Have you ever had one of those moments when, after observing something, you are so overcome with emotion that you want to weep? I recently did and although as a coach I often deal with these types of comments, this one took me to a tipping point.
It was in a dressing area of one of those hip stores where the sales team wears the store’s clothing line. A sales gal, over 50, was helping a customer about the same age adjust the exact blouse she was wearing when I heard her say, “I like this shirt because it shows off my shoulders … it’s the only part of my body that I like.”
Something about the way the comment was spoken, the ease at which it seemed to slip from her lips, and the curiosity of how long this kind of self talk might have been going on just broke me wide open while waking me up to the truth of what we all do when it comes to our bodies.
We body shame, especially when no one is looking or listening.
Body shaming is that intimate enemy who constantly has us reaffirming who we think we are in our lack of value and worthiness as we look at ourselves solely through the lens of our physicality. The problem with that lens is that it’s built on familial, cultural or societal opinion and priming which is based on old constructs or current ideals and trends, realistic or not.
It’s a form of self-torture whose very pain points are the constant cacophony of self-deprecation rooted in the smaller limited self that only finds satisfaction in familiar emotions and ways of being … even if they feel bad and are harmful to our very core sense of self.
This perpetual companion and relentless critic has us focusing on personally perceived flaws and is, in fact, driven by an unconscious ego strategy designed to keep us in our patterns and away from doing the actual work of self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love.
And as if body-shaming ourselves isn’t enough, when the habit is ingrained and the practice memorized, we easily and often automatically turn the mirror of judgment around towards others in an effort to find relief from our harsh inner critic. Know this, if we feel we are not enough our self, we cannot see others in any different a light because our capacity to love others is limited by our capacity to love ourselves.
It’s time to change this heart-breaking habit. Now. Do it first for yourself and then for those around you who are witnessing you in your fixations and are soulfully ready to see you, and themselves, in richer ways.
First, give yourself permission to see what you are doing and admit to the conscious and unconscious damage it does to your psyche and your body. SELF-AWARENESS is the major thrust of change and by listening to what you say when you shower, look in the mirror, groom yourself, put on clothing, or even when you’re offered a compliment, you will quickly observe the emotions you are conspiring with and to what end. Further that with the knowledge that your body is always following your mind into the future; negative thoughts trigger negative chemicals that flow through the body, and conversely, positive thoughts activate positive chemicals that course through the body. You’ve got a big choice here!
Next, try on a little SELF-ACCEPTANCE. I’m not talking about justification here, I’m referring to your willingness to stop your spin, to consider being okay with where you are even if it’s your starting point, to understand that we are all a work in progress and more than just the body we are walking around in. Add to that a knowing that you hold the answers and the key to what’s next. Rather than continuing to judge the “it” you use to shame yourself in your not-enoughness, just observe it right along with your possible resistance to letting it go. And then, in a desire to know yourself in ways beyond what you have disrespectfully practiced for too long, be willing to get to know that hungry soft self that is ready for kindness, positive acknowledgement, and constructive change.
And finally, practice SELF-LOVE, that most powerful and contagious energy. This is the place you truly begin to choose to shift. Start collecting evidence of something different, something worth your time to assess, your assets. Look beyond the body you walk around in and the signs of life that it is marked with that you think you have the right to humiliate. Instead, take stock of those attributes that you love – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual – and that make up the whole of who you are up to this moment in time. Write them down, journal around them and begin to train yourself to focus on and leverage one attribute at a time. Let what you love or appreciate about yourself lead the way. Wink and smile at yourself, hug yourself, whisper small truths of appreciation to yourself. Treat yourself like someone you love.
The only way to step into your future is to grow beyond your emotions and patterns of the past. Begin to turn the tide and change this universal soul-sucking habit, shaming our bodies for no good reason and to no productive end. Be an example of what is possible – self-awareness, acceptance and love – and begin to shift from not enough to enough, from the voice of criticism to the acknowledgment of your full value, from debilitating self-loathing to liberating self-love.
All it takes is one small step at a time.
Yes, it’s just amazing Nancy the patterns of self-loathing that we can all get into and on the flip -side to realize that we have the power to shift how we treat ourselves and our beautiful bodies! Thanks Nancy! Here’s to flipping those conversations into self-loving ones!
Beautifully written article, Nancy! You have nailed it on how we are a culture that is accustomed to body shaming ourselves and one another. I know I’ve done it and don’t like that I have…and I know when I practice STOPPING those destructive self talks, it feels so much more empowering and I find myself at ease instead of in tension and judgement. It feels kinder and so much more loving and expansive. I continue to monitor myself in this arena and strive to create a future of self loving conversations that become the habit, instead of the negative ones of the past. Thank you!