Hello my diva friends! I hope you’re all taking time to do something fun in your life to balance any craziness you’ve got going on. I know you all do. I just got back from a quick cruise where I was able to catch up with some long-time friends and I got to try out one of the flow riders where the water comes out at you like a wave and you get to ride it on a boogie board or surf board. So fun! Now it’s back to reality and we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving.
Going on a cruise usually means the likelihood that I’ll be putting on a swimsuit is high. Which means that my mind will be running amuck about how I’m going to look.
What is the world selling us on how we should look? If you grew up with a TV, shopped in grocery stores lined with magazines at the checkout, went to a movie, saw a commercial, or if you were on social media, then you’ve had years of indirect advertising from society and what they say is beautiful, sexy, hot, and attractive.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s and that meant that the leading woman on TV and in the movies were beautiful and helpless and in need of a strong man to save her. Have you noticed the outfits they’d wear? Even the cartoons had the male characters swooning over their gorgeous, leggy counterpart. Any of you remember Pepe le pew and the female skunk that he used to swoon over? What about that dog whose eyes would change to hearts, he’d whistle, clap his paws and then his heart would pound out of his chest as the girl dog strutted by?
We have in our minds what beautiful is. It’s an epidemic among women, but it’s starting to affect men too. Can you picture Chris Hemsworth as Thor from the Avengers in sweats with a beer belly and completely void of all muscle? You don’t have to stretch your imagination too far if you’ve watched Endgame. I admit, when I first saw his character, my brain immediately went to “Oh no!! uh uh! That’s not right!” But that’s because my brain has gotten used to what I think super heros should look like.
Or you can imagine a Wonder Woman if she wore a dress to her knees, sleeves to her wrists and no sign of fitness? We’ve seen our superheroes and leading roles this way for so long, it’s not surprising that our brains equate a powerful man with abs of steel and a strong, and a successful woman with long legs, tight clothes, high heels and a fair amount of cleavage showing to be the norm. It’s part of the reason the weight loss and fitness industry are a thriving market.
We enlist ourselves on a quest for perfection by filling the wrinkles, dying the grays, nipping and tucking and getting that six pack. The industry does a great job at advertising what we should look like and it’ll take this cream or these supplements or this little procedure to get it.
How do you feel about your body? If I were asked that a couple of years ago I would’ve said I hate it! I would’ve listed off dozens of reasons why starting at my head and ending at my toes. My hair is dull and not long enough, I hate my double chin, my stomach is too big, my bottom half is bigger than my top half and on and on.
Notice how every reason is based on how I look? It never occurred to me that my body’s main purpose in life had nothing to do with appearance. What!?! It kind of sounds silly, like duh, but I had bought into the scam that for me to be worth something, worth of love, worthy of success, I had to look a certain way.
I was fighting an unwinnable battle. I hated my body so I didn’t feel good about myself, so I didn’t treat my body with respect. I didn’t feed it well consistently, when I worked out it was all in the name of trying to undo what I did with food. I was literally beating my body into submission because I thought I would get what I wanted by being a bully to myself. I thought I was applying tough love, but really, I was forgetting the love part.
And so my weight went up and down and back-and-forth, but still never being happy and never loving my body. Then I learned that positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good, it’s knowing your body is good. I’ll say that again. Positive body image isn’t believing that your body looks good, it’s knowing that your body is good.
What about my body is good? My arms and hands allow me to work in my yard, creating an area that’s fun and inviting to build lasting memories and stronger relationships with my friends and family. I can hold and pet all the soft and cuddly animals in the pet store and I get to hug the people that I love.
My brain comes up with the ideas, maybe too many at times, that allow me to create. From landscaping my yard, to decorating my house, to writing this podcast. My stomach carried my only biological child when I thought bearing children was not in my cards. It’s also part of the core that holds my body upright and assists walking and playing with my cute nieces and nephews and grandchild. My legs, that I spent decades hating because they were larger than my friends, carry me anywhere I want to go. Throughout my life, they danced for me, ran for me, went on walks at the beach for me, rode bikes, water skied, snow skied, hiked, and really anything I ask them to do, they did.
My body has been a trooper for 4 1/2 decades! Oh how I appreciate my body! Logically I see all the good my body offers me, but then I get undressed to take a shower and my brain still notices all the things I wish were different. Why is that? Quite simply, I still live in the world that’s selling to my brain what’s beautiful.
But here’s the best news, just as my brain was programmed like a computer to believe one way, I can consciously reprogram my brain to think another way. However, unlike a computer, most of us can’t find the nasty viral thought and write over the programming and never worry about it again. I know I can’t expect to make this 180° switch to always thinking my body is good when the way I’ve been thinking so often that I don’t like my body. So even today I have plenty of thoughts that my brain offers me about how I need to be different.
What I can do is continue to rewrite the program in my brain one day at a time. The first step is to just notice that this is what is happening. Be aware that your brain is offering these thoughts. Second, realize that, guess what, these are just opinions that other people have been sharing and I’ve been believing them. Not to make ourselves feel bad for falling for it, but to just notice the kinds of opinions that you’re hearing. Notice how women are being promoted and then question, is thinking that I need to look this way, making me feel good about myself? Why or why not?
Become a good watcher of your thoughts. Just because our brains offer us thoughts, doesn’t mean we have to just accept it. So I’m going to watch and question every thought that my brain offers me. Really poke holes into why those thoughts are true. Find examples of how it may be true, but maybe not.
For example, one person was saying I’m a runner, but I don’t have a six pack of abs. All runners have six packs. That may be true that every runner you look at has a six pack, however what’s not true is that she is a runner and she doesn’t have a six pack. She then started to think of others who she knew were runners and didn’t have a six pack. What we are doing when we slow it down and really ask ourselves if what we are thinking is true is we are proving to our brains that this all or nothing thinking is not serving us.
Another example, I struggle with my stomach. I like to wear dresses that show my hourglass figure, however I don’t like that I don’t have a flat stomach. My brain offers that I can’t wear a dress that shows off my figure because then everyone will see my stomach. My brain thinks that only people who have a flat stomach should wear those kinds of clothes. However, when I look around, I see plenty of other people who are wearing those clothes and have stomachs. In fact, more people have some kind of a stomach bump then less. And if we’re being honest, that is what a normal human body looks like. So, thinking that I can’t ever wear clothes that would show my hourglass figure because I don’t have a flat stomach isn’t serving me and in fact it’s causing me to shrink into a mentality that’s making me look at clothes that would hide what I like.
So how are you thinking about your body? Are you allowing your brain to be stuck on thoughts that you need to look a certain way in order to love your body?
Here’s the thing. You get to think about your body however you want to. Why would you put yourself down on purpose? Deciding how you think is either going to drive you to feel positively or negatively and will ultimately determine how you’re going to show up in the world. If you knew it would cause you more grief, more pain and then you still didn’t get lasting results, would you still do it? Because that’s usually what happens.
You think you need to change and it’s usually because you’re thinking the way you are right now isn’t good enough, but then your motivation is coming from a negative place so you end up feeling cruddy about yourself and you think you can’t be happy until you’ve made that change. So what do you do when you’re feeling cruddy? At the very least your brain tries to convince you to do things that’ll give you dopamine hits to feel better. Like eating comfort food (there’s a reason why it’s called comfort food right?) or spending money on stuff you don’t need or binge watching something on TV while eating a full carton of ice-cream like I used to do.
Problem is, in the long run, those activities usually make you feel worse. And all because we are thinking our body should look different or be different. And again, these thoughts were probably born from external sources advertising their opinions that are easier to believe because those opinions are from influential people or an industry that’s caused you to second guess if you are enough just as you are.
Listen, you are enough. Your body is amazing! Even if it doesn’t work exactly how we wish it would or if we don’t have all the parts that a typical human body has, it is still amazing. And it offers us so many opportunities when it comes to living into the full human experience.
The best part about accepting your body for what it is right now is you take the feeling of shame away and you start living from a place of power and healthy motivation. You’re able to think clearer and all your decisions end up being out of love for yourself and for your body. When you think there is something wrong with how you look, you often feel awful inside. Trying to motivate yourself from dirty fuel doesn’t get you very far. In fact, it usually gets you the exact opposite. It drives you to not taking the best of care for yourself.
And you deserve the best of care. All of us do. So remember, positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good, it’s knowing your body is good. Ok, I hope you have a fabulous and safe holiday weekend! And remember, you are loved!
If you’re looking for a life coach, I’d love to be yours. If you want to lose weight, better your relationships, or need help with crafting your confidence, I’ve got you! go to myinnerlove.com and sign up for a free mini-session today.