Three Weeks to Better Body Image
“Well hello beautiful, you are looking gorgeous today.” I do a little twirl and sashay in front of the mirror, then strike a pose. It’s your average morning, and I have just gotten out of the shower. Soon I will be making the boys breakfast and dropping them off at daycare and school. But for now, for this moment, it is all about me. As I look in the mirror, I appreciate my curves, admiring the line of my breast, the soft skin of my back. Lately I find myself doing this at random times during the day. I catch a glimpse of my rounded bottom as I walk past a shop window and I stop to admire it. “You are looking hot today, Mama.”
You may wonder what I have done to get to this point of loving my reflection in the mirror. Have I been working out, have I been on a new diet? Well, I have been working out, but not the way you might think. I have been working out my mind. Over the last few years, I have slowly shifted my thinking about my body. It has taken the same kind of discipline and routine that a workout would, and the benefits are just as good.
Last year I committed to the pursuit of radical self acceptance. I have to put radical in there, because I believe in our society, radical is exactly what it is. All day long we are bombarded by messages that we are not good enough. Not thin enough, young enough, smart enough, just not enough. And to take a stand against the marketing machine that feeds our insecurities, that is a radical act. And I was tired of the constant feeling that I was failing. That no matter what I did, it was not enough.
I saw a dissonance between the way I viewed my friends and the way I viewed myself. Whenever my girlfriends call, I make a point of saying “Hello beautiful!” because I see them as beautiful, and I think they could use some reminding of just how awesome they are. But I did not extend that same thinking to myself. And it occurred to me one day that our bodies were not so different. So if I could see them as beautiful, why couldn’t I see it in myself?
I have struggled with poor body image for most of my life, mainly related to my weight. For a brief period before I hadkids, I managed to drop 20 pounds and get from a size 14 to a size 8. But two children later, I am back where I started. And after years of allowing this to affect my self worth, I have decided that I will not allow my value to be determined by the number on my pants tag. So let me break it down for you, into small, managable steps. Because this is not something you can do overnight, but it is something you can do one day at a time.
For years, I had a stream of negative self-talk that was so pervasive, I didn’t even consciously recognize it. The first step to affect change is to become conscious. Every time you say something negative to yourself, just notice it. Notice it with detachment, as a curious observer. “Huh, look, I am doing that again. Isn’t that interesting?” Don’t put any judgement on yourself for this negative self talk, just observe it. Do this for a week. Notice over the course of that week, how there becomes a separation between you and the thoughts. The more you notice them, the less attached you are to them. They are just thoughts, after all.
After one week of observing your thoughts, try this. Every morning as you are getting ready, and every night before bed, notice something you love about your body. I love mycurly hair, the way my eyes crinkle with laugh lines in the corner, the curve of my back. Do this for one week, while continuing to observe your negative self talk as it arises. For extra bonus points, write it down. Write it all down. The negative self talk and the positive reinforcements.
Okay, so this is going to feel really weird an uncomfortable at first, and probably you will feel like you are faking it. Just remember that old adage about faking it until you make it. Every morning and evening, you are going to look in the mirror and say “Hello, beautiful.” And every time throughout the day that you notice the negative self talk coming again, you are going to say the same thing. “I feel so fat in these jeans.” “Hello, beautiful.” Write “Hello, beautiful” on your mirror.
The habit of negative self talk is one that most of us have been in for years. When you find yourself slipping back into it, start again at week one. Start by just noticing that soundtrack in your head.
What I have learned on this journey is that the “Not Enough” soundtrack has been playing through every part of my life. Body image is just one part. But once you start paying mindful attention to this one area, you can’t help but become aware of the other areas of your life that are impacted. And that first step of pausing and noticing is so incredibly powerful.
Imagine how much collective good we can do in the world when we stop wasting energy on negative self-talk, and start spending that energy elsewhere. When we stop treating our bodies like the enemy, we can live more joyfully and freely. And when we can live from that place, we are a force to be reckoned with.
Joyelle Brandt Bio
Joyelle Brandt is a radical self love warrior, on a mission to help women understand that their ugly is beautiful. She creates Love Your Body events, workshops and retreats to help women make peace with their bodies and live a life they love. Her next offering is the BE KIND to your Body e-course, starting March 28th.