How do we grow to not care about the opinions of others when it comes to our own bodies?
I am not about to say anything profound or unheard of… I am not about to blow your mind.
I am just giving my own two cents on this question that haunts so many. This insight has come from my own experiences and my own journey to body acceptance. It is my hope that it inspires and guides you in your journey as well.
For many years, I found my identity- my happiness and my joy (or lack of), in my physical appearance. If someone said I looked thin: *happiness*. If I thought I looked fat or ugly (which was 99% of the time… ): *depression*. (Did I ever experience true happiness or joy in these things? NO. Appearance based joy is not true joy.)
Of course, I do not have it all figured out yet. I am still not numb to the world’s opinions or “ideals”. In a world where skinny, fit, “perfect” women are everywhere you turn…. I feel you, ladies.
I still feel the feels too.
What is different now is that I do not let someone else’s opinion of me define my worth or create my joy. Let me reword that: I do not let society’s “ideals” determine my own. I do not let society’s “ideals” define my own worth.
To get to this place, I have applied the following principles/practices to transform my mind and my opinion of self in relation to the world.
1. Challenge the expectations. Think long and hard about the expectations you have for yourself. WHY? Why do you have these certain expectations? Why do you feel looking a certain way is more desirable and thus, something to be sought after? What expectations do you have of others? Do you hold them up to the same set of standards?
You know what I’ve realized over these past few years?
The more we have grace with others; the more we will have grace with ourselves. Take a long hard look at yourself. Do you judge others for their appearance? This can be tough think about. No one wants to think of themselves this way. No one wants to be shallow. But when you confront your expectations and get real with yourself, you can point out their flaws and begin the process of tearing them down. To initiate change, we women must grow to support and build each other up. Not compete against or put each other down.
Of course, we all have different Gods. I am of Christian faith, and one of my most favorite verses is 1 Samuel 16:7b: “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
I think the principle of this scripture applies - regardless of your religion. It is that beauty comes from the heart, ladies. What a wonderful principle for womanhood. Think about it. Let it sink in. Damn- what a relief! Our appearance does not define us. Not in the least. To grow a beautiful soul: what a more worthwhile endeavor.
What if we all had grace with one another instead of measuring each other up by the net worth of our own skin? Honestly, I feel like the economy would collapse because women would be too busy being badass unicorns instead of buying all of the beauty products, weight loss supplements, and the newest fashion.
So my first recommendation is to have grace the others. I believe that the first step in loving yourself is practicing by extending that same grace those apart from you. Do this long enough and it translate to your relationship with yourself. Don’t hold others or yourself up to a certain worldly standard of physical “perfection”. Because who are they to determine "perfection"?
2. Change your vernacular. Replace negative self-talk with positive words of affirmation. Here this: the more you say something- the more you believe it. So talk sweet to yourself. Tell yourself how good you look! This is not cockiness. It’s confidence… and confidence is sexy. When you manifest something- you become it. When you talk down to yourself all the time, you will become low in self-esteem and uncomfortable in your own skin. When you complement yourself, you will radiate confidence. Confidence is beautiful.
3. Get naked! Okay- this one sounds odd, but hear me out. I use to be so ashamed of my own skin. Seeing myself naked in front of the mirror was painful. I was ashamed of me so I made it a point to be fully clothed all of the time- even when I was alone by myself. I spent very little time undressed. What I’ve learned: if we are going too be confident and comfortable in our own bodies, we have to do things that make us hella uncomfortable at first. So get naked. I challenge you to sleep naked, get up in the morning and do yoga or stretch naked, walked around the house naked, drink your coffee naked. (Just remember to shut the blinds!) Replace your quick shower with a long, luxurious bath once a week. All of this will seem uncomfortable and foreign at first, but embrace your body in this way and it will become easier and easier. Your body will grow less foreign to you. It will be harder for you to resent it when you become comfortable and familiar with it. You will grow to be more and more comfortable and confident in your own skin- clothed or not.
4. Appreciate curves for what they are. All women are lovely! Just because one woman does not have any body fat does not make her any more or any less of a women. In the same way, just because one woman has body fat does not make her less of a woman. If you are the proud owner of some body fat- embrace it, lady! For you, this is a mark of womanhood. It is in no way a reflection of your worth or self discipline. We women are all created so uniquely different and for there to be one “ideal” for all women is asinine. Why are we all striving to be something we are not? Why are all women trying to achieve one “ideal”? I guess it is inherent human nature. Our mentality is that the grass is always greener. Well guess what?! Your grass is green- you just don’t realize it. Find value in your own lawn.
5. Find your identity in something apart from yourself. Here this: if you find your identity in your physical self - life will suck. Just saying. Gravity and the aging process is a very real thing. So think long and hard: what is it that you live for? What is your purpose in life? What are your passions? Pursue these things with all you have. Can you imagine- chasing after life without being trivial about food and your body? All that time you spend obsessing could be channeled into a much more worth while endeavor: to pursue our passions and our callings in life. Being successful means different things to different people. Find what makes you tick. Find what sets your soul on fire and chase after it.
Unfortunately, women often confuse their identity with something that it is not. You are your soul. You are your heart. You are your sprit. You are not your body. Our bodies are mere skin and bones that host our being. That is a weird and abstract concept- but it is true and thinking of it this way reminds me that who we are on the outside is not the whole story.
6. Find soul activities. What do you do in your spare time? What do you do for fun? I feel obligated to mention here: many women abuse working out. I know- I’ve been there. When working out isn’t fun for you- time to lay off and incorporate some other activities. Find a hobby that is fulfilling and gratifying. Guess what? Burning calories is not the only worth-while investment of time. Paint, blog, write, rock climb, Frisbee golf. Find something you can do that is fun and fulfilling for you. These will bring you more joy that you realize.
7. Journal journal journal. Feel all the feels. The current ones, ones that come up, and feelings from the past that are un-dealt with. The more you are open and honest with yourself- the better. The point of journaling is to express yourself. To talk through the emotions: the good, bad, and the ugly. Journaling allows us to be real with ourselves. Are there inner struggles or past experiences that you have not dealt with? Time to deal with them. Doing this will free you up to live fully in the present. It will allow you to channel your emotions appropriately and allow you to express them in healthier ways than taking them out on your physical body. Journal daily and finish each entry with three things you are grateful for. Gratefulness goes a long way when It comes to your relationship with yourself. It changes your heart. It puts everything into perspective. It reminds us how good life is- even when we feel sad and defeated.
Like I said- this is nothing insanely profound. But self-love was not intended to be profound or unusual. Self-love should be inherent in all of us. In a world that has made self-love hard, let us defile the odds. Let us all have grace with each other. Let us all have grace with ourselves. Begin to apply these principles, and I promise- your priorities and view of self will begin to change. And that, friends, changes EVERYTHING.
If you have a principe or practice that helped you get to the place of body acceptable and self love, I'd love to hear about it! Please comment below.
If you feel like you need more guidance in the area of food and body image, please message me. I work with disordered eating and eating disorder clients via my practice- Nourishing Minds Nutrition.