I don’t know anyone who loves their body. Even the women I know who have the most traditional beautiful, culturally accepted, healthy, strong, beautiful bodies - still hate their bodies. It’s not exactly breaking news that as a culture, we are completely screwed up about our body image.
According the the Dove global study:
- Only 24% of American woman report feeling body confident.
- 9 out of 10 women opt out of important life activities like going out with friends because of how they feel about their appearance.
- 5 out of 10 women (and 7 of 10 girls) are not assertive in their opinions or stick to their decisions because of self-doubt. We are literally missing life because of our thighs.
I know that you know all of this already. You’re well-aware that we are all affected in some way by psychotically unrealistic beauty standards. You know all about misogyny, and the media, and photoshop, and eating disorders, and sexual violence, and all of the other shit that comes with devaluing women based on their looks.
Now that we’re all good and depressed, let’s talk about what we can do about it. From a personal development perspective, here’s something that I know for sure…
You cannot reach health & happiness through shame & punishment.
It is straight up impossible to achieve a joyful, balanced, peaceful, successful life using self-deprivation, self-hatred. You cannot hate yourself into happiness. You can’t beat your body into healthy submission. You can’t starve yourself to sexiness and confidence. It just doesn’t work that way.
So what do we do?! Like everything else, it starts with mindset. You have to do the inner work and that outer work. Some thoughts for your consideration:
- Make a conscious decision to stop the madness. Affirm, “This nonsense stops now. I am going to learn a better way. I will befriend my body.”
- Be nice! How you talk to yourself matters. Watch your words and thoughts about your body. Make an effort to stop insulting yourself.
- Get off the scale. The number on the scale holds so much power over us. A few pounds down = a great day, and a few pounds up = defeat. All of that emotion over what probably amounts to hormone fluctuations and water weight anyway. Fuck the number. Do you feel good? Are you making healthy choices and befriending your body? That’s what matters.
- Make your health a priority. It’s really common for women (and men too) to neglect their health and to avoid going to the doctor, even when your body is telling you that something is wrong.
- Get your blood moving in a happy way. When you exercise, try worrying less about number of reps and calories burned, and more about having fun. What raises your heart rate and flexes your muscles AND feeds your spirit? Hiking? Dancing? Boxing? If you love running, run! If you hate running, stop! If you do exercise that you enjoy, it is physiologically better for you.
- Try intuitive eating. What would your life look like if instead of obsessing about calories and grams, you paid really close attention to what nourishes your body and makes you feel strong and energetic? Every time you eat something, notice what your body tells you about it. How does your body feel after a fast food meal versus how it feels after eating a whole, clean meal? What if you eat only when your body tells you it’s hungry, rather than eating out of stress, boredom, or other emotion? Your body is very wise. Learning to listen to that wisdom can be life-changing.
- Eat only food that is really food. Are you eating something that could be produced in your kitchen using food ingredients? Or are you eating something that could only be produced in a lab using substances you can neither procure or pronounce. If you can’t identify it, please don’t put it in your face.
- Dress for the body you have now. Got a closet full of aspirational clothes? Stop buying clothes for the size you’re going to be some day. Buy clothes that make you feel comfortable and beautiful as you are right now.
- Stop comparing. Comparing yourself negatively to others is a form of self-abuse. No matter how amazing you are, there is always going to be someone richer, thinner, taller, more successful, more beautiful, blah, blah, blah. There are also always going to be people who are fatter, dumber, poorer and less successful than you. So what?! Life is not a competition. Worry about making your life the best it can be and wish everyone else well on their journeys.
- Stand tall. Your mind and body are connected. Stand tall and proud and you’ll feel taller and prouder. How would Wonder Woman stand?
- Find gratitude for what your body has done for you. Your body is your only vehicle through this life. Your body runs and jumps and climbs trees. It tastes and smells and sees. It creates life! It has gotten you through some tough times and stuck with you when things were great. Thanks body! What would I do without you?
This is a big issue (no pun intended) and I welcome your thoughts. How would you add to this list of ways to conquer body insecurity?
Happiness is not a shape.
No matter what shape or size you are, life is too short to waste it hiding your body and punishing yourself for having one. Even if you don’t learn to love it, can we at least learn to be civil and treat our poor bodies with respect? Can we all agree to stop the cycle? We deserve better. And our sons and daughters are watching.