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For many of us, to look at ourselves naked in the mirror provokes an emotionally negative response.
Some of us even choose not to look in mirrors at all because we don’t want to see the reflection staring back at us.
We may not be happy with our weight, our shape, or the way clothes look on us (or off us.) Not only that, but we often ignore the health cues that our body is giving us through subtle signs, such as illness and dysfunction.
This lack of love and awareness for our body and its signs and signals is a major factor for both men and women. We are so out of touch with communicating with ourselves that we seem surprised when our bodies stop working properly.
I was one of those people 10 years back.
I suffered with chronic body dysfunctions and would cry when I looked in the mirror.
I’d pick out every piece of me that I perceived to be “wrong.” I hated my pale, acne marked skin for not being tanned and flawless. I hated my pear shaped figure; with small breasts and big hips. I hated my fine hair, my stretch marks, and most things from my fingers to my toes.
You get the picture, I didn’t like myself much at all. In fact, I had so little self-esteem I used to punish myself by physically hurting my body.
Today, I feel gratitude for this body and all the amazing processes it performs for me. It’s taken a lot of mental and emotional work to get to this place of body appreciation. When I look in the mirror, instead of seeing a pear shape, I see killer hips and shapely thighs. I see breasts that have fed my babies, I see skin that I like to decorate with tattoos.
When our bodies start showing signs that they are not happy and are in dysfunction (illness, tiredness, etc.), it is up to us to pay attention to what they are trying to tell us.
Often mine will tell me:
“Gemma, would you please drink some water instead of caffeine? I am dehydrated and I am indicating this to you by making you tired and giving you a headache.”
While our bodies can’t physically speak in this way, they do give us signs to tell us whether they are in harmony or not. In short, they stop working properly or start giving us pain. When we become aware of the relationship we have with our bodies, and feel a healthy level of love and approval for ourselves, positive changes begin to happen.
The key to changing how we feel about our physical selves is to change the thought patterns we have relating to the way we feel, think, and what we believe about ourselves as facts.
Love for our bodies needs to be cultivated.
A lifetime of negative body attitudes won’t change after a week’s worth of positive affirmations, but it’s a good place to start!
The average human body contains about 37.2 trillion cells. Each cell is like a little ecosystem that responds to our thoughts, self-talk, emotions, and beliefs accordingly. If we are telling ourselves (and thereby, our cells) that we are “always sick,” or “always on a diet,” or “not good enough,” our cells will act according to the instructions we have given them.
To put it another way, think of each cell as being a small and impressionable child. If you, as the parent, tell these children every day that they are “unlovable,” “useless,” “stupid,” “fat” or “unhealthy,” the children will grow to believe these as facts, and therefore will start to behave in ways that reflect these inner beliefs.
I’m not going to tell you that you should love every piece of yourself every day, because let’s face it, just loving a little piece of ourselves is sometimes is a mammoth effort. Instead, I invite you to try following some practical tips on how to start getting in touch with positive feelings toward your body.
These are some of the things I practise to find increased happiness and health within my body.
Affirmations: I first came across the concept of affirmations in Louise L. Hay’s book Heal your body. Affirmations give your mind a set of positive instructions instead of a negative set of instructions.
Affirmations must be in the present tense, and they must be an instruction. This one is invaluable: “I love, accept, and approve of myself exactly as I am right now.” You can change it up a little to suit what feels right for you. At first, you may not believe what you’re saying, but it takes time to change the way our brains are used to thinking.
Repeat your affirmation to yourself either in your head or out loud as much as possible throughout the day. Practice this for 21 days if this is your first time.
Eat for health and avoid fad diets: One book that changed my life when I was suffering from depression and hating myself was Optimum Nutrition by Patrick Holford. Eating a healthy, whole foods diet will give your body the nutrients it needs to facilitate the many vital chemical reactions that happen within us every day.
Healthy, fresh food contains vitamins and nutrients that are mostly destroyed in processed and packaged foods. Not only does it taste good, but eating fresh will likely bring your body to a healthy weight, improve brain function and mood, and allow your body to achieve optimum health.
Drink water: A simple task, yet most of us struggle to get enough. Our bodies are around 60 percent water. I would recommend filtered water rather than plastic bottled water. Herbal teas are also a great way to boost our water intake without the caffeine.
Go easy on yourself: If you feel like you are failing because you don’t love your body at all times, just remember we are all human and we all have days when we feel rubbish about ourselves. Even the most practised of self-love coaches have bad days! Honour the feeling, let it pass, and start again tomorrow.
You’re amazing: Consider the fact that you came into being as a divine spark of creation. Each cell in your body is yours by design from your ancestral lines of DNA. It is a miracle that you are in existence—just one change along the ancestral line, and you would not be you!
Keep your self-talk positive: If you catch yourself thinking that you are ugly, useless, or unlovable, stop the sentence and mentally say, “cancel, cancel, cancel.” Immediately replace the negative phrase with a positive one.
Loving touch: It is extremely healing to be touched in a loving way. If you have an intimate relationship, ask your partner to spend some time stroking and cuddling you. Allow yourself to receive this. If that is not an option, you can spend time stroking or caressing your own body. Give yourself a hug and invest in some organic oils to give yourself a regular massage.
Gratitude: Thank your body for every action it performs throughout the day from the moment your feet touch the floor in the morning. Thank your legs for carrying you forward, thank your hands for allowing you to touch, give thanks for your eyes that allow you to see. There is no end to the thanks you can give to your body for all that it does for you. With enough practise, thanking your body will become second nature.
Move your body: In order for us to feel good instead of sluggish and fuzzy-headed, energy needs to flow. Bodies enjoy movement. Try yoga, walking, dancing, bouncing on a trampoline, or even just sitting down and swaying your body to music.
Replace your response: When your body is showing signs of dysfunction or you are having a day when you feel unattractive and low on self-appreciation, try replacing the angry or desperate thoughts directed at your body—like, “Why are you doing this to me?”—to an open question such as, “I realize that you are not happy. What are you trying to indicate to me?”
It might feel strange at first having a dialogue with your body like it is a separate person, but give it a try. You might be surprised what comes up.
I have come a long way on the journey from hating myself to loving and accepting myself using all of these techniques above. The only things required are an open mind, an open heart, and dedication.
The power is within you to do this.