There she was, a 15 year old girl, laying on her stomach with her feet propped up in the air as she casually flipped through the newest Victoria Secret catalogue and Vogue magazine that were delivered earlier that day.
She took note of the perfectly polished physiques in the pages before her; the slender frames, the defined muscles, the contoured cheekbones, the photoshopped filters. They were all stunningly beautiful.
She then stood to gaze at her own reflection in the mirror; the gentle womanly curves beginning to form around her chest and hips, the messy ponytail and side swept bangs, the sunkissed cheeks with freckles and not a trace of makeup. As she turned to the side she sucked her belly in to appear thinner and her hands traced down to her thighs to measure their thickness by wrapping her hands around them.
Despite a naturally slender and athletic frame, the thoughts began rolling in:
Not thin enough.
Not polished enough.
Not tall enough.
Not perfect enough.
This is just one of many ways that young women start to develop toxic thoughts about their physicality.
We live in a culture of photoshop filters, picture perfect social media influencers, and hundreds of cosmetic companies. Botox is now being utilized at higher percentages by 20 and 30 year olds, eyebrow tattoos are a hot trend, and fake eyelashes can be found in abundance. These tools and trends are not inherently bad, but due to my past struggles with poor body image and low self esteem, I prefer to advocate for women finding a deeper sense of self appreciation so that they know what it means to be truly comfortable and confident in their own skin with or without cosmetic enhancements.
When is the last time you thanked your body for all it allows you to experience in this lifetime?
When is the last time you left the house without makeup?
When is the last time you threw away your scale and went for months (or years) without stepping on it?
When is the last time you looked at your reflection first thing in the morning and thought to yourself, “hey there sexy!”?
It’s easy to get bogged down by appearance comparison standards, especially when we are bombarded by messages of what a woman should look and dress like, but what would happen if we took the time to acknowledge with sincere appreciation the wonderful vehicle for life that our body actually is? My guess is that we would be able to approach life with more confidence and resilience, and healthier actions would also become more second nature. When we embrace and treat our body like the wonderful masterpiece it is, that self appreciation leads to inherent actions of better self care.
This isn’t just speculation on my part; I’ve been there. The young girl in the introduction was me, and that was the start of a 10 year departure into some deep, dark depths of self loathing and isolation. I eventually found myself and found my way out of the darkness with a renewed sense of self love and self compassion. I am 32, I rarely wear makeup, I have a crooked smile and a crooked nose, my cheeks are dotted with freckles, my eyebrows are so light they look almost nonexistent, my eyes are starting to show “smile lines,” and I have stretch marks on my legs from my two pregnancies, and yet today I can honestly say I love all those quirks because they make me who I am.
These days I watch my 10 month old in fascination with her toes and her hands, and I watch my 3 year old frolic and run around the backyard with his “running power” and jetpacks. Watching them embrace their physical experience with joy and appreciation inspires me every day to take full advantage of my experience with them; we have silly dance parties (despite my lack of rhythm), we sing their favorite songs (despite my tone deaf voice), and we take unfiltered candid photos (even on my bad hair days).
Everyone has their own journey and their own story, and I acknowledge that for some people there are past traumas or injuries that may make the journey of self-appreciation more or less challenging, but it can still be done.
“You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise Hay
How do you develop gratitude and appreciation for your body? These three tips aren’t new or novel ideas, and many of you have heard of them before, but I share them as a reminder because they can be transformational if you commit to them.
- Simple gestures of self care:
Taking a little bit of time each day to take care of yourself gives your brain the message that you are worth the care you are giving. Drink the extra glass of filtered water, prioritize nutrient dense foods, get enough sleep, and find an activity you enjoy
- Acknowledge what your body allows you to do:
Each and every day you wake up is an opportunity to experience life. Pay attention to the little things, the way your body allows you to smell your morning coffee, feel the floor against your feet, hear the melody in the music, see the watercolor sky of a summer sunset, or taste the sweetness of freshly picked berries.
- Mantras and Affirmations:
Affirmations and mantras are simple statements that provide a way to refrain unconscious belief systems through consistent repetition over time. They must be positive and present tense.