I Love My BodyBy Shelley Riutta, MSE, LPC
June 10, 2008
Do you spend time judging and trying to change your body rather than loving it? Your body will flourish and make positive changes in an atmosphere of love and acceptance. In this article you will learn tips to help you finally love your body!
"I Love My Body because it is my temple, a work of art that I see as beautiful, and something I know no one else could ever duplicate." Francesca, 18
Why do you Love Your Body? Do you love your body because like Beth stated above, it houses your magnificent soul? Do you love your body because it enables you to experience the richness of life with all of your senses? Do you love your body because it allows you to create things, hug others and enjoy the pleasure of movement? I'm not asking you IF you love your body but WHY you love your body. I want to start the conversation about loving your body with the why, not the if-to get you to shift your thinking in that direction immediately. People, women in particular-perhaps you the reader --have spent far too many precious moments of life criticizing and trying to change your body rather than truly loving and accepting the gift of your body.
I recently gave a presentation on this topic titled "I Love My Body". One reason I chose the name is that when people called to register they would say "I am calling to register for the I Love My Body presentation." For the women who registered it was probably the first time in their life that the words "I Love My Body" have ever come out of their mouths! There is so much healing needed around this topic that I wanted to help get it started as soon as possible with just saying those words "I Love My Body."
The challenge that most women face around loving their body is the cultural conditioning around the ideal body for women. There was a popular ad for "The Body Shop", the skin and hair care products company, which stated "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do." This ad highlighted that what is promoted as the ideal, normal body for women is actually the normal body for only a very small percentage of women. Yet, this image is continuously portrayed in advertising, on magazine covers and in the actresses we see in movies and on television.
It is a distortion of reality that ends up creating a situation where women feel inadequate and that there is something wrong with their body for not looking like this. It causes women to judge and try to change their body by dieting, plastic surgery and many other ways of trying to get their body to look like the ideal. This cultural conditioning is hurtful and has a very toxic effect on women and girls. It is toxic because instead celebrating and loving their unique shape they are judging it against the promoted ideal. According to the Social Issues Research Centre "More than 80% of 4th graders have been on a fad diet." It is sad to see the pressure that young girls feel to start to mold their bodies into the ideal, rather than using this energy to learn, explore and just be happy and content being themselves.
Because of the profound impact of this cultural conditioning it is important for women and girls to become conscious of this programming and to have the courage to step out of the dictates of these unrealistic body expectations. So one of the first and most important guideline to truly Love Your Body is to take back the power to define your own beauty.
Tips to help you Love Your Body
1.Take the Power back to define your own Beauty-
Not only taking it back for the cultural/media definitions but also from people around you in your life who have made judgmental remarks about your body. These people weren't able to see the beauty of your body because they had absorbed the cultural definitions themselves-and were judging you and probably their own body against these standards as well. Take a moment now to close your eyes and imagine taking back the power to define the beauty of your own body. Take it back from the cultural definitions and the media-in your mind state "I will not allow you to define what my body should look like anymore." Think back to people that have made negative comments to you about your body-a family member, a romantic partner or other kids when you were little. Say to them in your mind "I take back the power to define the beauty of my own body-your comments were distortions and untrue-and I no longer give them any power." Feel how good this feels to clear yourself of all of this negativity and distortion.
2. Clear Your Own Negative Beliefs about Your Body-
Because of your exposure to the cultural conditioning about the supposed ideal female body-you probably have practiced self-judgment of your body for not conforming to the promoted "ideal." These judgments and negative beliefs are again distortions and not based on the truth of the unique beauty of your own body. We all have bodies of different sizes and shapes that are special and truly beautiful. One of the most healing experiences for me related to body image was going sun bathing and swimming at a private lake with a group of women friends---naked. I loved looking at the variety of shapes and sizes of all of these women and I thought to myself "We are all so beautiful." Because of the media just showing a very limited range of female bodies---I had never before seen all of the sizes and shapes of women's bodies. Each and every one of the women had such a unique, beautiful body. We are truly missing out when the full range of what we really look like is not reflected in our media.
Let go of your own rigid beliefs about how your body should look and begin to see how the very things that are different about your body are the very things that make you unique and beautiful. Write down the negative messages that you say to yourself about your body. Imagine writing them down to release them from your consciousness. Get them all out-the most negative hurtful ones you can think of. Look at these messages-notice how you would never dream of saying these things to anyone else in your life. Look at all of these messages and apologize to your body saying "I'm so sorry that I said these hurtful things to you-I promise that I will not say these things to you again and I will start loving you instead." Look at these messages again and with an intention to fully release them-tear up the sheet of paper and throw it away. Some people like to build a fire outside and burn the paper as a way of releasing this negativity.
3. Exercise for the Joy of Feeling Your Body Move- When you exercise to eliminate fat from your body and/or to compensate for calories eaten-this can come from a place of fear and have an energy of trying to control and fight against your body. Imagine exercising for the joy of moving your body and from an intention to be loving to your body-a desire for it to be healthy and have more energy. The clients I work with around this issue tend to be able to maintain an exercise program if they do it from a place of joy and self-love rather than control and fear about their weight.
Notice if there are things in your life that you don't do for fear of people seeing your body-like swimming, dancing or any other activity. Remind yourself that you deserve to do the things you enjoy no matter what your shape. Let go of what others think of you and stay focused on the fact that you have every right to do the things you enjoy.
4. Remind Yourself What the Purpose of Having a Body Is-
Your body is yours to fully experience life, to take it in and enjoy it. Your body is a vehicle for you to experience life with all of your senses. Your body allows you: to feel a warm breeze on your skin, feel the cool water in a lake when you swim, see all of the vivid colors of a sunset, hear all of the beauty of music, to hear the sounds of birds and trees moving in the wind, feel the softness of someone's hand, feel the joy of dancing, taste and enjoy delicious food, express yourself through a smile, tears or laughter. Your body is for you, not for others to critique or judge. You are not here as a display for others, but as a fully embodied human being with deeper, richer qualities than just your appearance.
5. When You Look in The Mirror-Look at Yourself Through Loving Eyes-
For many women looking in the mirror turns into an exercise of self-judgment. They zero in on all of their perceived flaws and what they feel is "wrong" with their body or face. Again the criteria they are judging themselves against is this unrealistic ideal that is promoted in the media. I have many clients who when they first started working with me said that they couldn't look in the mirror because all they saw were these perceived flaws. I suggest that they shift this by instead looking at themselves in the mirror through loving eyes. An example would be if you look in the mirror and see a wrinkle that you would ordinarily judge-look at this wrinkle with love and compassion---and even see the beauty of this wrinkle. Set a clear intention to see yourself through the lens of love---interrupt the self judgement and move into being very loving with yourself. This will be something that you need to practice before it becomes a habit-but it will be well worth the effort because you will begin to feel really wonderful about yourself.
6. Have Your Self-Esteem be Internally Referenced
Have your self-esteem be based on your internal qualities rather than your external appearance. What are the qualities that make you-you? Is it your compassion, your unique creativity, your intelligence, your capacity to have fun, your wisdom, your perceptiveness, your capacity to listen to people or your loving heart. Think of the people that you love in your life. You love them for who they are---the unique Spirit that they are---not for what they look like. That is how they feel about you-they love you for who you are and all of the special qualities that make up you. Learn to value yourself for the substance of you---not for the physical form that you travel around in.
7. Explore the deeper reason for the preoccupation with your appearance/weight.
Sometimes when someone is preoccupied with their appearance it may be an avoidance mechanism for deeper, more painful feelings. Check in with yourself and see if this might be the case. If in your childhood things were painful for you and out of control, you may have learned to focus on your weight as a way to avoid the loneliness and helplessness of what was happening around you. Or maybe there is a painful issue in your life today that you don't have the courage to face-like a challenging relationship or lack of purpose in your life. A preoccupation with your appearance distracts you from facing these issues. If this is the case for you, it is important for you to get support for yourself to open up to face these feelings directly. You can get this support through taking the risk to reveal your feelings to a trusted friend or working with a counselor who can help you work through these feelings.
8. Eliminate Comparing Yourself to Others-
The energy of comparison and competition is hurtful to yourself and the other person. Doing this is just another form of putting yourself down and will not help you to feel good but will make you feel even worse. Vow to not participate in this kind of energy. Instead if you see someone who is attractive-instead of comparing yourself to this person or judging them-state instead-"She is attractive and so am I." Celebrate that other person and yourself too. You will find this feels so much better than comparing yourself to them or being critical.
9. Take One of the Areas of Your Body You Typically Judge and Take a Week to Fully Love This Part of You
Spend 15 minutes a day looking at this part of your body and find things to love about it, better yet, do it throughout the day. The more challenging it is to do this, the more you need to do it! I read in a book about a woman who did this exercise and after a week of doing it a stranger came up to her and told her how beautiful this part of her body was! When we transform our own way of seeing ourselves---it transforms the way others see us as well. You want your first intention of doing this exercise to be the shift in your own self-love, not to have the effect on how others view you. How you view you is always going to be what is most important.
10. Decide That You Are Beautiful and Practice Being Beautiful
You get to decide if you are beautiful or not. If like I stated above you have taken your power back to define your own self than why don't you claim your own beauty! Take a day and repeat to yourself "I am Beautiful". Do things that make you feel beautiful-wear something special-that you love and feel great in. Walk like you are beautiful. Look in the mirror and say "I am beautiful." This may feel awkward at first but continue to do this until you really start to believe it. Celebrate who you are and your beautiful, unique body. We need women who are seeing and celebrating their own beauty-it helps other women who are stuck in negativity about their body see that there is another more joyful path to take---the path of true self-love!
Shelley Riutta MSE, LPC is a Holistic Psychotherapist in private practice specializing in Inner Bonding and Transformational individual counseling, tele-classes and Workshops. To get her free workbook "What Do You Really Want: Finding Purpose and Passion in Your Life" visit her web-site http://www.radiantlifecounseling.com/ or call her at 920-265-2627.
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What is more important to you in this moment - loving yourself and sharing your love with others, or trying to have control over not getting hurt - feeling safe from being rejected, smothered, taken advantage of, and from failure or loss? Today, make love your highest priority and notice how happy you feel!
By Dr. Margaret Paul