How to love your body, even when you don’t like it
Many of us have grown up in a culture that emphasizes looking a certain way. We are continuously told and have been made to believe that if we just lose some weight, gain more muscle, get toned, eliminate belly fat, etc., then we will finally feel more confident, attractive, loved, and accepted. As a result, we pick apart our bodies and try to fix them as if they are broken on a quest to meet some sort of criteria for being loved and accepted.
These messages are all lies — every single one of them. If you are struggling with body image, know that “fixing” your physical body is not going to get rid of the deeper-rooted issues that are causing you to view yourself in a negative light. How much you weigh, what shape you are, and which size you wear are not what makes you worthy of love and acceptance. You just can’t “fitness” your way out of hating your body, and you can’t “hate” yourself into self-love and self-acceptance.
That being said, there are many different things you can do to learn how to love yourself and your body unconditionally, including…
1. Accept that you will not, and don’t have to, always like your body
Yes, it is true. You don’t always have to like your body. However, you should always love your body. Body positivity is the practice of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-compassion on good days and on not-so-good days. This means that even when you don’t like how you look in a certain outfit, or you feel bloated, or your skin is experiencing a flare-up, you don’t start a war with your body. Instead, you show it some love by doing things that will help you feel better both physically and emotionally. Nourish, move, soothe, and rest it.
2. Stop being mean to your body
According to LaserAway, less than half of Americans feel confident in their bodies. What’s more, research shows that only 23% of Americans practice positive self-talk as a means of reinforcing body positivity. Many of us have been conditioned to speak negatively about our bodies—whether it was hearing how others spoke about our bodies growing up or just hearing others speak negatively about their own bodies, these thoughts and habits of picking on all the parts you dislike about yourself are a learned and conditioned behavior.
The good news is, just as you learned these harmful messages, you can unlearn them by the process of interrupting and redirecting intrusive thought patterns, replacing them with more loving ones. Practicing positive self-talk creates a shift in your inner monologue. With repetition, these positive thoughts replace the negative ones, forming new patterns in your brain. If you struggle to find positive thoughts about a part of your body you dislike, focus on the parts of your body you do like and what your body can do. Then amp up the volume!
Some positive affirmations you can use to help redirect negative thoughts include:
- My body works with me
- The food I eat works for me
- The thoughts I have enhance me
- I am worthy of love and acceptance
3. Attend to your stress and emotional health
It is no surprise that when we are highly stressed, overwhelmed, or burned out, we start hating everything and everyone, usually making ourselves the primary target. It starts with something small like, “ugh, nothing in my closet fits me,” and quickly spirals into a list of self-berating and self-hate speech of “no wonder no one likes me,” “I am such a disaster,” “everything I do sucks,” etc. This is why it is so important to develop and honor a practice of emotional self-regulation, including stress management and daily self-care. Lower stress creates a calm environment in your body, which allows you to make better choices and decisions. It also provides a buffer to pause, take a break, and interrupt and redirect those pesky negative thoughts when they pop up.
Learning to love your body is a process
Remember, how you look is not tied to your self-worth or other people’s validation and acceptance of you. Creating a practice of self-love that stems from a place of love, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness is the best way to build unconditional body positivity.
Aleks Zavlunova is a Holistic Behavioral Health and Wellness Coach. Aleks strongly believes that our relationship with food greatly correlates with our relationship with the self, our emotional, physical, and mental well-being, and our relationships with others. She combines principles of cognitive behavioral psychology and nutrition psychology along with other philosophies of mental, physical, and spiritual health to help her clients begin healing self-destructive patterns and habits and build self-esteem, confidence, and self-love by systematically improving their relationship with food and body.