I recently came across a photograph of myself in a bathing suit when I was around 17 or 18 years old. My body language perfectly illustrated the degree of my insecurity as I tried to fold into myself, as if trying to disappear. The scowl directed at the person behind the lens demonstrated my irritation and embarrassment.
As I look at the photograph now, nearly 20 years later, I see something that I didn’t see then. I see a beautiful girl and a beautiful body—not a perfect body defined by media standards—but healthy and perfect enough. Why didn’t I see the beauty then? As I reflect on this, I wonder if, in another 20 years, I’ll look back on some photograph taken of me during this moment, at this stage of my life and think, “Why didn’t I see the beauty then?”
What would it take to accept the fact that you are beautiful right now? To embrace your imperfections and see that they are the attributes that make you uniquely perfect? And why is it so hard to do?
I think part of it is that we’ve been taught not to love our bodies—that it would be arrogant or egotistical to feel love toward ourselves. Yet, wouldn’t we want our sisters, friends, mothers and daughters to feel like its okay to love and accept their bodies? There is only one way to truly teach another person to love themselves, and that is through your own example. In order to teach another person about true self-love, you must live and breathe and embody self-love for yourself. If you truly love yourself and accept your body, then nothing more must be done. The energy of that love will extend beyond you to everyone and everything around you, and it will be felt deeply, in a way that no words or actions could ever express. If you can’t love yourself for you, love yourself for someone you care about.
I know that self-love and acceptance is much easier said than done, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process of reconfiguring your thoughts and perceptions—a process that starts out foreign and uncomfortable, but over time becomes easier, and eventually, a natural part of what you believe in.
Here are three simple suggestions for getting started on learning to love and accept your body:
1. A perfect body is a state of mind. All change is facilitated from the inside out, meaning that you are what you believe in. If you always believe that you still have to… (fill in the blank), before accepting yourself, then you will always feel that way—no matter how many times you succeed in filling in that blank. Start by believing that you are already perfect enough. That simple shift of perception will create an energetic ripple that extends from the inside out to transform everything—including your physical appearance.
2. Tell yourself you’re beautiful. (I know—it’s cheesy, and initially it will feel like you’re merely spouting words without meaning), but make a new habit so that every time you look in the mirror, smile and tell yourself you’re beautiful. You can start out being silly or sarcastic and its okay if you don’t believe it at first, but over time, something will shift and you’ll begin to see that you really are beautiful. If you can’t remember to do it, stick a post-it note to your mirror as a reminder.
3. Think about one thing that you enjoy experiencing through your body—the feeling of soaking in the tub, the pleasure of hugging someone you love, or the exhilaration of pushing your body through exercise—it could be anything. Be grateful that your body offers that experience. The more you practice gratitude for what your body offers you, the more you’ll find to be grateful for.
Forming a new way of seeing and believing takes time and patience, but loving and accepting yourself for you and those you love is well worth the effort.
photo: Margaret Durow