A poor body image leads to low self-esteem and vice versa. Statistics estimate that 91% of women struggle with a negative body image. I HATE my thighs. My butt is so big. I am so fat. I am so ugly. I would be attractive if I could just change my nose. How often do these thoughts run through your mind? Why do we do this to ourselves? I cannot tell you how much time I have spent criticizing my body. Analyzing it from every angle, squeezing chunks of flesh and berating myself because I wasn’t perfect. Well, I’m done. I think in some misguided way, those actions were meant to motivate me in some way. It motivated me alright! It motivated me to eat my dissatisfaction. By emotionally eating, I could let go of the pain and discomfort for a little while. After all, if I couldn’t be perfect, what was the use anyway right? Wrong!
We will NEVER be perfect. We will never be perfect in our eating habits, we will never have perfect bodies, we will never be perfect in our relationships and we will never be perfect at work. Even “perfect people” aren’t perfect. Just because we can’t be perfect does not mean we are a failure. So, why do we constantly behave as though that is true? There can be many reasons…low self-esteem, misguided parenting, the media. The bottom line is that we perpetuate the messages that we have picked up somewhere along the line. We continue to hold them as truths and use them as a measurement of our worth.
The saddest thing of all is that we role model this for our children. Consider this, children are sponges. They absorb everything we consciously and unconsciously do. It is amazing to me how many mothers are baffled when their daughters develop eating disorders when upon further inspection; the mother has openly verbally expressed her own body dissatisfaction. How do children learn to love themselves without seeing how it is done?
So, what do we do about this? Stop the chatter in our heads. We say the most horrible insults to ourselves. We say things to ourselves that we would never dream of unleashing on another person. This needs to stop. While we try to use it as “motivation” the only purpose it serves is to drive us further into an emotional eating or binge cycle which makes us feel even worse and lowers our nearly non-existent self-esteem. It also drives us further into a pattern of self-sabotage. I recently read an article where a celebrity said that she had friends who would verbalize this negative self-talk. She said she would look at them and say, “Don’t say that about my friend”. I really loved this. If we engaged in self-talk that mimicked how we do talk to our closest friends, I am guessing we would feel much better about ourselves.
We can improve our body image even if our body doesn’t change! While you may never love your body, you can appreciate it. Instead of zeroing in on everything you dislike, try spending time thinking about what your body does for you. I appreciate my legs because they allow me to walk, run, jump and ride my bike. A little cellulite doesn’t get in the way of those things. I appreciate my arms even if they jiggle because they allow me to reach for things and hug my loved ones.
So, the next time you feel tempted to insult yourself, take a step back. Think about what you would say to a friend. We are closer to ourselves than anyone else so, we need to treat ourselves kindly because no matter what, we will still be here. Think about what your body does for you. Consider what your life would be like without the body parts you judge so harshly and try to accept yourself as you are because that is truly the only way to feel free. My favorite quote is by Andrew Denton where he so eloquently states that “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are”. I think he is on to something!