From a young age, boys and girls are told what they’re supposed to look like. What clothing size is small enough but not too small, what percentage of their body weight should be muscle instead of fat, the list can go on seemingly forever. The messages that society imparts upon us as children will strengthen the beliefs we have as adults. By the time we reach adulthood our inner critic can be especially loud when it comes to criticizing our bodies.
Practicing these five steps can help you silence your inner critic and extend compassion over your body.
1. Practice gratitude
When viewing your body, your immediate reaction is to focus solely on its physical appearance; but your body is not a mannequin. Your body carries your soul, it allows you to engage in movement, and it gets you where you need to go. Next time you look in the mirror, try thanking your body for what it does instead of critiquing it for what it looks like. Thank your legs for their ability to go on walks with your dog; thank your arms for being able to hold your children, siblings, nieces, and nephews; extend gratitude to your ears and your nose for being able to see and to smell. Practicing gratitude for your body is the first step towards being able to love it.
2. Make a list of the body parts that you DO like
Bad body image is something that almost all of us struggle with, but more often than not there are at least a couple of things we do like about our body. Find your favorite body parts and focus on what you like about them. It doesn’t matter what parts they are – they can be as small as your eyelashes or your toes. When you look in the mirror, express your appreciation for those body parts and slowly add to the list.
3. You cannot love your body while trying to change it
Understanding that it’s impossible to love the body you live in while simultaneously trying to change it, is crucial in developing a healthy relationship with it. Stop fad dieting, continually weighing yourself, and body checking. When you listen to your body by honoring its hunger and fullness cues, your body weight will stabilize where it needs to. Appreciate your body throughout this entire process – your body doesn’t only deserve to be loved once it looks a certain way.
4. Wear comfortable clothing
Just as society tries telling us what our bodies are supposed to look like, it tries to tell us what we should dress them in as well. Instead of wearing the latest trends, wear what you feel comfortable in. If you feel like dressing up, then dress up, if you feel like wearing leggings and a sweatshirt, wear those instead. Rid your closet of clothing articles that you feel uncomfortable in because if you don’t feel physically comfortable, you won’t feel emotionally or mentally comfortable either.
5. Engage in joyful movement
It’s a common misconception that people who are the most physically fit are the healthiest. Health doesn’t depend on how many miles you run, or days of the week you go to the gym. In fact, many of us despise formal gym workouts so, to our bodies, they feel like a punishment. Punishing your body is a surefire way to make it an enemy instead of a friend. Next time you exercise, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Exercise because you want to move and connect with your body, not because you want to change it. Find a physical activity that you enjoy – hiking, yoga, walking to the coffee shop, taking a dance class, etc. They are all wonderful forms of exercise.
Befriending your body isn’t something that happens overnight; frequently practicing these steps take work but are well worth the effort!
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