I had an experience this week where I was in my office and saw my full reflection in the mirror and felt aghast by what I saw. I thought: “Is that really me?”
“I will look at my face and hair in the morning when I am getting ready to go, but rarely do I look at my full body.”
“I look at the parts of my body I like, but cover up the parts of myself that I don’t like and don’t accept.”
These are statements I hear over and over by many of my male and female students and clients.
We all have things that we don’t like about ourselves. Do these sound familiar?
“My legs are too thin.”
“I hate my stomach.”
“I don’t like my laugh.”
“I wish I was more outgoing.”
“I would love to be taller.”
For most of my life, I really didn’t like or feel comfortable with my stomach. I always wanted it to be flatter. I often thought of my belly like a small kangaroo pouch. After age 13, I chose never to wear mid-drift shirts or bikinis. I perpetuated this self-hate of my stomach by saying really mean things about it to myself.
A shift happened for me several years ago when I attended my first silent meditation retreat. On this retreat, I spent four days in silence and really got to know my thoughts. I saw how many negative and judgmental thoughts were directed at myself—especially my stomach. These thoughts felt incessant and I realized I didn’t have control of the thoughts that were coming and going, but I did have control over how I responded to these thoughts, and what I chose to believe.
After a day and half of this barrage of judgment, I realized that choosing to dislike my stomach was only going to cause me a lifetime of suffering. So I turned it around. I decided for the rest of that retreat that when a negative thought came up about myself or my body, I would replace it with something kind and loving.
My journey for the last several years has been to really see and love all parts of myself, even the “not-so-pretty parts.” I make a choice every day to infuse my mind with kind and loving thoughts toward myself. This simple practice has transformed my life in the most positive and healthy ways.
In many cultures, we often think that we have to look a certain way, go to a certain university, or perform socially in some specific way to be loveable and worthy, but this is simply not true. Our true self emerges one way or another so we might as well start embracing it today. Learn how to create a sweet relationship with yourself and your body for good:
1. Be kind and loving with your words.
When I am kind and accepting with how I talk to myself, I make much healthier and nourishing choices. Pick one thing that you say to yourself repeatedly that isn’t kind and replace it. For example: Instead of, “I hate my stomach,” try, “I love and accept myself just as I am.”
At first this will feel awkward, but the more you practice, the more likely it will become a habit and you will start to believe it. Yes, it really works!
2. Don’t abandon yourself.
When you neglect to take loving care of yourself—by ignoring your own feelings, judging yourself, numbing out with various addictions or comfort foods, or even holding your friends, family or partner responsible for your sense of worth, you end up feeling needy and insecure. Make a pact to really be there for yourself, no matter what.
3. Feel all your feelings.
In this modern, thought-driven society, we’ve lost touch with our feelings. We distract ourselves from them or chide ourselves for having them. In truth, our feelings are guideposts to be honored and understood. All feelings are welcome, and they point us to what we need in the moment.
Healthy self-love starts by learning to be present and mindful of your feelings, rather than continuing to avoid them. Try this simple meditation and learn how to feel your feelings and then release them with greater ease. This meditation was originally developed by Michelle McDonald and I have adapted it to include “s” for support:
Take several minutes of space and quiet to practice.
R: Recognize what is happening physically in the body or emotionally. Maybe there is tension in the body or irritation from a conversation, or maybe there is a sense of peace and calm. What is happening?
A: Accept whatever your experience is, even if it’s unpleasant. Be with it without trying to change it.
I: Investigate what you are feeling with a sense of curiosity, openness and kindness (everything is welcome).
N: Non-attachment eventually occurs after we allow our sensations and feelings to be without needing to change them. We see that we are not our thoughts and not our feelings, and they can instead pass like a leaf in a gently flowing stream.
S: Support. Every feeling has a need so after identifying your feeling, what would best support you to go through your day?
A simple modification of this practice is to pause throughout the day and ask, “What am I feeling?” or “What do I need?”
4. Cultivate a loving-kindness day.
In our busy lives, we often don’t give ourselves the time and space to really replenish. As a result, this causes our nervous system to be agitated and can reinforce the judgmental, reactive mind.
In the last few years, I have taken on a practice where I take a day or even a few hours that I block out to be unscheduled, slow down, engage in activities that feel really nourishing and loving. This may include: unplugging from technology, eating very simple yet delicious foods, spending extra time in nature, taking a nap, enjoying the company of positive and like-minded community.
Every year, I take a group of women to Mexico for a week of mindfulness, play and nourishment. This retreat allows one to cultivate a strong foundation in mindfulness, loving-kindness and wisdom.
5. You were born to be real, not perfect.
I challenge you to doing something imperfect today. Yes! If you normally walk out of your house with make-up on or are always impeccably dressed, don’t. If you always try to say and do pleasing things, say and do what you really feel and need (of course doing so with an intention not to hurt anyone). Be and embrace all of who you are. I look forward to hearing how you rocked being imperfectly perfect!
If this post resonates with you, I bet you’ll love my free mindful training workbook to help you cultivate more mindfulness for living a fully nourished life at work and home. If you sign up before October 29, 2015, you’ll get to join a preview call on creating healthy habits at no charge.