What do you do when you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see?
Do you pinch, pull and pick yourself apart for all the ways you are imperfect? Do you point out your physical flaws and wish they would go away? Maybe you seek to be smaller and take up less space physically. Maybe you want to be more athletic and have muscles that show. Maybe you want a clearer face less marred by scars, lines and wrinkles. Perhaps you seek to be more curvaceous or have a bigger chest.
Maybe you can rip yourself apart from head to toe and it gives you a strange sense of comfort. It’s easier to stay stuck in a critical space than to take a step outside of your comfort zone and change the way you see yourself.
I’m not talking about starting a new diet or exercise routine, but rather taking a deeper look at WHY you don’t like what you see. Where did it all start for you? Was it a comment someone made about your body when you were younger that refuses to leave your mind?
I had an aunt tell me when I was 12 years old that I shouldn’t wear shorts because I had spider veins. I still remember the shame I felt at the blue stripes on my legs that I previously had been fine with and then suddenly felt like I needed to cover up. I didn’t want people to be disgusted by my unsightly legs.
I also remember being 5 years old at a different aunt’s house eating dinner around the table. I looooved ketchup and put a big blob on my plate. My aunt calls out in front of everyone, “God Kimmy, why are you eating so much ketchup!?” It was the family joke for a while, but I wasn’t lauging. I was mortified and felt shameful for wanting so much food.
Stories like these can keep us trapped in a mindset of shame. That our bodies are something we should feel bad about, not proud of. We learn early on what ideals of sexy, strong, beautiful and attractive look like. It starts with Barbie dolls and ends with covers of magazines where half naked airbrushed women are posed perfectly and we’re given tips and tricks to look just like them. However, I don’t remember the last time I saw an article that said “5 Ways To Look Airbrushed” (because God forbid we actually recognize that the beauty standards set in our culture are actually physically IMPOSSIBLE!!)!
But it’s not for lack of trying. You TRY. You try so very hard. You try diets, personal trainers, pills, programs, powders, supplements. You try it all and yet the voices in your mind and the stories replay on a loop, even if you do see “progress”. Even if you do manage to will your body to lose 5 pounds, it usually comes back as 10. You feel like a failure at dieting and therefor at so many other things.
You struggle in silence and cannot fathom the idea of accepting what you see in front of you. So you stay stuck in a pattern of dieting and striving- of distraction and busyness so you don’t have to think about it or feel it. You put others first so you feel good about yourself and it asuages some of the shame you feel over loathing your body.
Maybe you’re aware of it and maybe not. Sometimes the pain is so deep, it takes up residence in your subconscious, and shows itself when you can’t ignore it any longer. It breaks through and shows up in tears, anger and longing which you can’t identify and aren’t sure what to do with. So maybe you eat, or run, or shop, or schedule, or stuff to avoid feeling the uncomfortable feelings.
So what can you do when you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see?
First, become aware of and identify where the hate/shame/guilt comes from. When did it start? Can you identify the sources that brought these feelings into your consciousness? What messages play on a loop in your mind? Take a moment tomorrow morning when you stand in front of the mirror to write them down. Identify the thoughts that feel uncomfortable.
Second, recognize that these outside sources do NOT matter and that their comments come from their own insecurities and self-esteem issues. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. My spider veins triggered something inside my aunt and she felt uncomfortable in her own skin and sought to numb the feeling by picking on someone else. Their comments do not serve you or help you in anyway.
Third, and potentially the most challenging: You have to let go of caring what other people think. This takes time and practice, but it works. You don’t know what someone else is thinking and it doesn’t matter anyways. Your thoughts and opinions are the ONLY ones that matter. Not your partners, friends, co-workers or strangers. Let.IT.Go. The sooner you stop caring what other people think, the happier you will be.
Fourth is acceptance. Accept what you see. Allow yourself a break from hating, shaming and trying to change it. Take a breath and let it be. You can’t make sustainable changes right now because of the messages your working hard to let go of, so let it be ok that you look the way you do. Your not resigning yourself to looking this way forever, but until you get a little further on your confidence journey, let changing your physical self come later from a place of value and appreciation rather than fueled by loathing.
Fifth, move from acceptance to appreciation. Instead of hating on your stomach, appreciate it for housing such precious organs and doing the hard work of digesting all your food. Instead of focusing on your jiggling arms, appreciate all the things they do: hug, shake hands, comfort, clap, hold, carry, lift. Start to replace negative thoughts with accepting and appreciating ones. If you knew how powerful your mind was, you would never allow another negative thought again!
Six, when you appreciate something, you value it. When you value something, you invest in it and watch your investment grow. With that growth comes rewards and payouts which bring fulfillment. It’s at this place of fulfillment that you will find the rewards of peace, joy and self-love that you are longing for. If you don’t appreciate and value yourself now, you will not X number of pounds from now. I promise you that.
When you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, you can stay stuck in your pattern of criticizing, loathing and negativity which feels safe. Or, you can slowly begin to break the cycle and start and silence the voices and stories in your mind. You can cultivate appreciation for your body and learn to invest in yourself and see the rewards of your investment- freedom from shame, no more hiding, no more dieting. And this will spread not just to yourself, but to others! When you view yourself with appreciation and value, you will see others that way too.
One last thought- you do not have to LOVE your body. Body love is something that can be lovely and you may have moments of, but it is much more realistic to focus your energies on accepting, appreciating and valuing your body. That is much more sustainable than trying to love your body.
What do you think? Can you already start to identify some of the messages in your mind that keep you trapped in the cycle of body shame? Share your thoughts in the comments on in the Captivatingly Confident Facebook group! We would love to walk with you on your self-acceptance journey!!!