Photography: PixabayHow many times a day do you catch yourself wishing that you could change something about your body? Lauren Barber shares her personal struggles with body acceptance and offers some tools to help you transform your own mind and body relationship…
Accepting and learning to love my body, exactly as it is, has been a struggle I have faced for a long time. I remember at around the age of 12 years old; beginning to notice that my tummy poked out a little bit, that my breasts hadn’t grown at the same rate as some of the other girls, and my figure certainly didn’t look like the ones I saw in magazines. That was the beginning of more than twenty years of self body shaming.
I have spent many, many hours trying to ‘fix’ the way I look, in order to fit the appearance I have in my mind of what my body ‘should’ look like. I have cried many moments in tears, gazing at my body in the mirror and figuring out how to change it, what food I need to remove from my diet, how I should workout in order to get the ‘perfect body’, and what clothes I can wear to hide it.
Body acceptance is something I have been working on for decades and at the age of 34 years old, I am still working on it now. In fact I suspect it will be a lifelong practice to return back to myself time and time again when the inner critic raises her head. This abusive relationship I have had with myself has impacted my confidence, my relationships, my health and my emotional wellbeing. But even though I am fully aware of the toxicity, sometimes it is very hard to shift the thought patterns.
So no, I cannot claim to have it all ‘figured out’, but I can share with you some of the ways in which I am finally learning to accept and dare I say it, LOVE, my body. Not all day everyday, but these things help me come back to a place of kindness and gratitude when my inner mean girl begins to show her face…
1. Consider all the ways that your body has supported you in and up to this moment in your life. It may not have always been perfectly behaved – however – your body has brought you to where you are now and that is something to be thankful for. Every tear you have shed, every smile you have beamed, every breath you have taken – your body has been working hard to enable you to experience those things. Try to remember that when you are in a state of self-loathing.
2. How are you speaking to your body? Would you talk that way to a friend? Your body hears everything you say to it – so when you shower it with criticism and harsh words, it will undoubtedly make you feel unhappy and low. If you treat it in the way you wish to be treated by a friend, then you may just find you begin to like it a little bit more. If somebody told you day in, day out, that you were ‘not good enough’, then you would begin to believe it – don’t dismiss the power of the conversations we have with ourselves.
3. There is a lot of talk about self love – and I am an advocate of this wholeheartedly, however it can be very hard to even contemplate loving yourself when you don’t even like yourself. So start with learning to like and accept the parts of your body that you are conscious about, then you will find that loving them is a little easier.
4. Don’t underestimate what your body can teach you. The messages that it sends you all the time are strong indicators of your health and wellbeing. Instead of beating yourself up about things like injuries, illness and the way that your body looks – consider what your body is trying to tell you. You can learn so much about yourself and how to find a level of acceptance by simply choosing to listen.
5. Ditch perfectionism. We are never going to have perfect digestion, perfect hair, skin, nails, the perfect body shape or energy levels all the time. We are a living, breathing organism that is subject to all manner of environmental and emotional imbalances every second of the day. When you strive for perfection – it can lead to so much anxiety, angst and stress, and cause you to have even more negativity towards your body.
6. Remember you are not only your body. Finding ways to fall in love with your mind and spirit will give you a different perspective. I used to believe that I needed to look a certain way before I could love and accept my whole self, but actually, working from the inside out and getting to know me – beyond my physical appearance – has shifted my mindset entirely.
7. Move like you love yourself. Investing in movement that you love and enjoy – and that makes you feel strong and empowered is the only way I exercise now. It is not about punishing myself with strict gym routines, it is far more about finding ways to enjoy movement and enjoy your body. For me that looks like strength training, walking, yoga and dancing. Allow yourself to explore movement and respond to what excites you!
Learning to like, and love, your body is a practice, there is no quick fix – no diet or exercise routine will magically change your mindset – you have to work at it every single day. However, the simple act of awareness – and by reading this article you will become more aware – is the very first step.