Last week on the body positive transformation series we talked about our environment and the effects of what we read, hear and watch and how the company we keep can have an influence on the way we think about our bodies and our self-worth. It’s eye opening when we start to pay attention to our environment isn’t it? We start to realize that on a constant basis we are fed messages about how we should look, who we should look up to and achieve to look like, and how we don’t measure up.
So how do we change that? How can we create an environment that is more friendly when it comes to positive thoughts about bodies, all bodies, how can we create an environment that’s not so focused on looks, but focuses on our capabilities and enhances our self-worth?
We start by eliminating the negativity. We start by changing our conversations with others and ourselves, we get rid of allthethings that tell us how we don’t measure up and make us feel bad about ourselves. Toss out the women’s magazines. Get rid of Oxygen, Self, Women’s Health and Fitness. It’s time to clean house. Unfollow the people on social media that make you feel less than. The Instagrams and FB posts always bragging about their bodies, workouts, body fat, how “good/clean” they eat. Unfollow the people who only want to show you their “shiny perfect life.” You know the ones, always the “perfect” body, marriage, family, job, and vacations. Just block them out of your social media life. That goes for blogs as well.
This applies to people in your real life as well. Friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances. If you are around toxic people who tear you or others down it’s time to show them the door. It will make it almost impossible to progress into a confident, body positive badass if you are constantly around negative people. Remember we are most like the 5 people we associate with the most. Now, I understand there may be some people who you can’t completely eliminate from your life. Co-workers (maybe), perhaps even a family member, but you can distance yourself from them, or perhaps have a genuine conversation with this person. Let’s say you have lunch with a group of co-workers everyday and you notice that this group constantly runs themselves down, or gossips about others. You may like these people but you notice that every time you get together the conversation of diets, body shaming, or talking negatively about others comes up. If you must be around this group then have a real conversation. Perhaps share with them how you are trying to change the way you think about your body. You are at a place where you want to value your capabilities over appearance. You want to accept your body the way it is right now, and you can’t do that if you are always putting it down, or lusting after someone else’s body type, or judging others by they way they look. You can be the change you want to see in the world. You don’t have to wait for everyone else to get on board.
If having a real conversation is just too much for you right now, then perhaps just change the subject. Be aware of where the conversation is going and if you can’t change the subject, distract yourself or excuse yourself from the conversation. Go make new friends. Family is much harder to eliminate. You may have a spouse that is focused on you looking a certain way. This is difficult. First off, if you can’t have a real conversation with your spouse about how you are feeling about your body and your desire to change your way of thinking and if you can’t rely on them for support then there is a really big problem that needs to be addressed. (Counseling or if you are in an abusive relationship please get out and get help) Let’s say that’s not the case though. Perhaps your spouse makes comments about how you should look or how you used to look. Maybe they don’t comment at all about your body but they are constantly body checking their own and talking about how they desire to look a certain way. This is where you need to sit down with them and be real. Tell them your struggles when it comes to body image and how it’s difficult enough that you don’t measure up to societies standards much less your spouses standards. In fact you can have that conversation with any person in your life; spouse, parent, friend, whoever. This won’t be easy, but more than likely you will feel a little more empowered after confronting the person, showing vulnerability and taking ownership of your thoughts and expressing your desire to value your self-worth the way you are right now.
The other thing you can do is start to follow and surround yourself with people who look more like you or even better, surround yourself with all walks of life! Perhaps follow the women who have more curves or carry a little more weight, or the gals who don’t and are the exact opposite. The ladies who have stretch marks and scars. The ones who don’t even talk about their bodies but instead, discuss what they are doing with their lives. Surround yourself with women who are making a difference in this world. Mothers, doctors, scientists, career women, stay at home moms, older ladies that have a lot of wisdom to share. Skinny women, fat women, muscular women, and everything in between. Start paying more attention to how these women show up to the world and offer something valuable other than body image.
Now this weeks tip to work on yourself may not be easy and might make you uncomfortable. However, it’s an important step in changing your thinking about negative body image. Ask yourself what is it about your bodies appearance that you don’t like. Take some time to think about it, perhaps journal about it. After you wrote down what it is that you don’t like, write down why you don’t like it. Other than because it’s ugly to you. This is a very important step. You may come to realize that you don’t like that part of your body because someone else said it was bad. It might be someone else’s voice in your head telling you that your thighs are too big or that your shoulders are too broad.
Here me out; let’s take myself for example. I struggled with my belly and have ever since I had my first son. (if I were honest, even as a skinny teen I was self conscience about my midsection) No matter how much I changed my diet, or did pilates or any ab workout my belly never looked the way I wanted it to. My eyes always fell towards my belly when I would get out of the shower and look in the mirror. I can honestly say I hated my belly. At first I just tried to come to terms with the way it looked but then I explored more. Why did I dislike the way it looked so much? My answer, because it wasn’t smooth and toned like the ladies on the covers of magazines or like my friends in bikinis. I didn’t like the way the skin sagged from having babies or the stretch marks that spread across my navel. So I thought, okay you don’t like the way it looks, and you know why you don’t like it, but then I asked myself an even more important question. Where did I get the idea that my belly was ugly and not acceptable? Of course there where a million messages from TV, and magazines and ads that only showed flawless skin on bellies. Lose belly fat, get rid of stretch marks, tighten up your tummy, were what all the advertisers marketed to women. Plastic surgery ads for “mommy makeovers.” In addition to that I recalled the countless times growing up where I would hear women talk about hating their bellies. I recalled my best friends mom telling us in 4th grade that she refused to wear a bikini because of her cesarean scars, or my own mother who finally wore a two piece after having a tummy tuck and hating the way her belly was before.
You see, I came to realize that it wasn’t really my voice that came up with the idea that my belly was ugly. It was the voices of several others that told me my belly was flawed. Even though no one ever said to my face that my belly was ugly, undesirable or unacceptable, I heard that message a million other ways from a million other voices. Once I realized that it wasn’t my original thought or voice telling me I was ugly, I started to change the way I thought about my belly. I pondered what women from hundreds of years ago looked like before cosmetic surgery, photo shop and constant media messages. What do women in other parts of the world look like? How do other cultures value their bodies? In addition to that, I started to think what if I didn’t know any different? What if I was surrounded by women who had bellies just like me? What if advertisers showed bellies that were like mine on the magazines and billboards? What would I think about my belly then? A big ah-ha moment. It really wasn’t my voice telling me I was flawed. I can now see where I got that message and it was up to me if I was going to allow that false way of thinking to constantly run me down and tell me how I didn’t measure up.
So there you have it. This weeks homework, step two of transforming the way you think about your body: if you have a part of your body you don’t like, then identify what it is and why you don’t like it? Where did that message come from? Where did you learn that it was flawed, ugly or didn’t measure up? Write it down. Take some time to think about it. Perhaps even write down why it’s not flawed and how it’s okay just the way it is.
Feel free to share with me your progress. You can send me an email or leave a comment below.