As women, we know mirrors.
I feel as if I’ve spent a decade aware of reflective surfaces. I seek them out in restaurants, city streets, parking lots.
When I find them, I often retreat with that sensation we, as women–and we, as men–know too well: a mixture of relief, indifference, hope, and mild despair. I know this sensation is likely to change in small ways in the coming years; but for many of us, it doesn’t.
We all have bodies. But many of us are also chasing a question that comes with that body: how do we love it, and how do we know when we are really loving it?
For one thing, body love does not start with a mirror or glassy surface. For another, body love is unique to each person, each heart, each, well–body.
But it is also possible. That’s what these words are about: to show you that.
Look past the numbers, to the best of your ability.
Yes, this may feel trite. It may even feel offensive, particularly to individuals who struggle with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, or obesity.
I should know, because I waged a battle with anorexia nervosa for a good seven years of my life (and it still shows its old fangs every now and then).
Yet numbers try to suffocate so many good, unquantifiable things in our lives. Food, for example, or success. Love lives and beauty. I find that whenever I live my life by numbers, it starts to feel meaner and less possible.
However you can, begin the long journey of detaching digits from your body image. Throw out the scale–I’m serious. I did this, and it was wildly helpful.
Realize, as I did, that your size may vary simply by brand (I’m anywhere from a 2 to a 12 on any given day, for example), not by your own fluctuations in weight. And that these numbers are meaningless (or just marketing tools).
And, if you can, let go of the calorie counting. Science show it–along with many other dieting myths–can be more damaging than helpful.
You are never a number. You are flesh and blood and powerful bone. Don’t forget this.
Jam out to something naked.
Nothing lets you sink into the true fleshly weight and beauty of yourself like a good naked jam-out session. I’m serious.
Put on your favorite song. Take your clothes off. Jump and wiggle and writhe.
It’s okay if you jiggle (who doesn’t?). Do it in front of a mirror if you want, or without. Feel what it’s like to move in the body that is distinctly and wonderfully yours.
Flip your perspective.
Instead of staring at yourself in the mirror as you always do, and instead of launching into the same inner dialogue, change your perspective.
Stare at a different part of yourself–get up close and personal with the mirror so that all you can see is your elbow, the curve of your hip, a toe, a nostril.
Stare at the part, not the whole. Lose yourself in the part. Look at it as if you are looking at it for the first time. You’ll start to see an entirely new you–you’ll step out of the old perspective.
Every time you approach a mirror–or any other object that triggers any negative feelings about your body–try to approach it in a different way than you normally do.
(You may even learn something about yourself in the process.)
Recognize what influences your body image.
One way to flip your perspective is to identify what influences your body image itself. Media? Facebook? Those glossy magazine racks in the grocery store? Your mother? Your job?
Note whether these influences are positive or negative. Make sure you have a bit of both.
For example, I know that happiness with my own creative passions can influence my body image, in a good way. Same with wearing clothes that actually fit me (and show off what I’ve got).
I also know that social media, particularly Instagram, can challenge any positive relationship I may have with my own skin. It’s a dangerous thing.
Simply recognizing these influencers is enough, for now. Later you can go through the work of listening to the right ones.
Respond with love when your impulse is to hate.
For every negative comment that surfaces in your mind when you visit a mirror or scroll through Instagram, challenge it with a loving thought.
Work hard at this. Work really, really hard. Love always conquers hate. Always. Trust me.
Wear clothes that really flatter you.
It took me some time to embrace this point. I resisted the idea that clothes alone could determine my perspective of my body.
However, given the fact that it still snows where I live…and we have yet to advance to nudist society, clothes are highly necessary.
Wear ones that really flatter you. If you aren’t sure what flatters you, check in with a friend, a partner, someone you trust. Identify those aspects of yourself that you find beautiful and accentuate them accordingly.
These aspects can be small. Your eyes, for example. Or your feet. But when you get to pay attention to these parts of you that deserve attention, the love may just follow.
Realize that body love has to come from you–not from others.
You can lean on others to walk the path to body love, but you cannot make them responsible in the end. It has to come from you, gorgeous.
Self-care, self-care, self-care.
We care for the things we love. Cultivate body love by stepping into some serious self-care.
Yes, this can mean mental care, too. Massaging those thought engines can pave the way for positive thinking, which can influence confidence and body perception.
Indulge in some meditation, a counseling session, or positive visualization.
Or give your body the gift of extra sleep, a long bath, nourishing food. Setting the standard for care can set the standard for the love you crave.
Because, why not? You don’t need a runway. Your living room will do. Perfect your walk, feel your hips sway, pose for those photographers.
Do this when you don’t feel like moving. Do this when you hate mirrors. At the very least, it will make you smile.
Eventually it will make you glow.