Something about this spoke to me today. I don’t know what it is, but I have this strange feeling in my heart that somebody could really benefit today from what I am about to write. This is something that I have never felt before, but something that I feel I must share.
As a person who has body image issues, I know all too well the damage that it can cause not only from a physical standpoint, but from a psychological standpoint as well.
There are times when I have looked at myself in the mirror (and sometimes I still do) and struggle to like, respect, or even love the person who is staring back at me. I would grab the skin on the front of my stomach, then on the sides of my stomach, and would wonder how much longer I needed to starve myself in order to get rid of the fat that I was feeling.
No matter what I did, no matter how little I ate or how much I exercised, I felt fat. That thought of me being fat transpired into self-hatred. I would tell myself that only once I could see my abs would I then start to love myself.
Every time that I would put myself down or grab the tiniest amount of fat that I had remaining on my body, a part of me felt as if I was dying on the inside. I knew that this wasn’t how life was supposed to be lived, and it definitely wasn’t how I wanted to live the rest of my life. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the negative criticism that was swirling around in my mind.
When it comes to the health and fitness industry, we are told that things such as “You just have to want it more. You have to be motivated. You have to try harder, work harder, be better, prove to others that you have what it takes.”
I took this to heart. I found myself eating out of Tupperware containers for months on end, purging or exercising endlessly every time that I awarded myself with something pleasurable, and would never let my mind be satisfied with the person I was or the body I was living in. Inside my mind, I told myself that I needed to be perfect and wasn’t willing to stop until I was.
Perhaps to some, it may sound silly or lunatic to understand what I am talking about. If so, then consider yourself fortunate. There are many others out there like me who will tell you that when you hate your body, you feel trapped inside your own mind and don’t know if you will ever be able to escape. Until you actually go through the pain, it’s difficult to comprehend how damaging it will feel.
Why We Learn To Hate Our Bodies
Nobody is born hating their bodies or hating themselves for their weaknesses. These are all beliefs that we learn and develop over the course of our lives. Low and behold, that feeling stems from nothing other than the comparison game that we play with ourselves. That is why Theodore Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
When you hate your body, it’s because you are comparing how you currently look to how you think you need to look. Either that or you are comparing yourself to how the world around you tells you how you should look. You begin to focus on every little flaw you have and compare it to those who you admire the most.
We open social media and are flooded with images of models on the front page of an article and think that we need to look that way in order to be praised or to feel good about ourselves. We listen to those around us who tell us that we are fat and that because of the extra weight we are carrying, we simply aren’t good enough or deserving enough. And lastly, we listen to the dieting industry who tells us that if we want to feel happy, then we need to lose weight and starve ourselves.
While exercising and a healthy diet can help lead to a healthier and happier life, it can also lead to a more negative and miserable life as well. That’s what it did for me. I used to listen to those who told me I was fat. After dieting and exercising endlessly, I became too skinny. While my appearance on the outside had changed, the emotions that I felt on the inside stayed the same. In fact, they probably worsened.
With everything that we do, there needs to be a healthy balance. But it’s important to find the balance that is going to suit your life. Don’t allow the judgment and negativity of others to cast a shadow on how you live your life. Be you, be proud of the individual that you are, and love yourself for not only your strengths, but for your weaknesses as well. They are what make you who you are, and being you is your greatest strength.
How to Start Accepting Your Body
One of the things that I started to do was to practice self-compassion and kindness on a daily basis. It sounds like something that you would teach children, but when you have your body and think you need to fix it, your mind is in such a negative space mentally that you need to retrain your mindset and basically start from scratch.
Just doing something kind for yourself or learning to enjoy the person you already are does really end up being one of the most important things to do when you have your body and have struggled with weight and food issues for a long time. It’s also one of the hardest things that I have had to teach myself how to do.
When I first started to make this a practice in my daily life, I struggled miserably. I hated every aspect of the person that I was. I was ashamed of every single thing about me, and didn’t truly believe that I deserved to live a meaningful life. On the outside, I hated my body, and on the inside, I hated my mind. But I knew that if I ever wanted to change the way I felt about myself, then I needed to change the way I saw myself.
I started posting positive affirmations all around me to help me find a sense of happiness and joy every time the negative thoughts started to creep into my mind. They were posted on my bathroom mirror, on my desk at work, on the background of my phone and computer, really anywhere I spent a good majority of my day.
So far, it has worked. Has it perfected things? Definitely not. Every day brings new challenges, but I love myself today more than I ever have, and it’s largely due to the fact that I have surrounded my space with positive reinforcements.
We believe the things we tell ourselves. If we are surrounding ourselves with negative thoughts and telling ourselves that we’re worthless, unlovable, or a failure, then we will start to believe those things to be true. Not long after we start to believe them, they become our sole focus and part of our identity. We lose all sense of worth and accomplishment until we achieve the exact image we have for ourselves and for our lives.
You think the thoughts that you surround yourself with the most, so if you want to overcome your negative thought patterns, then you should surround yourself with as many uplifting and inspirational thoughts as you possibly can.
Letting Go of Comparisons
Whatever you do, NEVER compare yourself to others. Don’t compare your job, don’t compare your life, and don’t compare your body. I know… it’s so much easier said than done. But honestly, comparing yourself to others isn’t ever going to benefit you, especially if you hate your body and are already in a negative state of mind.
When we compare ourselves, we are comparing our beginnings to the successfully accomplished endings of those around us. Not to where somebody else started, but to what they have accomplished after years of hard work and dedication. We don’t recognize how much time and effort somebody may have put into mastering their craft, but yet still expect to have achieved the same success that others have achieved instantaneously.
In the case that you are listening to the negativity and judgment of those around you, well just know that nobody’s life is perfect. Every single person in the history of mankind makes more mistakes on a daily basis than we can possibly imagine. We all have flaws, we all have weaknesses, and we all experience struggles and obstacles.
In the case of others judging you, it’s also important to know that they are probably judging you because of your looks because they feel so miserable in some other area of their life. They need to put others down in order to feel better about their own situation.
Growing up, I never actually believed this to be true. I thought those who would make fun of me and called me fat did so because their lives were perfect. But as I have grown up, I have seen how miserable they truly feel about themselves and that their attempt to put me down was just a way to hide their pain. Unfortunately, this is common.
What I am getting at with all of this is that it’s not worth it to hate the body that you are living in. If you want to change your weight, health, or the relationship you have with your body or food, change it in a way that is going to create a healthier version of you and do it because you want to, not because others want you to. Your life is not going to improve if you keep filling your head with these beliefs of being worthless because of what you ate or beating yourself up because of what the scale says.
We have to stop rejecting parts of ourselves, since rejection writes those stories in the first place, and start working with the way our brains are wired (changing the thoughts and stories that create the beliefs that drive self-destructive habits and behaviors). And we have to tune into our thoughts and the wisdom of our own bodies with kindness and compassion.
When we stop focusing on weight and weight loss and instead focus on shedding the stories (and beliefs that cause self-destructive choices), then, and only then, are we able to forever shed physical, and more importantly emotional weight they may have created. It eventually just becomes an effortless side effect.