It happened to me the other day.
I slid a pair of shorts on for the first time in eight months. As I pulled the shorts up over my hips, those old body-loathing tapes in my head kicked in. “Ugh,” I heard myself mutter as I stared into the bathroom mirror.
But unlike earlier decades, this time I spoke back.
I stared back at my stubbly legs, at the loose skin and chubby knees. At the soft pooch of belly where my babies once lived.
And I said f*ck that noise.
Life is too short, and I have spent too many years wishing myself different. It’s time to love this skin, the sags and cellulite, the muscles and miracle. Here are four ways to ramp up your body-love for summertime—or anytime else.
1. Learn to do something new.
The other day in yoga class, I finally pushed my way into a wheel pose. I’ve been practicing yoga for years, and several years ago I tried the pose, only to feel intense lower back pain. So I decided then and there that I couldn’t do it, and never bothered to try again.
Until the other day. I’ve been practicing heated vinyasa yoga for two years now, and my body can do a lot of things I didn’t think it could. So on a whim, I pushed my palms down and my hips up, and suddenly, I was doing something I thought I couldn’t. My body arched like a rainbow, making a shape I didn’t think I could make, and I grinned. Then I started wondering what else I might be able to do?
2. Fake it ‘til you make it.
I recently took my daughter to a kid’s yoga class. Toward the end of the class, the instructor said, “Now put your arms around yourself and give yourself a great big hug. And say, ‘I love my body!’”
I watched my daughter throw her four-year-old arms around herself. I listened to the words come out of her mouth, pure and true. She has never not loved her body, I realized.
I said the words, too, but they caught in my throat as if my body was rejecting them, knowing they were untrue. All the years of battling my body bumped up against the recognition that those were bullsh*t battles. “I love my body,” I said, pushing past the resistance and letting the words ring through my cells. I let my voice rise and I said it again. I love my body. I said it so my daughter could hear her mother say it, and I said it because I needed to hear myself say it, too.
3. Find compassion for your body.
A turning point in my journey with body image was realizing my body is mortal. It is ageing and impermanent. I want to love it with the same tenderness I would anything fragile and mortal—a newborn baby or an ancient cat, all fur and spine. When I started seeing my body as impermanent, I began focusing less on my imperfections, and more on gratitude for what I have.
4. See yourself through a new set of eyes.
One time I was taking a restorative yoga class. The teacher was leading us through a visualization exercise, and I was thinking about the way I view my daughter—I smile when I even think of her wide smile, her glittering blue eyes. All of a sudden, I imagined that some entity saw me the exact same way—as completely loveable, as born 100 percent right. Tears dripped down my cheeks as I envisioned myself in a way I never, ever had before—in the same way I effortlessly see my daughter.
Do you have a favorite person or creature, someone who makes you grin when you think about them? Someone you adore just as they are? Bring them to mind. Feel your chest fill up with fondness. Take a big, deep breath, and try to see yourself through that same lens. You are made of that same gold and goodness, I promise. Repeat until you begin to believe it.
Summertime can bring dormant body image issues to the surface. We can’t always stop the old tapes, but we can talk back. Get out there, you goddess you, and soak up the summer.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman; Ashleigh Hitchcock