Change the way you see your body
You might not believe it, but it is possible to free ourselves from our critical attitude towards our bodies. I like to share some of my insights, reflections, and exercises with you. And at the bottom, I share some excellent body-positive talks and documentaries. I hope it will inspire you to take a new look at your body image.
How do you feel about your body?
You may find this question hard to answer. I certainly do. From an early age, I was told I was ugly, too fair, and too skinny. As a young girl, I started to be interested in plastic surgery, and I was planning to make enough money as an adult so I could afford it.
I received hardly any encouragement to love myself. I thought that if a girl was not typically pretty, it was a terrible thing. Nobody sat me down and said: Don’t worry too much about looks. We humans come in all shapes and sizes. And that is ok. What matters is not what you look like but who you are. What counts is to find happiness and not physical beauty. I never heard those words.
What messages did you receive about your body while growing up? And how do you feel about your body right now? Have you set your heart on slimmer thighs, a flatter stomach, smoother skin, or an elegant nose? Are you preoccupied with wishing you looked different?
A new perspective on bodies
If you go deep into the forest and contemplate the trees, you notice they come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colours! You will see trunks that are slender, thick, tall, short, twisted, knobbly, dark, light, with and without bark. Some trees are young saplings, some are old giants, while others have died and are disintegrating back into the soil.
We seem able to appreciate the diversity of trees but are far less accepting of our human bodies. Our culture has decided on one ideal standard of beauty, and if we don’t conform to it, we feel defective, not enough, and even unworthy. Are you ready to free yourself from this unhealthy beauty standard?
Don’t expect support from the mainstream beauty and fashion industry. They have a vested interest in your low self-esteem. Only if we feel imperfect, flawed, and unattractive will we keep consuming make-up products, jewellery, flattering clothes, ‘anti-ageing’ products and services. Their slogan, “You are worth it”, is not about our well-being; it’s about them and their profit margin.
“This is something the world has taught us.
Body shaming is a universal problem
and we have been bullied and shamed
into thinking our bodies are the problem.”
You might say, OK, I understand. But I still feel uncomfortable with my weight, wrinkles, shape or colour. What do I do? I can’t seem to love myself. That is ok. I understand. It is not an easy thing when insane expectations surround us at all times.
If you can’t love your body, can you stop hating it?
If you can’t accept your body, can you stop cursing it?
If you can’t enjoy your body, can you stop punishing it?
Don’t pressure yourself to love your body or see it as beautiful if you don’t. It is not possible. But you can stop actively cursing, hating, judging, and punishing. Stop adding fuel to the fire.
You might relax a little if you stop fuelling your self-judgement and harmful behaviours. And when you are more at ease, you can start noticing all the wonderful things your body does for you. It allows you to breathe, walk, talk, paint, sing, dance, write, hold your child, and kiss your loved ones. All your organs and cells work 24/7 to keep you alive so you can experience this colourful world. Your body works despite all the negative thoughts you feed it every day. Quite amazing, don’t you think?
How to get started
1. Become aware when you actively dislike, hate, curse or punish your body. Notice, breathe and don’t indulge in that unkind habit. If you can’t switch to acceptance or love, that is ok. Just don’t actively go against your body.
2. Clean up your information intake: Remove unhealthy magazines, social media accounts, and TV programs.
3. Listen to sane, supportive, and kind people: Hashtag #bodypositive
4. Listen to your inner critic and what it says about your body. Write those judgements down and then question them. Are they really true? Use ‘The Work of Byron Katie’ to do so.
5. Talk to other women about their body image issues and find a loving support network.
I found a few excellent documentaries and talks that promote a sane attitude. They will support you to clean up your mind and your emotions when it comes to body image.
1. Embrace (2016) and Embrace Kids (2022)
Two must-watch documentaries by body image activist Taryn Brumfitt. Embrace follows Taryn’s crusade as she explores the global issue of body loathing, inspiring us to change the way we feel about ourselves and our bodies.
2. The social media beauty cult
Social media is influencing the way women feel about their bodies.
3. Body positivity and self-love: Embracing your own beauty
Life is too short to hate yourself.
4. Competing with your filter-friendly ego’s
We are competing with our idealised, digital self.
5. TED talk: Living without shame by Whitney Thore
Whitney has launched the No Body Shame Campaign to help men and women to live and love without shame. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaXBYcfVYZM
6. TED talk: Hidden Secrets – Eating Disorders
Rayo Cole: It’s a fact that eating disorders are on the rise!
7. TED Talk: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I am a model
Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”.