If your body stayed exactly the way it is now, would you be happy?
When we consider our level of self-love, this is a good question to ponder. For many, self-love is always a future thing – I’ll be happy when …
While change and growth are both wonderful things to strive for, the intention behind them can make all the difference to how we experience everyday life.
A constant pattern of desiring change because we never feel that we are enough just as we are, will detract from our health as well as our quality of life.
If we look at ourselves in the mirror and pick out all the parts that, to our eyes, look like flaws – do you think this helps us to feel good about ourselves?
Of course not.
Conversely, imagine you make a decision to take the best care of yourself, to eat in a nourishing way and support your body to be the best version of itself that has nothing to do with your ‘flaws’ and everything to do with believing you’re worth it.
It’s an entirely different intention. One that comes from a place of love and support.
Remember that what we focus on is what we feel. Which is simply to say that if we constantly focus on our perceived flaws, of course it’s going to stir up feelings of lousiness because we will never measure up to our own expectations. It will also likely drive us to continue patterns of behaviour, such as unresourceful eating, that continue to confirm how we feel about ourselves.
What’s wonderful, is that the power to change this lies in our own hands. Here are some strategies to help you amp up your self-love and begin to build a relationship with yourself and your body that is based on love and kindness.
Be mindful of your internal dialogue
Positive internal dialogue is a big part of improving your self-worth. Many of us say things to ourselves we would never dream of saying to another person. Is your internal dialogue, kind, constructive, inspiring or empowering? Catch yourself if you hear negative phrases like “I look fat”, “I look old”, “I hate my hair”, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m a failure” and begin to explore replacing these thoughts with positive affirmations. To begin with, you may catch yourself falling back into old negative habits, but with regular effort you can gradually start to replace this internal dialogue. If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation – only you have the ability to do this.
Be kind to your body
This body is your vehicle for life. It has supported you thus far. It may have helped you carry children, and it has helped you to experience the wonder of the world. Stand in front of your mirror and find one lovely feature – hair, eyes, lips – it doesn’t matter. It can be a confronting exercise, but far too often we criticise our bodies without giving gratitude for the gifts they have given us. When you look in any mirror, don’t leave it until you can take away a positive picture. It is your perception of reality that may be damaging your confidence level and your view is not necessarily reality. Learning to love yourself is the best beauty tip of all. As Audrey Hepburn so elegantly said: “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”
Unfortunately, many women take care of their career, homes, pets, partners, children and essentially everyone around them at the expense of caring for themselves. Practice self-love daily in whatever way you are drawn to – read a book you love, make yourself a nourishing soup, walk with a friend, simply stand outside on the grass with the sun on your face, write in your journal or draw/paint/sew. Looking after your creativity can be as essential for your self-worth as looking after your physical body.
Comparison is exhausting
In this day and age, particularly with the popularity and prevalence of social media, people are exhausting themselves with comparisons. Exhausting energy trying to be something that you’re not, or fighting day in and out for someone else’s approval is a sure fire way to deplete self-worth. If you recognise that you feel insecure regularly, I offer you this, via Steve Furtick, with much love: If you struggle with insecurity, it may be because you are comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. Really think about that.
Change your body language
This is not an anatomical conversation about posture, but simply to point out that how you hold yourself impacts the way you feel about yourself and your energy. Try it. Slump your shoulders. Let your head hang forward with your face downcast. Stay like that, walk around like that for a few minutes. Do you feel confident and energised?
Now pull your shoulders back, hold your head up, stand upright and face forward. Spend a few minutes like that. Which posture offers you more energy? The upright posture, of course. Become so conscious of how you hold yourself. Make it part of how you care for yourself to hold yourself well. Over time, due to the way our nervous system interprets the experiences it has – a raised voice, a failed exam, a car accident, the passing of a loved one – we develop defence postures. Each posture we have offers us a concurrent headspace and the less defensive our posture is, the more resources (from within), including energy, will be on offer to us. Become conscious of how you hold yourself. Stand up tall and lose the weight of the world off your shoulders. Interestingly, the way you stand can also lower stress hormones instantly. This is how posture, smiling, eye contact and speech slowly come into play. Just the simple act of pulling your shoulders back signals to your body that you feel safe and secure.
What’s motivating you?
It is important that when making any health and wellness change you commit to yourself to resolve any emotional ‘disempowering habits or language’ that you may use. Far too often I hear people say, “Oh I’ve been really bad lately, but when such and such happens I’ll be good.” Or “Starting from tomorrow I’m going to be really good with xyz.” I know before I’ve really begun to delve further that this sort of language indicates an emotional relationship with food or movement. I know it’s very likely that when this person looks at himself or herself in the mirror, they view themselves with a critical eye.
As a culture we have become quite obsessed with having the perfect shape, perfect features or being a perfect weight, before we can feel “good” and happy with ourselves. The way we speak to ourselves has to change. Your value doesn’t depreciate based on the number that appears on the scales. Nor will everything in your life fall into place if you could magically fit into a dress you wore when you were 17. Sustainable and long-term change needs to come from a desire to be and feel healthier – not just look the part.
People, who accept who they are and feel good about their physical wellbeing, often emit a sense of calm and content. When we make changes from a foundation of self-acceptance, our changes are likely to be empowering and long lasting. Trying to be “good” is not motivating enough. When you decide that you’re no longer going to have coffee and cake every day, or you’re going to eat more vegetables and move regularly, it must also be with an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for who you are now.
In order to create a balanced and effortless relationship with your body, often there are two areas that need to be sorted – food and emotions. As cheesy as it might sound – the key to any effective diet or lifestyle change is to care deeply for yourself and treat yourself accordingly. In the words of Geneen Roth: treat yourself as if you are already enough, eat as if you are enough. See, look, listen as if you are enough. Because it’s true.