I didn’t grow up loving my body. In fact, I would go so far as saying I hated it for most of my life because I didn’t understand it. There is a picture of me at maybe 7 years old and I didn’t like my legs because I thought they had a funny shape. Years later I would reflect back on that picture and see that innocent little girl, who was full of life, but not really comfortable with her body. At that age, I didn’t think about loving myself because I was busy being a kid, but I knew that picture bugged me. There’s also another picture of me in pre-school and I was wearing my favorite outfit, hair was done, and I was laughing…I was genuinely and fully happy. In both pictures I remember being happy, though, despite my feelings toward the images.
So what happened after those pictures where I decided that something was wrong with my body? We don’t think about our bodies until we start to hear and see things different from us. We start to compare ourselves to our friends and what we see on TV and then somehow something goes awry.
All of a sudden we have flaws and we become uncomfortable in our skin.
Puberty doesn’t exactly help either. We all develop and have body things happen at different rates and times and no one knows how to deal with it. So, we tease and taunt and judge. I went through puberty early and it was a total and complete mess of a time. I was teased and bullied for a variety of reasons, which contributed to the confusion.
Until that point, we’re influenced by our families and know that we want to feel loved and accepted by others. We’ll do whatever it takes for that to happen because all we know is conditional love, whether we know it or not. We see others and compare. We seek external approval and do what gets us that good feeling because that’s what society tells us to do.
If there’s anything different or seemingly out of place we push against it because we could be made wrong for it (whether or not we have control over it). Enter bullying, body shaming and dysmorphia, eating disorders or worse. We want so desperately to fit into something that underneath the surface is broken and false. Our own internal radar gets suppressed and diminished in the process, where sometimes we can’t recover.
Many of us don’t grow up seeing images of ourselves in the media and information we consume, so we think we’re wrong or don’t belong. I have this from multiple angles internally and externally. I’m from a bi-racial family, so there were several things about belonging and fitting in that added to my complexity. My skin didn’t look the same, nor did my hair, nor did my words or experiences. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere because I didn’t share a lot of the things “we’re supposed to” share. I didn't understand this impact until later in life. It caused me to shut down my natural feelings and intuition, be more observant, become a chameleon and do what I could to fit in even though I stood out.
When you’re constantly wondering what others think and how to fit in and questioning why you’re different, you don’t have time to love and appreciate who and what you are. Now, looking back on all of this, I didn’t know better. I see that and am okay with it. Today I know that I don’t have to “fit in” to a particular category or box. My job is to be the best me I can each day, showing up authentically and as comfortable in my skin as possible (which is still difficult on some days). But how do we get to the point where we shift the mindset from “what’s wrong with me, why don’t I fit in?” to “I’m comfortable with me and that’s what matters most”?
I think it boils down to acceptance and understanding, then from there we can have love and compassion. Then we can extend ourselves some grace and then ultimately love. When we have love we can switch to gratitude. Gratitude for our experience, for getting through it and becoming who we’ve been as a result, then finally thanking our bodies for being there the entire time. Through the judgements, abuse, fear, and labels our bodies have been there to carry us.
One of the main teachings from the book A Course in Miracles is there are 2 spaces to operate from: love or fear. I think when we come from the perspective of fitting in, we’re coming from fear. Fear of not fitting in, not being enough, doing something wrong, being too big or small and so on. When we’re judging ourselves or others we are coming from this place as well. We are lacking, wrong and therefore we need to make up for it in some capacity. We cannot see the good from here.
When we come from the perspective of love, we see that these previous thoughts are not only irrelevant, they have no place in our existence. When we come from a place of love for ourselves, bodies, experience we are able to appreciate everything that got us to today. We’re able to see the strength, grit, beauty, perseverance, opportunities, lessons, and ultimately grow. And you know what? We are love in its purest form. You at your core are love and magic. We just need to peel a few layers back to remember.
That’s a pill to swallow, huh? Don’t worry, I’m still working on this one myself. I know I’m magical and do magical things all the time, but the love part gets me. I’m a nice person and do my best to help myself and others as much as possible, but I don’t always consider myself as love. Maybe we can work on that one together. But what I will tell you, when you find those moments to remember your core, not only will you feel better but life will flow with more ease. You’ll think, act, and carry yourself differently. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and try.
So how do we get back to that????
Do you really know what brings you joy? Like what are the things that make you genuinely smile and happy. I know I didn’t understand what these things were for me because I had catered to others for so long, I lost my own magic. When we’re so busy with family, life, work, obligations etc it can be hard to know/remember what lights us up. This is one of the keys to getting back to your body and to a place where you can say you love your body. Finding your own joy. Here are a few more:
Release the need to compare - Simply stop it. You have more important things to do than to sit and compare yourself to others or wonder what they’re thinking of you. You are reclaiming your magic and in order to do that you need to know yourself and what makes you tick. So that means staying in your lane and getting to know yourself. Knowing who you are, what you like, what you’re good at are all important for this journey and have nothing to do with others. You may even want to look at where this desire to compare comes from. If it’s a learned behavior, consider giving it back to the person who planted that seed (figuratively, not literally) and reclaim your agency as an adult and powerful being.
There’s a wonderful (and someone painful) exercise I love doing called the mirror exercise where you stand naked in front of a mirror and view yourself. You ask what you like/dislike about your body and where these thoughts come from. When you get to the bottom of this and can release it, there’s a level of freedom and acceptance that no one will ever be able to take away from you. And if you can’t do full body, just look at your face in the mirror and talk to who you see looking back.
Increase gratitude - I vividly remember my darkest and lowest days. I know that I had many horrible thoughts about my body as a result. I also know that I didn’t know any better and that I’m not in that place anymore. For that, I give my body gratitude for putting up with me and my mindset, but also for showing me the way to release and shift that which needed to change. I give gratitude for where I am today because there’s been so much growth. So where can you be grateful for your body and how you’ve gotten to today? Can you find one thing each day where you can say “thank you body” even if it’s to celebrate not being where you were 6 months or 2 years ago. Reflect and see the good (by staying in your lane and not comparing your journey to others) and you’ll see that your body will respond.
Get clear on your operating system - When that little voice gets going, do you know where it is coming from? Is it on autopilot with negative thoughts and judgments or is it clear and objective? When we take a minute to understand where we’re coming from, it can help us think differently about our bodies and make different decisions. One way to do this is using the love/fear perspective I used above and ask “where am I coming from right now? If I were operating from a place of love I would…and from a place of fear I would…” With this perspective, you can understand what’s driving thoughts about your body and even with life in general. This evaluation can be eye opening when you do it, so be ready for a surprise and don’t be afraid to ask questions to unpack what comes up.
Give your body a voice - Ask your body what it wants to feel good. This can be for food, clothing, exercise, or an activity. I used to work with a coach who encouraged people to ask “what would magic look like today?” when picking their clothes for work each day. Going through the day with that tone puts a little more pep in your step, huh? If we did this more often, tapping into our intuition and seeing what our bodies want to feel good, would our day change? Would the relationship with our body shift?
Care for your body - Now that you’re able to examine what you like and dislike, with clarity on your motivations and why they exist, you can actually do more of what you love. Ask your body what it wants to feel good and do that. Find ways to incorporate this into your routine whether it’s a daily walk, quiet time to meditate, getting a massage, painting, cooking a good meal each week or anything really. But the key to this is knowing what really makes you feel good and making a point to do those things regularly. Schedule it in and hold that boundary.
So, this turned into more of a mindset thing and coming back to our true nature type of thing. Didn’t see that coming did you? What I’ve discovered on my journey is there has been so much unwinding and re-programming that I’ve had to do so I can learn who I am and what I’m about. The thoughts I used to have about my body are long gone because I see that it’s been supporting me this whole time. I had so many external forces influencing my thoughts and perceptions of myself and because of it, couldn’t see what was underneath. But, it’s okay. I walked through this so I can help others like you uncover your own magic and get back to who you came here to be. If any of this resonates at all, let me know! Shoot me a note at email@example.com to let me know your body love journey or schedule a Discovery call at this link so we can get you support to move along if that’s what you need.