We do it all the time. I mean… a lot.
We do it in the morning when we stare into the mirror, carefully assessing which eyebrow is, as the youths call it, “on fleek.” We do it just as we’re about to bite into that mouth-watering burger at lunch, eyes already half-glazed, right as we hear a coworker explain how she doesn’t have even the slightest craving for indulgences anymore now that she’s on her new diet. We do it every time (multiple times if we’re being honest) that we take a selfie. Sometimes we do it out loud, casually playing it off as a passive aggressive joke. Other times, we do it silently, usually saving the harshest ones for our own little inner dialogues.
We compete. We compare. And we criticize. Who? Ourselves, mostly. Think about it: when you look in the mirror, what’s the first thing you see? Is it the cute little dimple that forms in your right cheek when you smile or the colony of blemishes that seem to have made a permanent residence on that same cheek? And tell me, as you’re looking in the mirror, are you smiling or frowning? Studies show that the longer we look in the mirror, the more negative and demeaning our thoughts become. This constant self-criticism we willingly subject ourselves to (we’re masochistic little beings, aren’t we?) doesn’t just happen when we’re alone. We walk by someone on the street and immediately compare ourselves to him or her; and the worst part is, it comes as naturally to us as wearing crop tops comes to Taylor Swift.
These are just the tamest of examples; we’re in the wading pool of negative self-talk right now. The deeper we go, the crueler the insults get.
We’re told to love our bodies…so how do we do that? I think it starts with the very blunt realization that we, my friends, are bullies. Yup, I said it. It’s not something we like to admit (you may even be shaking your head right now saying “me?! A bully. What? No…crazy talk, all of it”), but the way we treat our own bodies conjures up no more accurate a word (with the exception of “abusive,” but we like to acknowledge that word even less than bully). I’ve just thrown a bomb at you, I know, but I promise that there’s a way we can stop bullying our bodies and learn not simply to accept them, but fully love them.
Your body’s sole purpose in life is to keep you alive and thriving, do you realize that? YOU are your body’s biggest fan, its idol, and its one true love. Your body is always making sure your lungs keep pumping oxygen and your heart keeps beating while you sleep, and it comes up with the most fantastic dreams to keep you entertained while you do, always trying to make sure you wake up with a smile on your beloved face. It stops your cuts from bleeding and dedicates itself to repairing you. Your body is a fixer – mending broken bones, bruised muscles, and sore ankles with the gentle kindness that your grandmama used when you’d fall and scrape your knee. Like a doting mother, it constantly watches over you, all the while fighting off any illnesses or maladies that might get you. Your body literally loves you so much. Isn’t it time you start loving it back?
It’s definitely time we start cutting it some slack. It’s doing all these amazingly complex things to keep us alive, and what do we do in return? Insult the very curves that keep our organs cozy and our bodies warm. Laugh at the facial features that our bodies worked so hard to mold together, like a potter lovingly crafting her precious work. Begrudge the very stomach that sustains us with the nutrients needed to laugh, cry, dance, and express our love to others (but ignore ourselves). It’s time to start treating our bodies with the TLC it gives to us. Maybe that means viewing our bodies the way we view a puppy, with adoring gazes and full hearts, like it’s the most precious creature in the world; everything it does is automatically cute. After being kept inside all day, exerting self-discipline and concentration, our bodies deserve to be let out to frolic and play too. Maybe reciprocating our body’s love means a relaxing bubble bath, complete with flickering candles, soft music, and a foaming bath bomb (I’m convinced that watching a bath bomb fizzle into a colorful array of swirls is one of life’s basic joys). Maybe it means treating ourselves to a much-needed massage, a dress that fits like a glove, or a brownie sundae. Or even that mouth-watering burger your coworker made you think twice about.
If these hypothetical alternatives don’t seem pragmatic enough to you, here are some practical steps for loving your body:
• Create a list of all the things your body does for you. Appreciate its worth! Keep it and add to it regularly.
• Before you go to bed each night, thank your body for its work that day and treat it to some much-deserved R & R as you sleep.
• Find a type of exercise that you enjoy – don’t do it to lose weight; do it keep your body energized, healthy, and strong. Remember, losing weight only makes you lighter. It doesn’t make you kinder, smarter, more compassionate, or a better friend.
• Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself (or make two—one that includes physical features and one that does not).
• Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in and that express your personal style.
• Tell yourself how cute you are. Go ahead, do it. It’s true and you deserve to hear it. Be a friend and supporter of your body, not its enemy.
We hear it all the time – we’re our biggest critics. And despite the rise of various “love your body” movements that promote confidence and positive self-image, we still judge ourselves so harshly, and to what benefit? Does it make us happier? Does it motivate us? The biggest mistake is thinking that it does. So I’ll say it again, your body literally loves you so much. Isn’t time you love it back?