“I love me, I love me not.”
Ah, yes, the age-old battle with loving ourselves.
Many times it begins in childhood.
As a Gen Xer, we witnessed parents on fad diets or a jazzercise routine with Richard Simmons. “Buns of Steel” was a real goal. Television and magazines had constant reminders of perfection.
Honestly, we could go back a 100 years and find evidence for the search for the perfect “look.” These days, while perfection is still out there trying to claim the stage, imperfection is standing up, raising her beautiful voice, and demanding to be heard.
The voice of imperfection says, “Yes! I am beautiful,” to the stretch marks and the cellulite. She screams, “Yes! I am here!” to her various shades of complexion and hair texture.
Imperfection flaunts her freckles, beautifully grins with a gap-toothed smile, and shows off her scars. Her full or not-so-full body is hers to claim. She knows her body, skin, hair, or smile does not fit the mold. Her imperfection is perfection. She owns it all.
Walking into her divine wholeness takes strength and courage. We’re not always born with that strength and courage—we develop them along the way, with battle scars to remind us that we are stronger than whatever tried to beat us.
Body image plays a role in how we love ourselves.
How we look at ourselves, how we define our body, and the language we use when we speak to ourselves is part of our self-love. The most important relationship you can have is with yourself. We teach people how to love us based on the love we show ourselves and the boundaries we set.
Self-love and body image can affect intimacy, both physically and emotionally. The anxious thoughts of not being thin enough, pretty enough, or ___ (name your default insecurity here) can keep us from having healthy relationships and keep us hidden behind years of limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Take a moment to think about how you respond when someone pays you a compliment. Do you brush it off, make a joke, because you feel uncomfortable? Do you come back with a negative response? Or do you confidently say, “thank you”?
For me, it wasn’t until my early 30s, during my self-help journey, that I realized I couldn’t accept a compliment without making a joke about it because it made me feel uneasy. I felt uncomfortable in my skin, and to have someone else acknowledge me was difficult.
Once I realized this, I began to make a conscious effort to respond with a smile and “thank you,” even if I didn’t believe it. It did take a while, but now, I can happily and confidently accept a compliment because I worked on my body image and self-love. Part of the change was making conscious changes to my body on the things I was insecure about; sticking to a regular workout routine gave me the results I was looking for and refocused my attention toward a positive mindset.
A healthy body image and self-love shines through—you glow, and that shine radiates in everything you do. Your sexuality can come alive and help you bond with your partner. You can wear that confidence like a Christian Dior suit and absolutely slay anything that comes your way, attracting new opportunities and vibing on a stellar level.
Here are some ways you can begin to work on your self-love and body image:
Awareness is the first step to change. Start paying attention to the words you use when you are talking to and about yourself. What comes up for you when you look in the mirror? What is your response to compliments? Where in your body are you connecting with these emotions?
Journal what you love about yourself and your body. And then, journal what you don’t like. Go into this with love and curiosity instead of criticism and judgment. When did these feelings begin? What was the body image belief present growing up? Allow your thoughts and feelings to be just that—thoughts and feelings. Let them come and go without attachment.
Express gratitude. Place your left hand over your heart and right hand over your tummy; take some deep, slow breaths and give thanks for your body and its functions. Practice saying gratitude statements like, “I am grateful for this body. I am grateful I get to make healthy choices for my body today. My body is an extension of my power; and I am grateful to have this connection.”
Surround yourself with a positive support group. I’m not talking super-positive Patties, but people who will be supportive when you’re vulnerable and help lift you up when you’re feeling down. Life is hard enough; why hang around people that don’t want you to succeed?
Create a regular self-care routine. When we look better, we feel better. Schedule some mani-pedi time, get a massage, take a trip to the salon. You can even have a spa night at home. You are only one Google search away from an avocado facial.
Once you have acknowledged the way you speak to yourself, now you can change the narrative. What if you turned the “I have to go on a diet” to “I get to eat healthier foods for my body.” Changing the “I have to/I should” to “I get to” creates opportunity and a desire for change. Write down some of the things you say to yourself, then work them into a positive. You will feel so much better when you do.
Healing is not a destination but a journey of self-discovery, love, forgiveness, patience, and compassion.
Be kind to yourself—you are worth it.