Does it seem hard enough to like yourself, let alone love yourself, with the body you currently have?
Maybe you try saying self-love affirmations but you only feel like you are lying to yourself? Or maybe you have spent one on one time with the mirror trying to get more comfortable with your body but eventually think “what is the point?!”, and give up?
We have all heard about the importance of loving yourself. Learning to improve how you feel about yourself is vital to work on if you want to make lasting changes to how you feel in and about your body. But sometimes it can feel impossible when you really hate how your body looks right now. It’s a catch 22. Loving yourself will help you get hot and healthy, but you don’t feel you can love yourself until you are hot and healthy.
What’s a gal to do?
Focus on gratitude and acceptance instead. It doesn’t have to be a matter of loving OR hating yourself. You can start by aiming for the middle ground. Because stepping towards the middle ground is still a step in the right direction.
When the love part seems all too hard, go back a few steps. Start with gratitude.
Even if you don’t like how your stomach looks, you can be grateful for what it does for you. It keeps all those important internal organs safe. It lets you feel that gut feeling which helps you make decisions,
Look at your thighs. The muscles that live inside there mean you can walk upstairs to your comfy bed each night or take your favourite fluffy companion for a walk.
If you are having a hard time being grateful with the body bits you don’t like so much, have a go at being grateful for the parts you feel more neutral about. Be grateful for your eyes that let you see your best friend smile across the table from you. Your arms that allow you to cuddle puppies and your mum.
When you are feeling grateful, it is almost impossible to feel anger or hate at the same time. So by focusing on gratefulness, you can help reduce the level of body angst you feel. And you don’t have to feel like you are kidding yourself by pretending you are happy happy happy about every bit of your body.
What about the stuff that doesn’t seem to have much of purpose? You may be thinking, come one, knee flab just doesn’t need to exist and there is nothing to be grateful for (or is that just me?). In those instances, go for acceptance.
Acceptance is not about giving in and giving up trying to change something you are not happy about. It is about acknowledging how things are now without exaggerating. It is about stating truths instead of being overly negative and judgmental.
When working on acceptance, try taking all the positive and negative connotations away from the things you think about your body. Try to form statements which are fact based as opposed to opinion based.
For example, when you think, “my knees are too big”. You can question the ‘big’ label by asking; Big for who? Big compared to what? Is there a universal knee scale of which yours are on the larger end? Instead of “my knees are big” you could say “There is more flesh on my knees compared to some people”. Or “my knees are larger than they were 2 months ago.”
Another good way to do this is by adding, I feel that… or I think that… to statements.
For example, you can say “I feel that my knees are big”. Why add that? Because feelings change. Thoughts change. It puts some perspective on what you are saying to yourself. It shows that what you may be thinking or feeling is a matter of emotion and your current opinion, not the ultimate truth about yourself.
Putting gratitude and acceptance into practice
– Catch and redirect any nasty or judgmental thoughts you have about our body as often as you remember. When you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, notice and gently re-direct your mind towards being grateful or accepting. This is something you can practice anytime, anywhere. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
– For more impact, I would recommend writing down any negative thoughts and re writing them as gratitude or acceptance statements. There is a lot of power in getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Thoughts in our heads tend to swirl around, getting louder and more frequent. By moving them onto the page in front of you, you free up space in your mind making it easier to think of alternative thoughts.
– For the most impact, I recommend writing them down and then reading your re-worded statements out loud to yourself. You get triple whammy that way; you see it, you hear it and you had the physical action of writing and speaking.
Doing work around loving yourself is about the direction you are taking. When you re-direct a train of thought that is hateful or judgmental to thoughts that are accepting or thankful, you are moving away from hate and towards love. Even though you may not get to the love end of the spectrum right away, going in that direction is what’s important.
Hannah May x