I spent a couple of decades looking in the mirror and thinking, “Ugh!”
My solution was to avoid mirrors as much as possible so that I wouldn’t have to feel, at best, the disappointment of my imperfections, at worst, debilitating shame.
I’m pretty sure it all started in middle school.
Growing almost eight inches in less than a year made me a tall gangly mess. I was all arms, legs, and boobs. The boobs, in particular, garnered more attention than I was comfortable with, and certainly more than I was emotionally equipped to deal with. This led to a love-hate relationship with my body.
I spent way too much time complaining about all my imagined imperfections, secretly hoping someone would convince me that I was wrong, that I wasn’t nearly as horrible to look at as I thought. This drove my friends nuts. Understandably.
By societal standards I fit the mold of “attractive.” I was tall, athletically thin and had a nice enough face. But all I saw was my boyish figure, my big nose, and way too many freckles.
I eventually drove my closest friend to the edge of her tolerance. We were 13 and getting ready to go troll the streets with our pack of skater-punk boyfriends. I was hate-talking my body and she gave me a definitive glare and told me to, “just stop!”
In that moment, I woke up to what I was doing. Like a slap in the face, it brought awareness to my hate-talking but it didn’t make the negative feelings go away.
I stopped the hate-talk right then and there but the negative energy was just diverted. I spent the next decade directing all that dissatisfaction with my body into following crazy-strict diets and rigid exercise routines. Which did nothing to improve my body image or my ability to love myself more.
My second significant wake-up call was on the dance floor. I was in my mid-twenties, on Vancouver Island, at a rural rave in a firehall. It was a beautiful post and beam building with wide plank hardwood floors and sky high ceilings, filled with a bunch of hippies dancing their hearts out. On this particular night, in the swirl of all those free spirits lettin’ loose, I connected with the magnificence of my being.
I remembered who I was. The veils dropped—I saw the truth of my inner being and I loved what I saw.
I get why dance is one of the oldest sacred practices. If you can fully surrender to the experience it can be a catalyst for transformative growth. This deep and profound love obliterated all my surface insecurities.
This was the beginning of shifting my inner dialogue. I spent the next decade focusing on loving myself as deeply and thoroughly as possible.
Dr. Masaru Emoto’s study on the impact of thoughts and feelings on water molecules illustrates the importance of being mindful of our inner dialogue. In short, his conclusions show that water responds to thoughts and feelings. When spoken to positively, and viewed under a microscope, it will create beautiful, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. Whereas, water spoken to negatively will create incomplete patterns with dull colors. Knowing that our bodies are made up of primarily water, it’s easy to imagine what the impact of hate-talking versus love-talking towards our bodies can do.
Hate-talking our body will diminish our beauty, love-talking will amplify it.
Pretty straightforward, right?
Why then, are so many of us still focusing on making changes to our external bodies in the hopes that it will make us more attractive or bring us more joy? That’s like taking kayak lessons when you want to learn how to swim.
True beauty can only be cultivated internally and it will naturally radiate out of us. As Roald Dahl said,
“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
If you’re ready to bust the shackles of society’s standards and radiate your own undeniable inner beauty, try these simple practices, and glow from the inside out.
1. Stop the Hate-Talk.
Stop saying negative things about you or your body. Just stop. Stop talking about your body in sections, stop segregating it. Stop focusing your attention on the areas that you don’t like. Stop commiserating with other people about their dissatisfaction with their bodies, instead, take those opportunities to support them in feeling a sense of gratitude for it.
2. Practice Appreciation.
Isn’t it amazing that your heart beats every single day and night, continuously, without any effort on your part? All your organs function without any conscious thought. Your lungs breathe for you, taking in oxygen and nourishing your cells, exhaling carbon dioxide and nourishing the plants you will eventually eat.
Your senses take in the world around you, bringing magic and mystery into your life. They allow you to feel the gentle caress of a sea breeze on a hot summer’s day, to see the glowing orange fire of a blazing sunset, to hear the sweet sound of a baby laughing and to taste the flavours of your favorite foods.
Your body is an incredible gift! Be thankful that you have one. Every day.
3. Take Care of Yourself.
Mindfully. Consider the food you are eating, is it truly nourishing you or are you just trying to satisfy a craving? How about your physical activity, do you get enough? A simple 20 minute brisk walk a day is a great way to support your body’s well-being. Do you ever treat yourself to a massage? Bodies need to be touched.
How about your physical self-care? Do you bathe mindfully, with attention to the process or are you just going through the motions? Try washing yourself as if you were washing someone else, someone that you really care about. Be kind to yourself. And sleep often. The body does most of its healing while you’re sleeping so make time for it.
4. Movement Therapy.
Dance is one of my favorite medicines. If you aren’t comfortable dancing, if you’ve created a negative story around your abilities as a dancer, it’s time to let that go. Next time you’re alone at home, put on some music you can’t resist moving to and just allow yourself to sway or bounce or shake to it.
As long as you are moving your body you are dancing, there is no right or wrong, good or bad, it is all about connecting your heart to the music, and that can look like anything so go with it. But if dancing just isn’t your thing then try Yoga or Qigong or Aikido or Kickboxing—just get your body moving in a mindful way and from the heart.
If you haven’t already incorporated a daily meditation practice into your life, now is the time. Meditation allows you to create space between your thoughts, the more you practice the bigger the space gets, and it is within that space that you can access the most profound love. All the magic in the universe exists in that space, and the more you cultivate it the more your life will radiate its magnificence.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” ~ (not) Buddha
There is only one you, and the world needs you just as you are.
Author: Nina Taylor
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Dionysius Burton/ Flickr