It was Christmas Eve, and I had just finished putting on party makeup: heavy black eyeliner with smokey eyeshadow. I put on a strappy velvet dress that shows my naked back. Looking in the mirror, I felt like a million bucks until I turned and noticed a cyst pimple forming.
Cringing heavily, I leaned closer to the mirror, inspecting the bumpy blemish on my shoulder blade. Ewww! Gross! Now I have to wear a sweater all night. Stupid acne. Why can’t my skin be better?
In our judgmental patriarchal culture, it’s challenging for women to feel good about their appearance. We all want to feel beautiful in our skin, yet most women feel dissatisfied with how their bodies look. We’re afraid of judgment and criticism from others and ourselves.
Despite having a culturally-pleasing figure, I have struggled with body love and perfectionism since puberty. I pushed myself to work out and eat well while constantly critiquing my waistline, skin, and imperfections. Additionally, I’ve had recurring tension headaches since 16 years old.
At 27 years old, I can finally embrace every part of my body, including acne, razor burns, stretch marks, bloating, crooked teeth, and long feet. My body houses me and is me, and I am a beautiful being. Now, I eat well and move my body out of love and a desire to be more myself. I embrace my body’s ebb and flow instead of demanding perfection.
Here’s how I cultivate intuitive body love every day:
Use kind words to describe yourself.
Wear authentic, intentional clothes.
Practice body connection daily.
Do moving meditation daily.
Incorporating these practices over the past few months has led to calm, gentle growth. I feel more in tune with my body’s internal needs as opposed to meeting external standards. I recommend focusing on one habit at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself.
Developing intuitive body love helps us have more energy, be more ourselves, and feel whole and alive. With these practices, we can gently and thoughtfully care for and connect with ourselves.
1. Use kind words to describe yourself.
By adjusting my internal dialogue, I feel emotionally safer when I look in the mirror. We need to protect ourselves from emotional abuse—name-calling, belittling, demeaning, or diminishing—including from our inner voices.
We are mostly water, and words strongly impact water crystals. We can heal and expand ourselves with more uplifting stories.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
What is my internal self-commentary when looking in a mirror?
Are my words kind or hurtful?
Would I use these words to describe someone I love?
What words would be more helpful and uplifting?
Now, I use words like “beautiful,” “intelligent,” “strong,” “authentic,” “bright,” and “brave” when looking in the mirror. I notice that I physically feel better, and I feel more empowered to own my whole self.
This practice has also helped me to appreciate my inner being more. We are much more than the sum of our parts; we have beautiful, unique spirits. I see my one-of-a-kind value as opposed to seeing myself as replaceable.
My life coach shared the water crystal study on the impact of words as part of her confidence workshop, and she has very bright personal energy.
Our childhood environments shape our inner voices, and when those places were dysfunctional and judgmental, our inner voice reflects that.
The practice of rewriting our self-talk takes time. Be gentle with yourself. I recommend putting encouraging notes on your wall, such as your strengths, kind compliments, or encouraging quotes.
2. Wear authentic, intentional clothes.
Our clothes strongly impact the way we feel. Choosing clothes that most authentically express our unique personalities helps us to be our boldest selves.
I got into a phase where I was wearing mostly black and navy blue-colored clothes. I rarely wore patterns and prioritized practical, minimal outfits.
Since taking Tan France’s Style masterclass (from Queer Eye), I have developed a new relationship with clothes. He describes clothing as our “vehicle to get what we want.”
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Who do I look up to and want to emulate? Why?
What types of clothes are they wearing?
What colors do I want to wear more?
What outfit did I wear that I completely loved?
What types of patterns do I want to wear more?
What colors or patterns do I not want to wear?
Through these questions, I realized I wanted to be more like Anne Hathaway and Julianne Hough. I love their earthy, elegant, and vibrant energy. I love wearing olive green, bold red, and mustard yellow. I love flower patterns, and I want to wear more silly designs, i.e., animals or fruits.
The basic rules are: know your proportions and wear clothes that you feel good wearing. Why not feel your best every day? Also, tailoring clothes to fit your body can make even the cheapest pieces seem high-end.
Now I lay out outfits the night before based on how I want to feel. Having clothes that make me feel bright, feminine, energetic, and confident makes it easier to show up as my whole self. I dress with love and acceptance for my style, and I even bought socks with avocados on them!
3. Practice body connection daily.
Before connecting with my feminine energy, I did lots of weight lifting and on-and-off jogging. I would develop somewhat bulky muscles, and I often felt self-conscious, only wearing tops that de-emphasized my shoulders.
Now that I prioritize connecting with my body, I do yoga every day. I saw this YouTube video about a young woman who did yoga every day for one year, and she felt more relaxed, physically more solid, and much more creative.
Every day, I commit to doing yoga for at least 10 minutes. Even if I feel low on energy, I can take just 10 minutes to stretch and listen to my body. Our most challenging days help us grow the most, even when we don’t feel like we’re doing much. I think of it as an opportunity for resistance training.
Here are some questions to ask:
What activities help me to feel connected to my body: yoga, dance, meditation, walking, stretching, something else?
How much time could I easily commit to practicing daily?
How could I make this time fun, meaningful, and more sensory? I like to light incense, play music, and open the windows.
What would help me to listen to my body even more? I like to spend the first few moments with my eyes closed and legs crossed, focusing on my breath.
What does my body need today? Sometimes I need more hip-openers, chest-openers, or strength focus.
What does it feel like to be me right now? Sometimes I need to cry or let myself take a more extended meditation because I feel distracted.
I’ve noticed after one month of consistent practice, I feel more energized and more in tune with myself, and I’ve developed beautiful lean muscles. My diet has been a bit cleaner with less snacking, and I lost about 10 pounds. I feel a more profound strength than I noticed from lifting weights.
I use a large floor mat, a meditation cushion, and a foam roller for yoga sessions. All you need is a soft surface. You could use a towel or blanket if you don’t have a yoga mat and substitute a pillow for a meditation cushion.
You can find tons of free yoga tutorials on YouTube for inspiration and some awesome playlists on Spotify. I recommend using the yoga knowledge you already have and prioritize listening to your body and being curious instead of following any specific flow step-by-step.
4. Do moving meditation daily.
I walk each morning for at least 20 minutes, and I’ve noticed an increase in my energy, creativity, and curiosity. My on-and-off jogging routines felt more like a love/hate relationship, about pushing myself.
Walking feels more natural for me, and it’s easier for me to feel in tune with myself and get myself outside to do it. Walking has the added benefit of slowing you down so that you take in more images, the flowers, others’ voices, dogs barking, short conversations, quirky architecture, etc.
Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way, suggests at least 20 minutes of movement. This movement gives us energy, nurtures our creativity, and often helps with problem-solving.
I’ve been taking walks daily for about three months now, and I love it. I feel more at home in my neighborhood, and it’s easier to forget about whatever’s worrying me or even for solutions to pop into my mind.
Look for an activity that you enjoy and that fits into your current routines. You might prefer biking, swimming, or jogging. I like moving meditations in the mornings because I feel more energized for the day. I also often take afternoon or evening walks because it feels so good.
5. Journal daily.
Being authentic is hard, and we sometimes struggle to prioritize our needs. I am a narcissist abuse survivor, and I also have some codependency tendencies. I had difficulty with boundaries and self-worth a lot.
Now, every morning I write morning pages—three stream-of-consciousness pages. I’ve been doing this for about six months, and I feel greater self-awareness and accountability. I am getting to know myself more, and it’s easier for me to own my feelings in relationships or work situations.
You need a notebook, a pen, and about 30 minutes each morning to write. Whatever your preferred writing style, understanding our feelings as part of our feeling bodies helps us be whole. Even when we don’t feel like we’re making progress, journaling can help us rest, which we often need.
Loving ourselves in parts makes us feel fragmented, not whole. Now, when I look at myself naked, I notice my lovely breasts and curvy backside, and I see the parts of me I’ve struggled to accept. I love you. I love you because you are part of me. I feel so grateful to live in this beautiful, healthy body that fully allows me to experience and explore the world.
We are feeling beings, not robots or superhumans. These practices have helped me to intentionally reconnect with one of our most precious gifts: intuition.
Even the most beautiful women struggle with body image issues, and at the end of the day, each body will continue to shift as we age.
It’s time to rewrite the script. It’s time to walk away from people who see us as interchangeable or focus on our flaws. We can step away from the cultural “beauty competition” and support each other.
Love is a verb, and it’s time to take action to love our bodies as they are.