Happy Valentine’s Day! Usually this blog gets posted on Mondays, but I wanted to do a special post today since we will be surrounded by love. However, I’m not talking about the romance between two partners, or even showing love to your family and friends. Today, I’m talking about a particularly difficult kind of love for a lot of us: self-love. More specifically, loving our bodies.
Embracing our bodies can be difficult for anyone. Men, women, old, young, thin, and thick. Likewise, accepting our bodies can come and go with different seasons of life. (“I loved my body, but then I turned 40 and it all went downhill.” “I loved my body, but then I had a baby.” “I loved my body, but then…”) Why is it so difficult for us to show our bodies love and respect?
Years ago, before Jeff and I were even married, we did a Bible study group that helped focus on healthy relationships. For 6 weeks we worked through the Illumination Project which was based on the ideas of the book Love and Respect written by author Emerson Eggerich. If you’re in a romantic relationship, or you aren’t but hope to be in one someday, I suggest taking a look at it. It delves into the ideas of communicating in relationships using love and respect as the foundation and breaking the “crazy cycle” of not treating one another with said love and respect. Jeff and I, to this day, use this idea as a tool to help in our communication with one another. Interestingly enough, I have also found it helpful in many non-romantic relationships in my life including co-workers, family members, and everyone in between. I have even tried to apply some of the logic to my relationship with my own body.
Why is it so difficult for me to look in the mirror and communicate with myself in terms of love and respect? Why do I say things to me that I would be shocked and appalled to hear someone else say? Why do I allow hurtful and downright abusive thoughts to take over when I am talking to myself, but am otherwise a very loving and forgiving person when dealing with others?
So often, we look to other people to define what “beautiful” is and to tell us how we need to look. Unfortunately, this creates a false narrative. It can result in us telling ourselves that we aren’t attractive or aren’t good enough. (I want to be careful about overusing the word “beautiful” because I believe that has a female connotation and I think this is true for men also.)
On this Valentine’s Day, I encourage you (and myself!) to take a moment to love your body. Here’s the thing, showing your body love and respect does not mean that you need to look at yourself and think “I’m perfect just the way I am.” This children’s book cliche is one that often sits wrong with me. What’s so wrong with accepting yourself as imperfect? I believe this “you’re perfect just the way you are” rhetoric can actually cause some confusion. Guess what, you aren’t perfect just the way you are. You never will be. And isn’t that an amazingly wonderful and freeing thought?! Owning your imperfection is not the same as giving up or saying that you cannot get better. I am a firm believer that we should never stop trying to better ourselves, but allowing yourself to be content with where you are now and ridding yourself of the idea of perfection as a whole, is empowering.
Here’s my hope for you today: I hope you can be confident in your body because HOLY COW the human body does amazing things. The sheer fact that we are an incredibly complex mechanism put into motion, is mind-boggling. To overly simplify that to valuing your body based on a number on the scale, is downright odious.
Take a moment (and I will too!) to think or, even better yet, write down answers to these following questions. Then, in the midst of buying the roses and making the dinner reservation, or snuggling up solo with Netflix or hitting the Valentine’s Day Partner Workout at CrossFit Morgantown (See what I did there?), find a moment to talk nice to yourself. Much like with communication in any healthy relationship, you need to show yourself love and respect. It can make a world of difference. Again, here are some prompts to start a new inner dialogue about your body. Hopefully this will help!
- Make a list of things your body is physically capable of doing. These could be huge, such as carrying and delivering a child. Or it could be simpler, such as your ability to smile. (Fun Fact: Did you know that just to smile, you use an average of 17 muscles in your face? Frowning is much harder work, you have to use 43 muscles.) Don’t discriminate, write it all down. I would venture to say that once you start intentionally listing all of your body’s capabilities, there will be so many that you will grow tired of even continuing the list. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much you weigh, how much money you make, what year you were born, etc. Your body is incredible! Even if you are still struggling with the concept of loving your body, this list should help you respect it a little more.
- Make a list of changes your body has gone through over the years. This could be puberty to menopause to gaining that freshman 15 to finally being able to run that marathon. Again, don’t discriminate. Whether you consider the change good or bad, include it. This is another exercise in respect. Look at what your body has been through and think of where it can go.
- Make a list of ways you negatively punish your body. This should include anything that makes you feel bad. – Negative self-talk, crash dieting before a big event, binging, purging, not getting enough sleep, etc.
- Make a list of things you could do to honor your body. Remember, loving your body is about honoring not punishing it. How can we do that? – Working out 3 times a week, fueling my body with foods that make me feel great, taking a long hot bath, investing in the vitamins that will help me balance out my needed nutrients, getting 8 hours of sleep, etc.
Over the next couple of weeks, if you find yourself punishing your body, come back to these lists and work on your own communication from a focal point of love and respect. Again, this doesn’t mean an overnight mindset shift that makes you believe you’re perfect. You aren’t, none of us are. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing. With the idea of the never-attainable perfectionism in our proverbial rear-view mirror, let’s now work on honoring our bodies and showing them the love and respect they deserve.