If you’re reading this, you probably struggle with body image issues. Maybe you’re dissatisfied with your current weight or muscle tone. Maybe you flat-out hate your thighs, or your knees, or your wrinkles, or the whole shebang. And one thing I know you all have in common is that probably, somewhere along the way, in a quest to heal, you’ve come across the phrase “love your body”.
Perhaps it issued from the mouth of a young, smooth-skinned, impossibly fit yoga teacher. She cooed it in sugary tones at the beginning of a class while you were looking in the mirror and sucking in your stomach.
Or perhaps you found it in the pages of a self-help book. Or saw it in a TED talk.
Whatever form the message arrived in, it made you cringe. You tried to implement it, but it felt disingenuous. And, quite possibly, it made you feel even worse about your body.
When you feel really badly about something – say, your body – when someone shines a bright light on it, all it does is illuminate the depths of its darkness. There’s too great a disconnect between how terrible you feel and how positive the message is. It doesn’t sink in. (This is why positive thinking doesn’t work long-term).
Would you tell someone who is dying a painful death and grieving the loss of their life, “Everything happens for a reason! Enjoy the last few days of your life, because life is a precious gift, and then you’re going to Heaven/be reincarnated/back to God!”?
No. That would be really misattuned, right?
They wouldn’t suddenly leap up, a glow in their faces, and say “Wow, you’re right! I never thought of that! I feel fantastic now!”
So, when my clients tell me that they’re unhappy with their bodies, I meet them where they are. I guide them into feeling their feelings of shame and anger. There’s usually a lot of emotional pain there, and it’s not just related to their bodies, but about how they were treated based on their appearance, and what their appearance means to them. These feelings get stored up like toxins in the body, and it’s crucial to release them (like a detox).
At the same time, as we work on areas of health like nutrition and movement, my clients begin to view their bodies with occasional respect (if not affection). They start to experience what happens when they treat their bodies well – they become stronger! They have more energy!
They also learn how to turn to their body for crucial information, and to trust its wisdom. They hone their ability to use their body to guide their choices in life – whether choosing what to eat for dinner, what job to take, or who to date. Relying on the body this way develops a true bond of trust. It’s hard to hate someone who’s helping you out so much.
Eventually, they may get to a place where they can experience gratitude for a certain part of their body.
And over time, many people are able to have genuine affection, and even love, for their body.
This does NOT happen from me demanding “love your body!”. In fact, it’s not anything that anyone else can demand of you. It happens when you meet yourself where you truly are and gently move towards a relationship with your body, stopping frequently to honor the occasional “I hate my body!”s and “I hate this!”s and “I’ll never change!”s. Because guess what – if you give it enough time and care, and find the right guide, you can get to a place where your body is your friend. I know, because I did.