“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Buddha
I’d been anticipating. Fantasizing. Envisioning.
My birthday was approaching, and I’d found the most lovely little black dress for a big night of having dinner with the people I love.
It was sleek. Wraparound. Maxi.
It looked like a party waiting to happen just hanging in my closet.
During the weeks leading up to my birthday, I’d find myself lost in fantasyland, picturing how awesome I’d feel slipping that dress on, showing it to my husband, then strolling into the restaurant feeling empowered on my special day.
I’d struggled for decades with food obsession and yo-yo dieting, but for some reason, it felt like this dress would offer a night of freedom from that.
It was six o’clock, time to get dressed. Rifling through my closet, I pulled on the dress and some Uber Spanx.
But when I looked in the mirror, what I can only describe as unbearable anger, sadness and rage quickly shot through me.
My perception of my reflection did not match my vision, to say the least.
That dress felt about two sizes too small—of course it did, that’s how I used to motivate myself to diet, ”I love it, do you have it two sizes smaller?” The Spanx were super-tight, almost suffocating.
All I could focus on was the feeling of the Spanx squeezing my body in a way she didn’t want to be held.
I wanted to jump right out of my skin. I tore off my dress and Spanx, crying in a fit of frustration. My husband gently told me he thought I looked beautiful, but of course I didn’t feel that way.
Since nothing like this had ever happened before, it struck me that somewhere inside I’d reached a breaking point.
That night after dinner, I settled down to journal and reflect. I remember scrawling that going forward, I would only speak to myself as I’d want my then 13-year-old daughter to talk to herself.
Through that mirroring—the ability to see how I’d want someone I love to talk to herself—I began to open. I realized how I’d set myself up that night, both by placing expectations on myself for how I “should” look and by pressuring myself to fit into a number that was simply not my size.
I thought about how although my husband had shared how beautiful he thought I looked, I could never truly feel that way until I loved myself from the inside out.
And then I spent the next few months unraveling my relationship with food, my body and myself, knowing that I never wanted to be back in that saddle again.
These days, through sustained, holistic and at times very challenging self-discovery, I feel totally at home in my body and at peace in my life. As a certified transformational health coach, I now help other women feel the same by end the war with dieting, achieving sustainable weight loss and helping them fall in love with their lives.
With that, here are three of my top tips for getting out of body jail and feeling at home in your skin:
1. Donate clothing that’s too small.
Many of us keep ill-fitting clothing around in the hopes that one day, it’ll fit—and possibly as “motivation.” While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, hanging onto too-small clothing sends ourselves the message that we’re not good enough until we do. Clearing out your closet helps wipe the slate so you can rewrite your food and body story in a way that feels expansive and inspiring.
2. Start to change your self-talk by asking yourself: “How would I want my daughter or girlfriend to speak to herself in this moment?”
It’s so easy to beat up on ourselves—and in fact, that tends to be our default. By using someone you love to create a hypothetical dialogue, you can start to translate your self-talk into a kinder, gentler, more peaceful conversation.
3. Focus on feeling good in whatever way you can.
Whether it’s taking a walk with your kids, getting outside for a hiking adventure or dancing in your living room to your favorite songs from high school, focusing on feeling good invites in more of that feeling. It causes a ripple effect. So, in any moment, ask yourself: what would make me feel better than I do right now? Then go do that.
I hope this encourages you to turn more of your love towards yourself. The rewards are immense.
Author: Alison Sherwood
Image: Alena Getman at Flickr
Editors: Renée Picard; Yoli Ramazzina