right?
I’ve struggled with body image my whole life
I’ve struggled with loving the way I look my entire life. From the kinky/fine curl pattern of my hair to the curves in my hips to never getting the smaller size of my breasts (no matter how much I starved myself).
Since I was five years old, I’ve struggled with the way I view and feel about my body.
The way I feel about my body has been influenced by many things. Diet culture, wellness culture, Hollywood’s worship of thin and fit. You name it, it’s had an impact.
Once I turned 40, I noticed changes happening in body I’d fought so hard to achieve: fat, changes in muscle mass, physical structure. Once again, my body image came to the forefront of my attention.
But, unlike times before, I decided to reconcile and fall in love with my body as it was, and is, because after realizing that she was perfect as she was and as she is, there was no need to try and force her physical form into a construct that she wasn’t meant to shrink into.
On body image
For those of you that don’t have a clear picture of what body image is, body image is a person's subjective perception of their own physical appearance, including their size, shape, and color.
It is based on a combination of factors such as how you were raised, your environment, and the media. It can also be influenced by how others view and treat you. Your body image can be either positive or negative, and it affects how you think, feel, and behave.
If you have a positive body image, feel good about your body and accept yourself for who you are, and your body as it is. If you love your body, you are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices, eat better, exercise more, and take part in things that support your mental well-being (like mindfulness and meditation).
On the other hand, if you have a negative body image, you may feel ashamed or embarrassed about your body and oftentimes, you engage in self-sabotaging behaviors, such as overeating, avoiding exercise, and negative self-talk.
The impact of negative self-talk on your mind and body
I want to take some time to dig into negative self-talk. Negative self-talk is a common symptom of poor body image. It’s where you create an inner dialogue with yourself that is filled with negative thoughts and beliefs about your body.
The five I hear most:
- I'm too fat to be attractive.
- My body will never look the way I want it to.
- I'm not good enough because I'm not thin enough.
- No one will ever love me because of my appearance.
- I'm not worthy because of my size.
This kind of talk can be extremely damaging, as it reinforces negative beliefs and perpetuates a cycle of negative thoughts. It can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
Maybe you ask yourself, “where and when did I learn to speak to myself this way?”
Negative self-talk is often rooted in your upbringing, environment, and past experiences. It can be hard to break free from negative cycles speaking to yourself in ways that shrink you, diminish you, and reduce you to “less than.”
As I began my journey towards becoming whole, I decided that the way I speak to myself matters and that my body was worthy of love, as it was. And to my surprise and delight, I found that I could use what I was learning in mindfulness and somatics to help me with this.
The role of mindfulness in overcoming negative body image
Remember, mindfulness is a practice of being aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment without judgment.
It is a way of observing your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them or letting them control you. This allows you to recognize the triggers that lead to negative self-talk and then take steps to replace those thoughts with more positive ones.
It also allows you to recognize the feelings that lead to negative self-talk and identify where negative body perception is coming from.
Beginning to accept yourself
Once you can identify where the feeling and thoughts are coming from, it opens the door for you to change the way you think about yourself. Spending time with ourselves, and working on changing the stories we created about the body, is an act of self-compassion.
Self-compassion leads to self-acceptance, which is key to cultivating a healthier perception of your body. It is the ability to accept yourself flaws and all. This means accepting and loving your body for what it is, as it is, and not comparing yourself to others.
It means recognizing and accepting your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. It also means letting go of the ideas of what you should be, that get you stuck in unproductive habits and behaviors.
Self-acceptance is a lifelong journey and requires practice. Here are a few tips to help you cultivate self-acceptance and a healthier body image:
- Focus on what you like about yourself, not what you don’t like.
- Remind yourself that you are more than just your physical appearance.
- Practice positive self-talk and challenge negative thoughts.
- Celebrate your accomplishments.
- Spend time with people who make you feel good.
- Take care of yourself with healthy habits.
By being compassionate with yourself, you ultimately accept yourself, and when you do that, you naturally begin to learn to love yourself.
Meditation, visualization, and affirmations to help you love your body
For those of you that need more support in learning to love your body, you can use meditation, visualization, and affirmations to further support your practice.
Meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and release any negative energy or emotions.
Visualization allows you to use your imagination to create a mental image of yourself as you want to be.
Affirmations (or a mantra) can help you shift your mindset and cultivate self-acceptance. Create affirmations that focus on self-love and positive body image. Say them out loud or write them down to remind yourself of their power.
They could be:
- I accept and love my body the way it is.
- I am grateful for my body and all it does for me.
- My worth is not determined by my appearance
- I am worthy of feeling good in my own skin.
- I will focus on celebrating my unique beauty
- I will speak kindly to myself and others about my body.
Finding support from others
It can be hard to cultivate a positive body image on your own. Don’t try and do everything on your own. Connect with friends and family who make you feel good about yourself and who accept you for who you are.
You can also seek out support from professionals who specialize in body image and self-esteem. They can help you work through any underlying issues and provide you with the tools and resources you need to cultivate a healthier body image.
The way you speak, and think about yourself, matters
Your body image is something that you have control over. Applying mindfulness can help you start to overcome negative self-talk and cultivate self-acceptance.
Practice meditation, visualization, and affirmations to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
You can also take it a few steps further.
You can connect with nature to appreciate your body for its beauty and capabilities.
You can eat for pleasure.
Spend the afternoon in bed with yourself, and your favorite toy, and see how amazingly your body responds.
Remember, the way you speak, and think about yourself matters. And from there, your perspective either becomes your prison or your passport.
Your mind and body are not a process. Spend time with yourself, and explore all the amazing aspects of you.