Would you ever even consider telling someone they are fat and ugly?
I mean, even if you think it, you aren’t going to tell someone that to their face!
Yet we easily and often tell ourselves these things all the time.
- We stand in front of the mirror and declare that we’re fat.
- We glare at the lines on our face and tell ourselves we look like an old woman.
- We long for the days when we were young and “beautiful”.
I’m sure you can relate and have even said some of these things to yourself.
How do I know this? As our appearance has earned the position as the number one shame trigger for women.
The definition of body shaming is: to criticize or mock (someone) for supposed bodily faults or imperfections.
What’s a key word in that definition? “Supposed.”
And what does that mean?
“Supposed” is used to declare that it’s only an opinion, a mistaken belief or something that is imagined. When we constantly criticize or degrade ourselves, we are feeding shame ― a painful, negative emotion ― within us.
Feeding shame fuels its growth, which diminishes joy and happiness and decreases our self-esteem. It causes us to feel unworthy of our own self-love, let alone anyone else’s. Psychologically, it triggers depression and anxiety. It might cause us to withdraw from human connection, something critical to a healthy, flourishing life.
The first step to breaking the cycle of self-criticism is to become aware of your thoughts. Pause and notice what you are saying silently to yourself, or out loud to yourself or others. Be the observer and notice how this makes you feel.
Stop and think about it.
Don’t just think about it and then pick up your mascara and continue putting on your makeup.
Notice it! Nothing can be changed until we become aware of it, so that’s step one!
Something I do to break this cycle and find to be a helpful practice is to intentionally do a meditation that shows gratitude to my body.
I talk to each body part starting from my feet and think of all of the ways that body part serves and supports me. For example, I’ll thank my feet for always carrying my weight and how they allow me to move and interact with the world. I consciously send love to them! I recall vividly sensations associated with them and intensely pretend to feel it, like how it feels to dig my toes into the sand. I go on like this until I have expressed so much love and gratitude for my feet that I feel it! Then I move on to another body part.
You can do a similar meditation or guided thought exercise yourself to begin showing love to a body part that is causing you to shame yourself. For example, those lines around your eyes? Instead of berating and hating them, thank your face for its ability to convey your emotions through expression and think of those lines as badges that honor your laughter! How you feel when you laugh. How it feels when you cause others to laugh. The feeling of belly laughs with friends!
And let me give you a little hint that worked for me. Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about your body! I don’t know about you, but shimmying into a pair of tight jeans just because I didn’t want to buy the next size up did nothing but keep reinforcing the belief that I was fat. Wearing clothing that makes you look and feel uncomfortable keeps all that negative self-talk front and center in your mind all day long! Not healthy. If you want to do something about your weight, do it, but create a foundation for doing that through loving your body, not shaming it. It works better that way, trust me! And in the meantime, be comfortable and wear something that makes you feel good!
The nonprofit, the National Eating Disorders Association, has some information on its website that you may find helpful. While the information is very general, it does introduce you to some healthier ways of looking at yourself and your body and they are helpful. I invite you to give their ten steps a try and learn to love your physical self again! It supports you and carries you through life!