“Body, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.” Doesn’t every woman allow herself to think thoughts like these at least once in a while? Isn’t it normal to hate your body sometimes? And furthermore, isn’t it part of our duty as good consumers to be dissatisfied with the way we look so we’ll buy more stuff to make up for it?
Hate Your Body, Hurt Your Health
Our bodies carry inner emotional scars from wounds we’ve given ourselves. I have a hunch that many digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, fertility problems, and other chronic conditions are fed by negative, self-hating thoughts and words. We can’t expect our bodies (or our minds) to magically give us health when we’ve spent years giving them the opposite.
We live in a society where an astonishing 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have already been on a diet. To me, a 10-year-old is still a child. It breaks my heart that children are not free from worry about their appearance, and that children are disliking their own appearances enough to want to diet. Because that means they’re investing hate into their own bodies, rather than health.
Breaking this cycle begins with you and me. We have to model a better relationship with our own bodies. We need to become “impeccable with our word,” as Don Miguel Ruiz writes in The Four Agreements, starting with our word toward ourselves. “How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word.” Without self love, including love and appreciation for the physical self, how can we hope to truly love others?
You’re Younger Than You Think
People like to say, “It’s later than you think.” But I think we never really understand how young we are.
I look at pictures of myself from my twenties and think, “I had no idea how young-looking and cute I actually was.” I spent my twenties thinking I was unattractive and overweight. I never wore shorts in the summertime. I was rarely, if ever, seen in a bathing suit.
When we spend a single second thinking about how unattractive, overweight, or whatever else it is we imagine we are, the negative energy of our thoughts adds to what we don’t want. We see an unattractive person in the mirror because that’s what we’ve chosen to focus on.
My Perfect Problematic Body
Now that my body has experienced the miraculous changes of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum healing, I have legit “problem areas.” My stomach muscles didn’t heal properly, leaving me with diastasis recti – a hole in my abdominal muscle wall – surrounding my belly button. I do daily exercises to try to heal these muscles, but I don’t know if they ever will heal. And I may never get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
But the funny thing is, I’m more at ease in my own skin than I’ve ever been. I don’t feel any worse about my shape than I did pre-baby and pre-legit problem areas. I have a new respect for what my body can do.
But What If Your Body Has Let You Down?
Maybe you have a whole different set of reasons to hate your body. Whether it’s a struggle with depression, anxiety, infertility, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, or something else, there are many different ways our bodies can seem to fail us.
Before my son came along, I kept having miscarriages. I saw a few different doctors, and none of them were able to figure out what the cause was. No one knew why I couldn’t stay pregnant. I had to do the digging myself to figure out what my body was telling me. Through this experience, I learned that the human body has its own innate intelligence. Health struggles are feedback from the body, pointing toward the help it needs.
If you hate your body because you feel like it’s letting you down, please consider another possibility: your body might be trying to tell you something. My miscarriages told me that my body didn’t have the nutrients it needed to carry a baby, that my stress level was too high, and that I needed to eliminate as many toxins as I could from my life. And this amazing self-healing machine fixed itself once it had the resources it needed.
(Side note: Depression is often a sign of rampant inflammation in the body. Crohn’s or IBS is a signal that your gut needs help healing. PCOS can be healed through diet. There are so many ways to support your body’s natural healing abilities. Sometimes you just have to go outside “the system” to find a health professional who specializes in functional medicine, rather than a conventional doctor.)
I don’t want to squander another moment of my relative youth thinking about my body’s flaws. I’d much rather enjoy the remaining time I have with the remaining assets I have. I hope you’ll join me and set the intention to do the same.
I’m not saying ingrained thought patterns are easy to change, and it’s a daily challenge for me. But I’m no longer willing to go with the flow and hate my appearance the way society wants me to, so that advertisers can sell me more products.
It’s a counter-cultural rebellion to be at home in one’s own skin. Even just to try is a big deal.
Putting On Rose-Colored Glasses
I’m making my best attempt to look at the world around me, and at the woman in the mirror, with rose-colored glasses on, rather than poop-colored glasses.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” (not sure to whom this quote is attributed, but it’s a good one) has a new meaning for me lately. Now I interpret it as, “Change the way you see the world and the world changes.”
Where You Might Start
- First, focus on your words. Commit to saying only good things about your own appearance. Don’t let any negative talk about yourself escape your mouth. If you still hate your body, at least don’t say it out loud.
- Then, start working on your thoughts. Every time you catch yourself hating your body, take action. One by one, weed out the self-hating thoughts by choosing not to believe them. Try Byron Katie’s technique called The Work on yourself if you’re really stuck.
Seeing your own appearance, with all its flaws, as something to love, rather than something to hate, is liberating. And every single thought in the right direction gains a little more momentum. Before long, you’ll change your way of looking at yourself.
A Choice that Leads to Better Choices
There’s one more unexpected benefit to loving the skin you’re in: When you choose not to hate your body, and you start to see yourself as an attractive person, regardless of flaws, you will begin to make choices that reinforce your attractiveness. Think of yourself as a healthy shape, define yourself as a healthy woman, and you will start to act more like a healthy woman. Your health and vitality will increase, spilling over to the people around you. Other people desperately need to see your self love in action so they’ll be inspired to find their own.