You are the only you, and you have to love that about yourself. No matter what other people say, no matter what you read in magazine articles, no matter what celebrities and super-fit models look like, you are in the body you have right now. You may not like it, at times you may even hate it, but here you are, in this body. There are things you may want to change. Maybe there are even things you should change if they are posing risks to your health. But for now, in this very moment, you are what you are. Since you're here, sort of stuck, you might as well love what you've got!
From what I've seen, it seems that women suffer more from being concerned with their appearances. I'll save you all from a long, draw out analysis taken from the pages of my life when I was in graduate school, studying gender, but I think accepting one's body is more difficult for women because, sadly, a lot of emphasis is put on the female appearance in our society. Though I've studied male behavior as well (spent an entire semester on "The American Male," analyzing Fight Club and masculinity) and I know men suffer from body image problems as well, I must admit that I'm not as in touch with these issues. I'll do the best I can to make this post gender neutral, but there are just some things that women and men deal with differently. There are certain challenges each gender faces...okay, okay, I can see a tangent brewing here...I'm going to stop now before I launch into a recap of my master's thesis and send all of my lovely readers straight to the big red X on their browsers (or red circle, I think, if you are lucky enough to be working on a Mac). Okay, so, regardless of your gender, I think you can really benefit from reading the ABC's below. I know I've learned a lot while writing them!
The ABC's of Loving Yourself
Accept your body.
Sure, there are things you can change, but, for the most part, you've got to work with what you've got. As I said above, you are who you are. You should love yourself no matter what shape or size you are in. You are awesome. You are beautiful. You are YOU. Don't ever forget that!
Be who you are.
Don't forget that your body is not YOU. You are not your body. The essence of you comes from within -- from your mind, your personality, your heart. I often find it hard to remember that I am not what I look like, but, when I do recall this, I know that there is so much more to me than appearance.
Cultivate a health environment.
Put yourself in a healthier place. Keeping fresh fruits and veggies around, eating healthy, and exercising are great ways to love your body (and yourself!). And don't forget about your mental health. Consider meditation to get your mind in a calmer, happier place.
Dive into self love.
Okay, so you're having trouble loving yourself. You look in the mirror and think, "YUCK!" Try looking into self-help books or blogs that encourage positive thinking about life and, more specifically, about body image. Sometimes reading up on loving yourself can really help you put it into action.
Embrace your abilities.
Think about what you do well. Your body is only a part of who you are. You might be a great writer, a great athlete, an amazing parent. No matter what you are, there is more to you than your appearance. Embrace what you're good at and spend more time indulging in these activities.
Forget about comparisons.
Stop comparing yourself to others. No matter what you do, you probably will not ever look like Heidi Klum or Brad Pitt. But that's okay! You are beautiful in your own way and you will always and forever be you. Accept yourself, love yourself, and stop looking to others to see what you "should" look like.
I don't know about you, but when I get in a funk thinking about the way I look or how much weight I've gained, I don't want to do anything. I just want to lay around, watching E!, thinking about how pathetic it is that I've resorted to watching E! Break the cycle. Get off the couch and use that awesome bod!
Even if you're struggling with self-love, don't give up hope. It might be hard right now, but the more effort and time you put into it, the more you will learn to love yourself. Hope is crucial when it comes to learning to love yourself. Believe in your own ability to achieve self-love.
Indulge in what you love.
Don't overdo it, but every so often, let yourself eat or do whatever you wouldn't normally. I'm sure you've read this a million times, but if you completely cut yourself off from something, you're more likely to go nuts the next time it comes along so let yourself indulge every once and awhile.
Join something fun.
Joining a group (or even starting a blog, which feels like joining something) can really help you with your image of yourself. You meet new people. You try new things. And, bonus!, you can have a lot of fun. Being happy in general can make you happier with how you look so check out some groups you can join.
Keep thinking positively.
Ah, my favorite! Keep thinking positively -- no matter what. So you gained 5 pounds. So you got an terrible haircut. So what. Keep thinking positively! No matter how bad you feel about yourself, there is always something good. Focus on the good, the positive, and push the negative from your mind.
Let go of your past.
You were a size two in high school. Sure, that's super, but you're not in high school anymore. Remind yourself that this is where you are now. You may have been something else in the past -- thinner, prettier, more muscular -- but here you are now. In the present. Love who you are right now.
You are the best motivation tool you have. Other people might encourage you, but only YOU can really motivate yourself. Do whatever you have to to remind yourself how great you are. Read books. Get off the couch. Talk to friends. Do whatever you have to to motivate your inner desire for self love.
Never say never.
You're looking in the mirror moaning, "I will never lose this weight." You know what? You're right. With that attitude, you won't make any changes at all. You'll settle, thinking there's no hope, and you'll be unhappy. If you believe you can change something, you can. Never say never.
Open up to new ideas.
Try something different. If you're not in love with your look, try something new. New clothes. New makeup. New workout routine. Experimenting with new things isn't going to solve your body image issues (that comes from within), but you can give yourself a little boost by trying out something new.
Put on your best outfit.
For those of you who read "rainy days and mondays..." you know that sometimes just a change of clothes can change your perspective. Don't stay in sweatpants all day. Don't settle for average or blah or you will feel average and blah. Dress up. Put in the effort and you'll feel a lot better about yourself.
Question your perception.
You look in the mirror. You see ugly, fat, tired. But is that what's really there? As I talked about in my last post, your mind can really distort your thoughts. Sometimes what we see isn't what's really there. Keep the positive thoughts in the forefront. Avoid looking for the bad and try to keep a positive outlook.
Remember what you love.
You hate your stomach, but your love your eyes. You hate your arms, but you love your thighs. Focus on the good parts of you. We often spend so much time obsessing about what we don't like about ourselves that we forget to spend time thinking about what we do love. Make a list of your favorite parts of you.
You are your worst critic. You are judging yourself much, much more harshly than anyone around you is. Stop it. Stop it right now. There is absolutely no good reason to critique yourself in a harsh or demeaning manner. Love yourself and the world will love you too.
Take time for you.
Your body is the only one you have. Take time to pamper yourself. Do whatever you have to do to get some quality alone time. Take a bath. Take a walk. Take a vacation. Whatever you take, take some time to be alone with yourself, to rejuvenate your body (and your mind).
Understand your needs.
What do you really need? What makes your body happy? When you exercise and eat healthy foods, does your body feel better? When you get plenty of rest, do you wake up refreshed? Think about what your body asks for and give it what it needs. The better your body feels, the better you will feel about it.
Vacate your mind.
As Chania Girl mentioned in the comments section of "13 ways you distort your thoughts," sometimes we become prisoners in our own minds. Sometimes we obsess about our looks and our appearance to the point that it's unhealthy. If you're doing this, get out. Get out of your mind and free yourself.
Watch what you say.
Are you always saying to your friends, "Ugh, I'm a fatass" or "This make me look fat"? If so, think about what you're saying. The more negative things you say about yourself, the more you will start to really believe what you're saying (and others might too). Try, just once, saying, "Wow, I look great!"
X-ray your desires.
Think about -- I mean, really think about -- why you want that piece of chocolate cake or that new handbag. Will external things make you feel better? You bet! But the feel-good feelings are only temporary. Lasting happiness comes from within so give some thought to what you really want.
Yank yourself out of your routine.
Routines can be deadly. They set us in patterns that feel old and tired, that make us feel as if we are old and tired. Some routines are good and necessary, but what routines do you have in your life that aren't good? What can you do to change them, to make them more positive experiences?
Zap any negative thoughts.
Last but certainly not least! Getting rid of negative thoughts about yourself and your body is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Whatever you need to do to do this, do it. Read books. Go on a retreat. Get rid of negative people in your life. Whatever you do, be positive about you!
I hope this list was helpful for you. I know that I need to print it out and put it up all over my apartment, to remind myself not to get down about what I look like. If you remember one thing from this post, remember this: what you look like is NOT who you are. You are more than your appearance. Also, know that no matter what someone else looks like, they have body issues too. And, finally (okay, this is turning into three things to remember instead of just one!), know that no matter what you do, you won't necessarily be happier. If you lose twenty pounds, your life won't turn magically into a fairy tale. If you get plastic surgery, men/women won't suddenly be swarming around you (and, if they do, it's probably for the wrong reasons). If you want to be happy with your appearance, you can be. Happiness is a state of mind. Thinking positively about your appearance -- no matter what you look like -- is possible, but it's entirely up to you.
Listening to Lily Allen's "The Fear" yesterday, I was really struck by how hard it is for all of us -- no matter what we look like -- to be happy with our appearances. No matter what weight I am and no matter what I buy to improve my appearance, I still have doubts. I'm pretty sure the most gorgeous people in the world have doubts about their appearances. Perhaps it is human nature to worry about what we look like (and, in some cases, obsess over it), but worrying about my appearance causes unhappiness in my life. Obsessing about what I'm going to wear or what I look like never brings me joy. I might be happy with the finished product when I walk out the door, but it took a lot of work (and over-analyzing) to get there. Whether you love your looks or not, reading the ABC's of loving yourself will help you bring positivity into the way you view your appearance.