Last night I had the privilege of joining one of my colleagues for a presentation on body image and eating disorders. The presentation was for Residential Advisers living in the freshmen residence halls, so it mainly focused on recognizing the signs of eating disorders and how to intervene using CAREfrontations. At the end though, my colleague led a 10-minute meditation focused on self-love and body acceptance. While our eyes were closed (and as I was trying my hardest not to lie down and fall asleep) he told us to silently tell ourselves 5 positive things about our body. He then proceeded to say, “It’s okay to like yourself”. After, we discussed how much easier it would have been to say 5 things we didn’t like or wanted to change about our bodies.
Let’s all say it again, “It’s okay to like (even love) yourself.” My brain stopped going at a million miles per minute after he said this, and I just sat there dumbfounded. The silence in the room made it seem like everyone else felt that way too. Let’s just say it was a drop the mic moment. How often are we actually encouraged to like ourselves rather than constantly search for something to change or improve upon? When’s the last time you thanked your body for something it did (maybe even just getting you through the day) instead of wishing something was different about your body? I’ll be the first to admit that my default is the latter. I have to actively try to turn off the negative body talk switch in my brain. It’s not easy and I’m not always successful with it, but I’m aware of it and that’s a step in the right direction.
I don’t believe, in our culture at least, we are taught to like our bodies. Yes, I’ve come across plenty of people that are overly confident in themselves, but that does not necessarily mean they like (or even love) their bodies. The diet industry and the media are constantly reminding us that we could be better. We could be stronger, thinner, faster…whatever the latest fad is. What would happen if a company released a “learn to love your body in 30 days” plan instead of a “get shredded in 30 days” plan? I’m sure this has probably happened, but it didn’t catch on like fad diets do because loving yourself is so much harder than trying to change yourself. It’s simply not encouraged or supported in society. I once read a quote that said, “If you talked to your friends the way you talk to your body, would you have any friends left?” As a teenager constantly being sent messages about how my body should look, this really hit home for me.
I’ll be the first to admit that self-improvement and change are great. In fact, I crave self-improvement and actively seek it out. However, there needs to be a balance. It’s essential that we are still kind to ourselves and express gratitude for what we are now, in this moment. It’s still crucial to like (even love) ourselves while we are pursuing change. It’s a fine line to walk and can be very difficult. For some it’s very easy, but I would guess it takes frequent reminders and work for most people. A simple post-it note on your mirror with a positive affirmation can keep you from engaging in negative self-talk and boost your mood instead. I recently downloaded an app called Productive that helps you develop daily habits. I downloaded it to help me develop the habit of flossing my teeth (yes, I’m still working on that). After the presentation though, I added a daily habit in the morning and the evening to tell myself something I like about myself. It’s only been one day with this reminder, but it was extremely refreshing to take a few moments this morning to say something nice to myself and helped set my mood for the day.
I challenge you to tell yourself 5 things you like (even love) about your body. Then focus on you, as a person. What do you like about yourself? Say it out loud. Just be kind to yourself, because you have the ability to be your biggest fan.
If you tried the exercise and feel comfortable sharing, I would love to hear what it was like for you below!