How have you spoken to your body today? When you looked in the mirror this morning what was the first thought you had? Have you told your body all that you love and cherish about it today? Have you told your body why you are incredibly proud of it today? Have you thanked your body for all it’s done for you today?
I am going to make a wild guess and say many of us don’t speak to or about our body in a kind, compassionate or accepting way. We can be so insanely cruel to ourselves and our body and think nothing of it, as if it’s normal. And the sad thing is, this harsh self talk is normal among women. We have normalized saying things to and about our body that we would never even imagine saying about someone else. How is that okay?
The thing is, we come by it naturally. When we are dealing with challenges in our body, whether it’s a health condition, frustrating symptoms, or not appreciating the shape of our body, it’s easy to be hard on our body. We often focus on what’s wrong instead of all that is right. And this is totally understandable, our brains are actually hardwired to do so from an evolutionary standpoint. It’s called the negativity bias and it causes our minds to focus on the negative things or potential threats as a strategy to keep us safe. However, that way of thinking doesn’t always serve us anymore.
We need to challenge this way of thinking and seek positivity in our life and our body. This is not a passive process what-so-ever, taking agency over our thoughts and mindset takes consistent effort and focus. It requires us to become more aware of the negative thoughts, adapting them to be more compassionate and accepting, and actively planting positive thoughts. And when we have about 40 thoughts per minute this can be a significant undertaking.
The motivating thing is that re-framing our thoughts in this way has a compound effect. What this means is that when we start this work consciously, our mind will help to support us make this change subconsciously. When we tell ourselves these positive things about our body, our mind starts to be more aware of that idea and looks for proof of this idea. So when you are telling yourself you are on a wellness journey and are in the process of healing, it starts to focus on all the positive habits you are taking on as part of your journey, focus on all the ways your body is feeling better, and focus on the progress you are making. So instead of staying stuck in the not-so-great parts of the process or on the “starting point”, it’s looks for positive change and impact it’s having. I know this idea is hard to conceptualize, but for a more concrete example, think of the last time you were thinking about purchasing something specific, whether it be a piece of jewelry or a car. Your brain being primed to think about the car you were contemplating buying, you probably noticed that specific car driving about more in a week than you had in your entire life. So imagine the outcome if you primed your mind to think about all that you love about your body!
Like I said, this takes very conscious, consistent effort, but you can get there. Try some of these tips to re-frame your mind around loving your body:
Be more aware of the negative thoughts you have about your body. Once you start to be more mindful of your thoughts I think you will be amazed about what we internally say about our about. It is important to notice them notice them and re-frame them from a place of compassion and acceptance. It does not always feel authentic to move the thoughts from a place of negativity to a place of positivity, but you can always aim for a place of neutrality, progress or gratitude. So changing from “my body is so disgusting” to “I have the body of my dreams” might feel untrue, but “my body has changed over the years, but it’s allowed me to bring my kids into this world” may feel more natural.
Tell yourself 1 to 3 things you love about your body everyday. This can be insanely challenging for some, so start with one thing a day and add more as the process starts to feel more comfortable. Some people might not be able to jump right into “loving” themselves, so if you need to, you can start with things you accept or like about your body. I will never forget when I did this exercise many years ago with a group of women, most of which were strangers, and I was mortified about the thought of picking three things I loved about my body. I was riddled with anxiety about not only having to pick three things I love about myself but then announce it to them for them to “judge what I picked” (I know, I know that was clearly not the purpose of the activity). Thinking back about this makes me realize how uncommon and unnatural it feels to praise your body.
Be mindful of what you are exposing your mind to. The comparison trap on social media is real. It may be best to unfollow (even if temporary) people who make you feel less about your body and start to follow more people who have bodies like yours. This could be based in people who have a similar body type as you or those who deal with similar health issues. This will start to normalize your body for you so you don’t feel as outcasted.
During this journey towards body positivity, self-acceptance and self-love, have compassion with yourself. The processes of learning and unlearning how to view yourself and your body can be difficult, but extremely rewarding and freeing.