Your Body is Not Your Enemy

Learn about how to practice radical self-acceptance to change the way you view your body.

Have you noticed that there have been some positive changes in the fashion industry lately? For example, several clothing companies now feature models in different sizes so that you can see what a clothing item might look like on someone who is similar to your body type. Other companies feature diverse models in their campaigns. But we still have a long way to go when it comes to having a healthy relationship with our bodies. In fact, researchers estimate that between 20% and 40% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies and 10% to 20% of men are dissatisfied. Why are we so unhappy and critical of our appearances? What would it look like to see yourself in the mirror and instead of focusing on all of the things that you don’t like about your physical appearance, you practiced radical love and acceptance of your body?

If you’re ready to shift the way you view your body, let’s start by addressing the areas that can hurt us on our journey to self acceptance.

Comparison is the thief of joy

Comparing your body to the bodies of others rarely winds up being empowering and uplifting. Either you are identifying all the ways you don’t look like the person you are admiring or you are critiquing someone else and putting them down in an attempt to boost your own ego. Comparison is especially tricky because we are all unique beings, but we throw that out the window when we start measuring ourselves up to others. We put others on a pedestal to admire and aspire to — and then point out all the ways we aren’t good enough to be on that pedestal. 

Apples to oranges

The trouble is that the bodies we are comparing ourselves to are rarely unedited, especially on social media, whether it’s through editing or cosmetic procedures. It’s so easy to use body editing apps to completely change your body shape, add makeup, change your hairstyle, and even add a smile. Danae Mercer, a travel journalist, has an Instagram account dedicated to showing how easy it is to alter images online. She also shows how certain angles are more flattering than others in posing for pictures. She’s even called out online weight loss scams for using her photos as “before and after” when they were originally taken the same day as an example of how posing can make someone look completely different. 

Not only do you have to remember that images can be digitally altered, you also have to consider that someone might have had cosmetic procedures done, ranging from less dramatic changes like Botox and fillers to more involved surgeries like implants or surgeries to change the shape of someone’s face. Comparing yourself to someone who has had multiple surgeries or procedures done to permanently change the way they look is a little bit like comparing apples to oranges. No amount of dieting or exercise will make your bottom look like someone who has paid thousands of dollars for a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL).

Changing standards

It’s important to remember that the standards for an ideal body are always changing. Cassey Ho, a pilates instructor and owner of Blogilates, put together a project where she photoshopped herself to show what she would look like if she met the beauty standards of the day ranging from the 1400s to the present. In some time periods, having curves was in, but in others, being unhealthily thin was seen as ideal. Comparing yourself to an arbitrary standard that will eventually change isn’t empowering but instead puts you at the mercy of whatever is trendy at the time.

With those things in mind, let’s consider what we should be focusing on.

Focus on your uniqueness

Instead of comparing yourself to the way others look or to the ideal body of the day, consider keeping the focus on what makes you unique and what you appreciate about your body. After all, we are both body and spirit, meaning our bodies are what makes you “you” just as much as your spirit. We need to take care of our bodies just as much as we take care of our mind and spirit. Our bodies aren’t a hindrance, something that holds us back from who we really are. Instead, our body helps us live out our full potential. We need to take care of them so that we can continue to live in a meaningful way.

Radical acceptance

If we can practice radically accepting our bodies, we are better able to focus on appreciating what our bodies can do, how they help us accomplish our goals, and how they can be our ally rather than our enemy. Radically loving and accepting your body doesn’t mean that you have to feel positively towards every physical aspect of yourself, but it does mean being kind to yourself and not using your physical appearance as a reason to love or withhold love from yourself. “Feeling fat” isn’t a valid reason to deprive yourself of nourishing foods or punish yourself through a grueling workout that drains instead of energizes you. An easy way to begin to practice radical acceptance is to imagine what your best friend might say to you about your appearance. Try to speak to yourself in the same compassionate and empowering way as your friend would. 

Recognize your worth

Your physical appearance doesn’t change your worth as a person. Instead see the way you speak about and take care of your body as a way of honoring your inherent dignity and worth. Try to catch yourself when you find yourself speaking critically of your body or the bodies of others. Ask yourself, “How is this benefitting me?” and “Instead of putting others down to make myself feel better, how can I be kinder to myself?” Make a commitment to being kinder to yourself and rejecting the pressure to compare yourself to altered images of others. Take it day by day and watch yourself feel more confident in your own skin.

If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder or disordered eating, reach out to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Hotline: 800-931-2237 for help.

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