I was not surprised to see Louise Aubrey’s recent Instagram post go viral. She clearly triggered a wound shared by most every woman in today’s time — harsh judgment of our bodies. A well-followed fitness and nutrition blogger, Louise exposed her own tendency for body criticism, particularly when she sees photos of herself. In one image of herself, she pointed out her “big nose, back fat, and cellulite.” On a duplicate image to its side, she highlighted her “big smile, long legs and strong butt.” Same photo, two different realities. (Click here to check it out.)
Social media has only strengthened our emphasis on the external, egoistic valuation of who we are, how we look and the way we choose to live our lives. This grows our emptiness rather than our fulfillment. While it has benefits, social media, quite frankly, can crush self-esteem and pull us farther away from living a life that is authentic to our essence. We are already easily distracted into being consumed by how we appear and measure ourselves against others, which only keeps us self-absorbed by way of a preoccupation with not feeling good enough. We need to go into the digital world armed with the proper social media ammunition— that is, limiting our time on it and being conscious when doing so of how it’s making us think and feel.
It’s Our Mind That Bullies Our Body
Self-love and acceptance influence our peace of mind and joy far beyond our typical understanding and starts first with identifying what is going on in our heads. We often don’t even realize our inner thoughts and the way we talk to our selves about our bodies, and this leaves us vulnerable; we can’t change what we can’t see. A common term among body positive writers is “It’s our mind that bullies our body.” Louise’s Instagram post inspired me to take a closer look, to revisit, how my mind might be bullying my body. I asked myself a few simple questions and journaled about them. I’m so glad I did — I have more work to do! Here are some questions I used to explore what is going on in my head. Give these a try:
- What do I believe about my body?
- What am I saying to myself about my body?
- What messages from childhood left me with the beliefs I have now about my body?
- What part(s) of my body do I judge the most?
- What conclusion do I draw about my body as it relates to me as a person and my value?
- What would I be hoping to gain if my body fits my ideal? (e.g., Would I feel more important, more feminine, more powerful, less shame?)
- Where am I getting off balance? Focusing on my body too much or too little or in the wrong way?
- What does my limited, worrying, ego mind tell me about my body?
- What does my higher, wiser mind tell me about my body?
- What do I value most about my self and what I want to accomplish that is not connected to how my body looks?
In addition to catching our own body bully, here are a few other considerations to help you find greater happiness:
Come From Love Not Hate. Yes, we want to be motivated to take action and make positive changes, to do good things for ourselves and our bodies. But I learned recently from my spiritual teacher, Monica Berg, that being one’s worst enemy in any area of our life — that is, coming from harshness, should’s or fear of not being enough — this doesn’t serve us and only makes for a heavier and less successful journey. Rather than making it hard for ourselves to grow and change, we want to use positivity and inspiration to get us going. When it comes to your body, start first with increasing your positive words and thoughts about yourself and let that be your motivator for exercising, eating healthy, dressing nicely, etc. Do it because you love your body not because you hate this or that aspect. Appreciate the gift you’ve been given by all that your body does for you and allow you to do.
Get Outside Yourself: Keep Perspective. When we put so much of our energy into our concerns about our body and self — Am I good enough? How do I look, here or there? Am I thin or pretty or strong enough? — these worries close our hearts off from compassion within and around us. Not only does a preoccupation within oneself paradoxically lead us to not feel good about ourselves, we also feel isolated and not connected to humanity. The only way to break free of that trap is to get outside ourselves. Sharing is the ultimate way to make us feel good about ourselves. Our essence, the gift of ourselves that we can share, is far more important than anything physical.
Seeing the Good. Louise’s photo and post — her side by side reality of seeing what’s wrong with her body versus seeing what’s good— this profoundly applies to all areas of our lives. Whether it’s in our relationship, about our own value, our lot in life and the circumstances happening near and far to us, we always have the choice of two different realities. Seeing the good or focusing on what’s wrong. I’m not suggesting digging our head in the sand and avoiding injustices or things that need changing. But to change, I’ve learned again and again from the wisdom of Kabbalah that all we need to do is find one sliver of good. When we judge less and focus on the good, then we elevate that problem or relationship to a plane of reality where only mercy and positivity dwell. We have such power in our choice of how to perceive whatever situation we are in, and thereby transform it.
The topic of self love is near and dear to my heart. Last summer I wrote a blog about body confidence and tips to feel good about our bodies and I also wrote a blog about self compassion and self acceptance. Honestly, we can’t talk about this enough. For more in depth wisdom and tips, you might like to read these previous blogs: