Tell me if this sounds familiar… You wake up in the morning, you get dressed and as soon as you see yourself in the mirror, you feel a hot wave of shame come over you. You think, “I hate my body!”
I’ve worked with hundreds of people over the years who have had this exact same experience and it’s a near universal struggle amongst most people.
Most people want to love their body more, but what if the solution is not what we think?
First, we have to recognize that the problem isn’t your body, rather it is our culture that has made you believe that your body is a problem and that your value is in how you look.
In order to stop hating our body, we have to unhook our value and self-worth from how we look. Let’s unpack that…
Often times, we may say, “I hate my body” or “I struggle with my weight,” but what we’re really saying is something completely different, such as, “I feel inferior, I’m afraid of being judged and I do not like feeling out of control.”
We’ve just learned to use our body as a metaphor for our uncomfortable feelings and that’s to the benefit of the $299 billion weight loss industry. The more we believe our body is a problem, the more profits they gain.
An important part of body image work is being able to recognize that our body is not the problem and give language to how we’re actually feeling.
If we think our body or our weight is the problem, then being thinner will always be the answer.
However, if we recognize that our body is not the problem and bring awareness to the actual emotions and fears that we have that are manifesting as body shame, then it gives us something tangible to work with to move towards a positive body image and self-acceptance.
Often when we say, “I hate my body,” it’s not our physical body that we’re referring to—it’s the emotional discomfort brought on by a fear of weight gain (anti-fat bias beliefs), negative associations between weight and your value as a human, and our tendency to deflect any kind of “negative” emotion (i.e. anxiety, sadness, stress) onto our bodies as a way to avoid feeling them.
Knowing the difference between “I hate my body” and “I hate the way I feel about myself because I’ve been conditioned to believe my self-worth is in how I look” will help to address the real issue.
It will help you stop blaming the way you feel on your body and thinking that dieting is the answer—which it never is (in case you needed a reminder!).
But, Summer! What if I just want to love my body?
Mainstream body positivity is hyper-focused on having us love how we look. Its purpose is to help answer the question, “do I like what I see in the mirror?”
My take on it is, “do you need to?”
This may come across as harsh or revolutionary (I prefer the latter), but I don’t care if you love your body or think your body is beautiful.
Your body is not your power. I want you to not hate it so you can go out and do meaningful things with you life. I want you to know that you don’t have to be attractive to know that you’re worthy and valuable.
I’m not going to tell you that you’re perfect because I want you to be ok with imperfection.
I want you to be weird, quirky, smart, sassy, bold, be a good listener and speak up.
I want you to laugh at yourself, be ok with ugly, be willing to fail, accept that you’re not perfect and get messy.
I want you to be able to pick yourself back up when you get knocked down, to fight for what you believe in and to not let anyone intimidate you into hiding or toning yourself down.
I want you to have grit, be fierce, to explore the landscape outside your comfort zone and knock fear out of the way to get there.
I want you to know that you are a woman who can be anything she wants to be.
I want you to say no when you mean no and reserve your yes for the things and people that matter.
I want your naked soul to be seen. I want your inner power to shine so bright that your appearance doesn’t matter at all.
This is not the safe route in our society. This path is reserved for those brave enough to face judgment, criticism and fear – knowing that fierceness is born out of being loyal to your authenticity.
The safe route is to shrink and hide and change who you are to please others. To focus on your exterior and fixate on “having it all together.”
The antidote to hating your body isn’t to love it. Rather, it’s to build up your sense of self-worth so that you know you’re good enough regardless of how you look.
- Your body is not the problem. Our culture has made you believe that it is and it profits from you having this belief.
- When you understand the beliefs and feelings that are underneath your body shame, you can tend and heal the parts of you that will help you build a positive body image and self-acceptance.
- You don’t need to love your body, rather we want to unhook our sense of self-worth from how we look so that our body isn’t dictating how we feel about ourselves as a whole anymore.
For personalized support with this, check out my You, On Fire group coaching program.
And if you’re a wellness professional or provider, such as a Therapist, Intuitive Eating Counselor, Dietician, Personal Trainer or other wellness professional who is looking for continued education on body image, check out our Body Image Coach Certification program.