I don’t know when it developed, the negative body image I’ve fought over the years. Whenever it was, all I know is that I was young. I remember not liking to look in the mirror before I even entered middle school, so I was what, no more than 12? I have always been very fair skinned and have always struggled with it. I remember I had a field trip to the zoo coming up….the zoo….so I must have been in elementary school. I wanted to wear shorts so badly but my legs were just too embarrassing pale. The night before the field trip I decided to try my hand at sunless tanning lotion, the next day my legs were a mess. They were streaky, spotted. I wore my shorts anyway and when someone asked me about the mess I had made I lied. I explained that I had fallen asleep on a beach with sand covering my skin and only tanned where I was uncovered and my skin was exposed. I want to laugh at the made-up story of such a young girl in an attempt to cover up her “fake bake.” However, it makes me sad to realize that the fight to love myself and feel good in my own skin started when I was young enough to attend field trips to the zoo.
It’s easy to allow what we look like to completely encompass our thoughts. We think of nothing else but how much food we should and shouldn’t intake. How many calories should I be eating for how often I workout? How much of it should be carbs and what carbs are the correct ones to be eating? What burns more fat, cardio or weightlifting? How much cardio should I be doing? Should I sprint or do long distance runs? It goes on and on. I have found that there are days that I’ve allowed these thoughts to control me and it’s taken away my ability to focus on anything else.
Unfortunately, when we allow these thoughts to completely consume us we run the risk of developing unhealthy habits. Often we are in such a hurry and have such a drive to get the results we want. Either out of impatience or frustration, we result to actions and habits that will have a very negative effect on our developing bodies, physically and mentally. We develop eating disorders, body dysmorphia, dangerously restrictive diets or meal plans and we exercise beyond what our bodies can offer us. So what can we do to avoid creating habits that will leave longlasting negative effects? Here are some ideas of healthy habits you can develop that will lead you to love yourself and have a stronger body image.
1. Exchange unhealthy thoughts for positive ones
Your subconscious mind is a chatterbox. It goes all day long and rarely quiets down long enough for you to get a word in edgewise. If you’ve created a habit of thinking poorly of yourself these thoughts will enter your mind without an invitation. The key isn’t to be upset with yourself for thinking those thoughts but rather to acknowledge that you’ve felt them and then replace them with something positive. When you look in the mirror and think, “I do not look good in this dress,” acknowledge the thought and then tell yourself, “girl you’re right, you don’t look good because you look amazing.” By consistently replacing the negative thought processes that you’ve developed, soon the thoughts that enter your mind will be by invitation only. Changing your inner thoughts and dialogue at all times will help you change your habit of criticizing into appreciation and admiration.
2. Feel rather than observe
Look at this picture.
I remember when this picture was taken. I felt great that day. I felt confident, powerful, strong. I remember the way my husband was looking at me when he took it and I felt fierce. When I first saw the actual photo I wanted to delete it immediately. and it’s all because of that side roll. Yep, that very obvious side roll that pretty much no one but me sees. Suddenly how I FELT that day no longer mattered, it was all about how I LOOKED. One small thing is all it took to change me from fierce to flawed. Have you ever felt great and then stepped on a scale only to feel that you either need to climb back in bed or run 10 miles? Sometimes you just need to let yourself FEEL rather than observe. You need to recognize that if you feel powerful it’s because you are. Not because a picture told you so but because you felt it. You need to understand that if you feel beautiful it’s because you are, not because the number on the scale said so. How you FEEL should be your biggest indicator of the level of love you have for yourself. Don’t let any outside influences change that.
3. Unfollow until you’re ready
Have you ever noticed that you’ll be scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and feel yourself sinking inside? Suddenly your body isn’t good enough. You don’t make enough money. Your house isn’t big enough or clean enough. So much of our confidence can come from the people that we surround ourselves with and nowadays with social media, that is so many people. We often find ourselves following the ideal body, the picture-perfect house, the dream life, the all together mom, we’re not following the person themselves. We get jealous when they are in another country, again, we wonder how they afford everything they own, we don’t know how they lost all of the baby weight and the perfection badge that we’ve given them makes us uncomfortable in our own skin. Genuine or fake, click unfollow.
We have it in our heads that we can’t unfollow someone because they aren’t TRYING to make us feel this way. We tell ourselves that it’s not acceptable to disconnect because we are self-conscious. Ultimately though, when we are working on loving ourselves comparison can be the death of our efforts. Sometimes those ties need to be cut until we are prepared to not be mentally shaken by someone else’s successes. When we’ve developed a love for ourselves we can reintroduce ourselves into those relationships with the ability to celebrate the success of others instead of viewing it as a loss to us.
4. Develop a healthy relationship with food
I’m a stress eater, a sad eater, an angry eater, a bored eater, a hungry eater, a subconscious eater….and, well you get it. Food has become the best medicine for a bad day, depression, anxiety and more. Food is in the top 10 most addicting things in life. However, counting every calorie you put in your mouth and regretting every piece of sugar you consume is equally as unhealthy as using food as your coping mechanism. It’s because of this that people have such a hard time balancing enjoying their food and feeding their bodies the nutrients that it needs to function properly and efficiently. Once you find a way to feed your body while simultaneously being able to enjoy a brownie…or 3, you will be able to let go of the stress that you put on yourself to always consume the right foods. You will also be able to release the guilt that you feel for eating some of your favorite foods even though they don’t fall into the “healthy” category.
Every journey towards self-love is so different and what works for one person may not work for another. It is because of this that I’ve teamed up with someone that radiates self-love, self-appreciation, and self-acceptance. Fatima Dedrickson from @stylefitfatty has given us the next 3 ways that you can love YOU more.
5. Start your day on the right foot
A couple of years ago, I used to sleep with my phone right next to my bed. Sometimes if I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d find myself scrolling and all of the sudden an hour had gone by. I caught myself comparing my life to others, feeling low about myself and my day hadn’t even started yet. Something needed to change and it needed to change now. Think about your routine. What do you do first thing in the morning? Do you reach for your phone and start scrolling Instagram or do you take time to inhale and exhale?
Morning prayer is a huge part of my morning routine now. Along with keeping my house bright. I don’t know about you, but when my home is bright, blinds are up and my home is receiving sunlight I am more likely to be happy and when I’m happy, I am more likely to be a fun mom and feel good about myself.
6. Move your body
I don’t work out because I hate my body, I workout because I love my body and the things that it can do. I work out because it makes me feel good. It makes me happy. So often I hear women talk about all of the different reasons that they want to work out but they lack the drive and motivation. If you want something badly enough, you will find time for it, period. I am a mother of 3, I do not work out every day and I do it all at home. Exercise has been a part of me since I was 8, it is engrained in me but that doesn’t mean it is easy every single time. Set your goals and start somewhere.
Focus on your own journey and YOUR own progress. Set realistic goals, that way you won’t feel discouraged. Too often we set our goals and expect immediate results and when results don’t come right away, we give up. Remember that progress is progress no matter how small. Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you miss a day or two or ten, pick up where you ended and tell yourself you’ve got this.
7. Train your brain
That is right, train your brain to be positive. Learn self-love and positive self-talk and I promise you, you will be able to do anything. After I had my first baby I told myself that I was going to run professionally. Insane? Maybe! Doable? Absolutely! I didn’t believe it at first, I would use every excuse in the world before I did something just so I wouldn’t get disappointed. I can’t lose 10 pounds, I can’t start my own company, I can’t run a marathon, I can’t build a home…etc. Change your can’t(s) to “I can and I will put in the work to do it!” Nothing comes easy in this world, but if you are willing to work your butt off then you will be able to achieve whatever it is that you want. Instead of seeing your flaws, try looking in the mirror and complimenting yourself instead.
Deciding that you love yourself is a daily choice. You don’t decide that you love who you are and stay that way without question. You don’t decide that you’re beautiful and then never look in the mirror and feel disappointed again. Offering yourself positive words of encouragement and acceptance is one of the biggest steps towards loving your body and being confident in your own skin. Show your body you are thankful for all it has done for you by not letting it be defined by the number on the scale. Remove the restraints of perfection that you’ve placed on yourself and you will finally feel free. You are beautiful. You are powerful. You are strong. You are worth it. You are enough.