It’s OK to Like (Even Love) Yourself
I once read a quote that said, “If you talk to your friends the way you talk to your body, would you have any friends left?” As a teenager that was constantly being sent messages about how my body should look, this really hit home for me. How often are we actually encouraged to like ourselves rather than search for something to change or improve upon? When’s the last time you thanked your body for something it did (maybe even just getting you through the day) instead of wishing something was different about your body? I’ll be the first to admit that my default is the latter. I have to actively try to turn off the negative body talk switch in my brain. It’s not easy and I’m not always successful with it, but I’m aware of it and that’s a step in the right direction.
I don’t believe, in our culture at least, we are taught to like our bodies. We live in a superficial society, one that glorifies certain body types and appearances to the point that anyone who doesn’t fit in is made to feel worthless. With the rise of social media, images of “ideal” bodies are more visible than ever before. Our self-worth is so entangled in our physical appearance it is impacting our mental health. The diet industry and the media are constantly reminding us that we could be better. We could be stronger, thinner, faster…whatever the latest fad is.
What would happen if a company released a “learn to love your body in 30 days” plan instead of a “get shredded in 30 days” plan? I’m sure this has probably happened, but it didn’t catch on like fad diets do because loving yourself is so much harder than trying to change yourself.
I’ll be the first to admit that self-improvement and change are great. In fact, I crave self-improvement and actively seek it out. However, there needs to be a balance. It’s essential that we are still kind to ourselves and express gratitude for what we are now, in this moment. It’s still crucial to like (even love) ourselves while we are pursuing change. It’s a fine line to walk and can be very difficult. For some it’s very easy, but I would guess it takes frequent reminders and work for most people. A simple post-it note on your mirror with a positive affirmation can keep you from engaging in negative self-talk and boost your mood instead.
I’ve listened to numerous podcasts about self-love, body image, etc. I think the concept of self-love is amazing and an incredible thing to strive for, but it isn’t easy. Self-love is especially difficult for girls and women that have been sent incessant messages related to changing their bodies since they were in diapers. If self-love seems too unattainable, consider self-appreciation instead. For example, maybe you don’t love your legs, because you can never find pants that fit them properly, people have told you that they are “big”, or you don’t have the ridiculously sought after “thigh gap” (why this matters so much to us, I have no idea!). Your feelings are valid, whatever the reason is, but let’s say your legs also allowed you to go on an amazing hike to a beautiful lake that made your body and mind feel rejuvenated. You don’t have to love your legs for getting you there, but you can appreciate their ability to get you up the mountain while enduring scrapes, bug bites and dirt.
Self-appreciation allows us to realize all of the amazing things, minor or major, our bodies do for us on a daily basis. It allows you to turn the kindness you give to others inwards. Similar to how we acknowledge people’s good qualities in order to appreciate them, we need to consciously acknowledge our own positive features. This can be harder to do on ourselves though, because we are typically focused on our own flaws. For example, when we get positive and constructive criticism, we tend to spend most of our time dwelling on the areas for improvement rather than celebrating what we did well. This is especially common when we have conversations with ourselves about our bodies. Rarely do we focus on what our body has done well. However, our bodies have been with us through every part of life since day one. It’s time we show them some appreciation.
Here are 3 tips to help you start incorporating body appreciation into your life today:
- Practice positive body affirmations: Thank your body throughout the day, talk to it and give it permission to relax. Send love to the areas of your body that you’ve felt unhappy or embarrassed about. Say something kind about that area then release them and allow them to be relaxed and happy.
- Follow body-positive social media accounts: Regardless of whether we know it is happening, we are internalizing what we see on social media. If you are following people that are constantly posting about how they are trying to change their body composition, you will likely internalize their thoughts and find something to change about yourself. Instead, follow people that celebrate their bodies and share positive messages of appreciation.
- Give compliments that aren’t appearance based: How frequently do you tell someone that they look really happy instead of commenting on their physical appearance? This one is really hard to do, but forces you to give more thoughtful compliments and helps you think of other ways to talk to yourself throughout the day.