How do you accept your body just as it is?
How can you be grateful for what your body can do rather than being angry about what it can’t do?
Body acceptance in our culture is a tall order even on the best of days, but it becomes even more complicated when we are in pain, or disabled, or have limitations that are affecting our quality of life.
When Our Bodies Won’t Cooperate
When I had my first child the weight came off fantastically (25kgs in seven months) with alot of walking and a healthy diet, with my second child not so fantastically, my body just didn’t respond as well to the exercise and diet and also with ‘two under three years of age’ my time became limited, my routine was nearly consistently out of whack, I tryed shifting the weight for my happiness, I tryed training and found my body didn’t respond to that either including a dislocated knee to boot (which left me worse off) It left me confused and in doubt about my ability to drop the extra weight and a huge disappointment in my body’s ability to do what I wanted it to do, I had to dig deep to find other ways to be the better me!! I wanted my pre pregnancy weight back and to appreciate my body more for a healthy positive outlook.
Negativity bias makes it easy for us to focus on what we don’t have, it’s to easy to blame our body for our unhappiness.
The body is easy to blame. It is much easier for us to notice the negative things, the things going wrong, rather than all the things we do have or what the body can do. But why?
The answer is in a phenomenon called negativity bias. Basically, the mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly, and persistently than to good things of equal intensity. Our instincts keep us alert to the bad things in life because they could pose a threat.
This is useful if a saber-tooth tiger is chasing you, but not so much if you’re just trying to go through your day and suddenly one crappy event triggers a spiral of negative thoughts and harmful self-talk. Negativity bias makes it easy for us to focus on what we don’t have. Things like the body that’s the shape or size that we want. A body without pain. A body that’s more mobile or younger. So how do we find gratitude in the midst of all this?
Acknowledge and Honor Your Emotions
It’s normal to have strong emotions when we are in pain or feel limited. It’s normal to feel angry when something doesn’t go our way. So first of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. If you’re beating yourself up because you have negative feelings about your body, you’re only compounding your pain. Being angry at your body for something that you can’t control will be detrimental to your happiness.
Have you ever expressed feelings to a friend or parent and instead of being listened to and empathized with, you were told, “Well, you shouldn’t feel that way. Don’t be so sensitive.” It doesn’t feel good, right? You want to be seen. You want to be heard. And hearing, “Stop feeling that way” doesn’t make you stop feeling that way. It just makes you feel bad in a different way.
Stopping the Negative Spiral and Changing Directions
Being mad at your body for being in pain is just like somebody telling you, “You shouldn’t feel that way. Stop being so angry or sensitive or hurt.” Being angry at your body for something that’s out of your control is just unfair and inhumane.
When you find yourself in that negative thought spiral or thinking angry thoughts, as soon as you catch it, stop and say out loud, “I don’t want to feel this way.” Just give yourself that verbal reminder to stop and change your thought process.
Then right away, practice gratitude. I know that might sound cheesy. But I promise you, developing an attitude of gratitude for your body is a powerful game-changer.
I won’t tell you, “Everything is perfect just the way it is.” It’s not perfect. You’re in pain, that’s real. But if you can focus on the good in a situation, that can really get you out of that spiral that’s making you miserable.
I challenge you to start to be curious about what’s going right. What’s going right in this crappy moment when you’re in pain and everything sucks. Ask yourself: What is my body able to do that I’m grateful for? What’s happening in my life that is going well? And focus on that instead of continuing in the spiral of anger that’s got you miserable.
Self-care demonstrates to yourself (and to others) that you’re worthy of attention and you’re worthy of care.
Demonstrate Your Worth with Self-Care
Another key to recognizing that your body is worthy, just as it is, is to establish measures of self-care that you can practice every day. We don’t usually hate things that we take care of (and we don’t take care of things we hate). So, self-care demonstrates to yourself (and to others) that you’re worthy of attention and you’re worthy of care. I find it a lot harder to be totally pissed off at my body if I am tending to my needs and taking care of myself.
Seek out measures of self-care
Drinking enough water, eating nourishing food, getting enough sleep, doing practices that help keep your stress levels down (breathing practices, yoga, meditation), seeking out pleasurable sensations, taking a multivitamin, keeping your body clean. Be curious and discover your measures of self-care that tell you, I’m well. I’m being as well as I can be in the body that I’ve been given.
When you invest time caring for your body in very basic, practical ways such as, How much water did I drink today? Maybe I’m going to stop what I’m doing; I’m going to go into the kitchen and get myself a glass of water because that’s nourishing to my body. A check-in like this is an excellent way to demonstrate to yourself that your body is worthy of care.
Even if your body isn’t in the best shape of your life. Even if you’re not the most well you’ve ever been. By taking on this mindset, you’re giving your body the same care you would if it were in the best shape of your life, or the most well you’ve ever been.
Make a List of What You Appreciate About Your Body
Finally, I really do encourage you to make a list of what you appreciate about your body. Nothing is too big or too small to go on this list. It helps to put items on this list in the format, “I appreciate my [body thing] because it [accomplishes X / causes X pleasurable circumstance].” Here are a few of my examples.
I appreciate my broad shoulders because they are strong and hold up my chest and allow me to continually hold my children and help me with upper body strength with Pilate’s and walking.
I appreciate my softness because my hubbie loves to snuggle up to me and grab on tight.
I appreciate my face because it’s exactly halfway between my mom and my dad’s looks and I like being reminded of them when I see myself.
I appreciate my hair because people always say how lovely it is and my children love to play with it as comfort.
I appreciate my eyes because they’re expressive and show me all the beauty in the world.
Now, make your list. If body acceptance is something you’re actively working on, you could keep this list with you or put it in a place where you’ll see it often.
Finding gratitude for a normal, flawed, human body that isn’t “ideal” is a challenge. It takes practice. So, on days when your body seems more like a burden than a gift, remember that sometimes breathing is not only enough, but the only thing that actually matters.
You are alive.
May you feel your aliveness and may it be enough.