This article is part of the “Re-Imaging Body Image” series. For Part 1, click here.
How many people do you know that really truly love their bodies?
From what I’ve gathered in research and conversation, there aren’t that many, even though everyone I’ve talked to WANTS to love their bodies and have complete confidence in themselves.
As we talked about last week, positive body image is not the answer. Repeating affirmations and trying to override your thoughts is not the answer.
So what is the answer? How DO you actually feel at home in your body?
What does it mean to exit the conversation around body image and re-define your relationship with your body and yourself?
Being deeply connected to your body is not just about loving how she looks or judging your worth based on the performance of your body.
Loving your body is not a complicated program. It doesn’t require any equipment or a long list of steps. It also isn’t just “deciding” to love your body (that’s not going to work if there is any part of you that doesn’t believe it).
The way to loving your body starts with re-orienting your relationship with her.
It’s a willingness to choose something beyond body image alone and to open up a new conversation around embodiment and self-expression. It’s an acknowledgement of where you are and understanding a bit of how you got there, so that you can choose to either remain on that path, or start to make some different choices.
Here’s the thing- loving your body is a practice, not a destination. It’s not somewhere you arrive at after eradicating all of your insecurities, getting healthier, or achieving a specific goal.
The secret to loving your body is presence.
It’s a deep awareness in any given moment of who you are being in and with your body. And I’m going to share with you on a really practical level what that can look and feel like for you starting today.
Beyond image and into awareness: Deconstructing your current relationship with your body.
The desire of so many women I know is to feel fully at home in their bodies and in themselves. And to get there, first you have to acknowledge where you are at. For some that means facing yourself in the mirror (both literally and figuratively) and creating a clear understanding of where you currently are in your relationship with your body and yourself.
There is a bit of an undoing process before jumping straight to the love.
Remember from part 1, even if you pile a bunch of love and positivity on top of all your current beliefs and habits, they will still be laying there in the foundations of your experience.
Which means it’s time to dig into those foundations and learn what your experience is truly built on.
So how do you do this?
Awareness, baby. It’s time to spy on yourself and get clear on all things related to your body- your thoughts and judgements about her, your emotions around her, the way you feel about her appearance and her functionality, any and all things around food and exercise and clothing, how other people react to her, your confidence level in various situations- to name a few.
Without awareness and presence, it’s super easy to fall back into old patterns and routines, seeking out information to fix you, looking for the magic pill, adopting the latest trends and beliefs around bodies, getting stuck in patterns of emotional eating, etc. etc. because those patterns are currently running programs at a foundational level.
Awareness gives you clarity on what your foundations actually look like, where you get triggered and jump into your cycles, and how to determine what is really true in that moment and what is simply a story or program.
When you are able to break down at the foundational level what is, what’s working, and what isn’t, that is the space from which you can redefine and reorient your relationship with your body.
Foundational Awareness- How to spy on your patterns
This is something I am continually doing and having my clients do – every time a pattern comes up, it’s one thing to be aware of it and another to actually change it.
This is where presence comes in. To be aware means to actually realize what’s happening in your brain and body and experience at any given moment.
To get present, pause whatever you are doing and take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel your feet on the ground. Place your hands somewhere on your body. Check in with where you are at in that moment by scanning your body, noticing your breath, and any thoughts or emotions that are arising.
Check in continuously, bringing yourself into the present throughout each day. And check in with the following:
What are you consuming?
First things first- what are you letting into your experience?
What ads or Instagram accounts are you looking at?
When you look in the mirror or put food in your mouth, what thoughts are automatic in your mind?
The words you say to yourself, the words other people say, the kinds of conversations you are having- all of these play in to how you experience yourself and your body.
I can’t even count how many brunches or dinners I’ve been at with women (my former self included) justifying and explaining what they are ordering because of how hard they worked out or because they didn’t eat dinner the night before.
This need to justify stems from cultivating a socially acceptable image, and to appease fears of judgement from other people. Notice if you instigate a conversation like this, or if someone else says something, and start to build up that awareness of how often bodies come up in conversation either directly or offhandedly.
Notice where you judge yourself and others as good or bad, right or wrong, worthy or not worthy.
When thoughts or experiences catch your attention pause, breathe and ground, and check in- what is the thought and judgement here? What do I believe about this moment?
This step is simply about gathering evidence, not about changing your thoughts or experience yet. Just notice- what patterns show up? Are there certain areas of your body or things you eat or a particular person’s Facebook posts that bring up certain patterns or judgements?
As you gather evidence around the way you relate to your body and the thoughts and emotions you have, patterns may start to emerge, along with the opportunity to ask yourself where they came from in the first place. Where did you first learn that you needed to justify what you eat? Who told you a 6-pack was the key to happiness?
Common areas to get really clear around are your beliefs and experiences around food, exercise, clothing, body shape, and comparing yourself to others.
Next: Create your filters
The next step is to start to create some filters. Of the thoughts and judgements and emotions you noticed and experienced, which ones felt affirming and expansive, and which ones felt contracting and negative?
Once you build awareness you begin to have choices.
If there is an Instagram account that is feeding into your body insecurities, you can choose to keep following or not.
The next time someone opens a conversation inviting judgement around her body, you can choose to engage or not.
When you look in the mirror and notice your thoughts turning negative, you can choose to pause and breathe and remind yourself where that thought pattern ends up.
When the thoughts start to come in, this is where you can interrupt the pattern.
Unsubscribe from anything feeding into disconnection from your body.
When the voices and thoughts come in, ask yourself “who actually said that?”
This can feel disorienting at times. The foundations you are operating from have been built up over your entire life. Not engaging in thoughts or conversations that used to be normal can feel really strange.
And that’s okay. Next week we are going to get into how to deal with those voices. For now, observe and pause.
It’s all about choice. The secret to changing your relationship with your body, to loving your body, is to clear out everything that is not that true for you in this moment.
From the space of awareness, you can actually be equipped to make new choices, choices that will help to align your body and soul and allow you to express the sassy and magical goddess you are- not just your projected image, but the totality of your body and who you are.