By Lisette Cifaldi, MSW LMSW Director of Behavioral Health, Hilton Head Health
When it comes to self-improvement, enhancing your body image offers a big return on investment. A negative body image pervades your entire life and takes pot-shots at your self-esteem. In fact, a negative body image never serves you well. Intuitively, you would think that feeling bad about your body would be just what’s necessary to finally do something about it. However, that isn’t the case. A negative body image can actually drive you further into the dysfunctional behaviors that helped to create the negative body image in the first place. Feelings of shame and self-loathing toward your body often lead to emotional eating and paralyze you where exercise is concerned.
Poor body image isn’t created overnight so improving your body image is going to take a commitment. The effort will be well worth it though because accepting and loving your body, which may seem like an impossibility, can actually enhance your entire life. Think about it…what would you be free to do if you accepted your body? How would you feel if you really loved your body, even with all its imperfections? The answers are mind-blowing, right?
So let’s get started. Below are a few things to consider on your journey toward enhancing your body:
You are not your body. Your body is where YOU live. In order to begin loving your body you need to separate your body-identity from your self-esteem. Very often, our negative body image bleeds into our self-esteem, which creates a vicious cycle of self-loathing. Begin this separation process by writing down 10 things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your body. For instance, do you have a good sense of humor? Are you creative, compassionate, loyal, smart, curious, determined, kind, brave, or accepting? Your list represents the qualities that comprise who you are—the qualities that people love or admire about you. Your body is the place that houses these qualities.
We take care of that which we cherish. If you look at the things in your life that you love and value, chances are you will probably find that those are the things you take care of and protect. Cherishing your body now is making a down payment on what you are willing to do to improve it tomorrow. Loving your body today doesn’t have to mean that you give up on improving it. It just means that you are grateful for how it allowed you to experience life today. You don’t have to spend precious energy on wishing your body was different. You can actually begin thanking it for what it does for you each day. Before going to bed write down five things that your body did for you that day for which you are grateful. Did you use your arms to hug someone you love? Did you use your eyes to witness something of beauty? Did your feet take you somewhere you needed to be?
It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here, right now…with its aches and its pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.~Pema Chodron
It’s time to make an amends. If you really think about it, your body has been a very loyal friend. It keeps showing up despite the damage you do to it. It’s time to mend the broken friendship. Write a letter to your body acknowledging the regret you have for behaviors you’ve engaged in that were harmful to your body. Apologize for negative comments you’ve made about your body. Then tell your body how you would like to change the relationship. Let your body know how you plan to treat it differently and better in the future. When you are feeling particularly bad about your body, take that letter out and read it so as to remind yourself of the commitment you’ve made to your loyal friend—your body.
If you talked to your friends the way you talk to your body, you’d have no friends left.~Marcia Hutchinson
Plus, we recommend six tips for a healthier mind, another great read for Self-Improvement Month!