Editor’s Note from Bess Coble: This is part of our ongoing “Body Image and Self-Esteem” series.
Do you love your body?
Most people don’t. As a matter of fact, studies show that a majority of people hate their bodies. Stop for a moment and think about that. What do you think the result of that habitual hate is? Do you think it creates motivation? Do you think it’s a wake up call to change? Or do you think that it perpetuates feelings of depression and failure?
So, why do people hate their bodies? Usually, it’s because they don’t look the way they think they should. But the question that needs to be asked is, what should they look like? What is the “perfect” weight? This is an important point because our ideals that we compare ourselves to are a big problem when it comes to our body image. We live in a culture that is constantly holding up ideals that are not real.
We see a model on a magazine cover and think, “I should look like that.” But what we don’t see is how the model had 5 people doing hair, makeup, and clothes design. We don’t see the perfectly placed lighting and fans. We don’t see the photo editing that removes any “imperfections.” What we finally get is literally a cartoon. Something that is not, and never could be, real. Now, what I just described is ONE PICTURE; now multiply that by 3,000, which is the average number of ads we are exposed to EVERY DAY.
So, what is the result of all this? Sure, we ignore it, but it is so pervasive that these ideas of unreal perfection begin to creep into our collective consciousness as reality. And this is where the problem starts because the balance disappears. Soon we find that we have no representations of people that are “normal” and beautiful. More and more actors and actress we see seem to have had plastic surgery and it becomes the acceptable norm. But it can’t be.
You need to love your own body, and you’re going to start right now because you deserve it. Let’s start simply by talking to yourself (in your head) and say the words “I love you, body.” It probably feels a little weird. That’s a natural response to doing something new.
Now, I want you to love all the things that work perfectly for you. If you’re reading this, then I’m going to assume that your heart is beating, your eyes are seeing, and your lungs are breathing, so start there. “I love you, heart and lungs, for keeping me alive all these years.” “I love you, eyes, for letting me read this incredible article.” And so on.
Now, if you feel silly doing this let me point out something that is really silly. It’s looking at a picture of a model with contacts and saying to yourself “I wish I had eyes that color,” or looking at a body that has been slimmed down with Photoshop and feeling bad because you don’t look like that. That doesn’t make any sense.
Now, back to your body. What about your legs? Never mind the shape of them for a moment, think about them differently and say, “I love you legs for giving me mobility.” How about your hands? Can you say something nice about them?
The purpose of this is to genuinely appreciate and love your body. It’s a way to build up self esteem and focus on what is truly important. You can go through other things you love about your body like hearing, smelling, tasting, being able to dance, sing, type, smile, etc.
Now, what about body weight and shape? You can love your body no matter what the scale says or what size clothes you wear, and at the same time you can also want to slim down. I can tell you from direct experience that the biggest mistake people make in weight loss is that they try motivating themselves by beating themselves up. That will not work for permanent weight loss. If you hate your body there is a good chance that you will unconsciously keep the weight on. You need to begin by loving yourself and your body.
It’s easier to do this when you realize that your goal weight and size are a means to an end. The weight isn’t what’s important; it’s the feelings you’re going to experience at that weight that are important. Will you feel sexier, happier, more confident, healthier? Why do you want change your body? You’ll find that focusing on these feelings is one more tool you can use to motivate yourself. This is also important because you don’t just reach a certain weight where everything instantly changes. It’s a process. If your main motivation is to feel more confident, then begin thinking about ways to feel more confident now. Don’t wait.
Love and hate are very powerful emotions; one is a force for creation and one is a force for destruction. If you want to permanently create a new shape for your body, make sure you choose the force that can make it happen. It makes all the difference in the world.