Updated: Jun 8
We've all been there - staring at ourselves in the mirror and fixating on every perceived imperfection. We critique our bodies, pick apart our appearance, and compare ourselves to others. This negative self-talk is not only damaging to our self-esteem, but it also affects our overall mental and physical health. But what if we told you that you don't need to change your body to feel better about it? That you can actually change your relationship with it and, in turn, change the way you think about it? Let's dive into how this works and how you can start making incremental changes.
Before we can change our relationship with our bodies, it's important to understand the connection between our brain and our physical bodies. Our thoughts and emotions directly impact our body and vice versa. When we're feeling stressed, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which causes inflammation and causes your body to feel under attack. It's universally accepted that stress is not good for your long-term health. On the flip side, when we feel confident and happy, our bodies release endorphins, which can boost our mood and improve our physical well-being.
4 practical steps you can take today:
Reframe your thoughts: When you engage in negative self-talk, stop and notice what is going on for you and how it is making you feel. Instead of what you dislike about your body, focus on what that thought you just had felt like for you. What would it feel like to say that to someone else? What would it feel like if someone said it to you? The “positive vibes only” crew would have you believe that you can just swish that negative thought away, but I invite you to dive right into it so that you can surround yourself with it, and from there, you can make a conscious choice whether these are thoughts you want to be bringing, repeating and reproducing in the world.
Practice gratitude: I know it is cheesy, but also a game-changer. When I began to do this work on my own body image, I put a notepad in each room (yes, including the bathroom), and every time I went in, I had to write down something I was grateful for. Maybe that was a friend, my toes, or the fact that I had running water.
Get out in nature: Open a window, walk, and feel the rain. Stare or sunset. Listen to the wind in the trees. Do some gardening. Whatever takes you closer to the natural world will help regulate your body and circadian rhythm and help get your parasympathetic nervous system back online.
Seek support: Community is crucial for sustaining any new change. Find your people and celebrate their journey as you wish to be supported. You do not have to change your relationship with your body alone. Seek friends and family members who know they will be good allies and encourage you on your journey. And SelfCareSchool is here if you want to take the work a little deeper.
Much as the media may have us believe otherwise, there is no such thing as a "perfect" body. There are only bodies that change and grow and fail and expand and contract and shrink and wrinkle and break and laugh ad love and roll over and yelp and a thousand things in between. The one version of you in the mirror is a sliver of all the things your body is and does, and by hyper-focusing on that, you are missing most of the story. The more appreciation you can garden for the body you have, the easier it will be to love the changing landscape it is. When we focus on changing how we think and feel about our bodies, we create more space for more bodies to feel seen, safe and welcome.