What does it mean to love yourself?
Some would say that loving yourself means having a positive body image.
Merriam Webster defines body image as:
“a subjective picture of one’s own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others.”
But body image is way more than a singular idea or thought. And one article cannot automatically tell you how to turn negative body thoughts into positive body image, but it can introduce you to healthier ways of looking at yourself and your body. The more you practice these alternative thought patterns, the better you will feel about who you are and the body you naturally have.
Holding a positive appreciation for oneself may look different person-to-person. It might look like:
- Doing whatever you can for your body at that moment, like having a rushed cup of coffee and granola bar as you race off to work.
- Being grateful and respectful to your body for functioning in a way that supports your lifestyle. Maybe you are thankful for hands that allow you to type important emails at work or legs that got you to your friend’s house.
- Not actually really thinking too much about your body and not letting it interfere with your day to day activities.
- Becoming critical of your social media feed. Paying attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Unfollow.
- Reminding yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Getting plenty of sleep – setting your boundaries in the evenings.
- Staying in for a Netflix marathon instead of going outside, because you’re tired and just fancy it.
- Eating when you need, but don’t necessarily want to – e.g. perhaps it’s been 6 hours since you last ate, but you’re stressed and not physically hungry. A self-care act would be to eat, which may reduce stress levels, and re-energise you.
- Nourishing yourself however you can or know how – there is no such thing as a perfect diet. Simple and cheap dishes, like beans on toast and cheese and tomato sandwiches, are a perfectly nourishing meal!
We Shouldn’t Have to Strive for Self-Love, Sometimes Self-Acceptance is Enough
Feeling good about oneself does not necessarily equate to being totally happy with one’s body. It might feel pretty unrealistic to go from a place of body dislike to 100% body love. So you might be pleased to know that there is somewhere in the middle. And that place is body neutrality. Body neutrality encourages body acceptance. It’s a place where you don’t necessarily love your body, but you can at least accept it and respect it as it is.
Does that feel more achievable?
Reaching body acceptance will, however, likely mean grieving the loss of whatever ideal body image you’ve dreamed of. As Meredith Noble states:
“For instance, we have to give up the idea of one day achieving the thin ideal, as well as the idea that we can use food and exercise to control the size of our bodies. We also have to process the idea that we’ve devoted so much time and energy to achieving long-term weight loss, without success (or perhaps with success but copious amounts of misery).”
In addition, @bodyimagewithbri once said:
“you can’t bypass body grief and go straight to body acceptance”.
Reaching body acceptance requires moving through some stages. Below are the stages that might be experienced when grieving the loss of the thin ideal body.
The stages of body grief:
Denial: “I can still change my body and then work on body positivity.”
Anger: “I cannot believe I have been sold this idea that to be happy I must be ____!”
Bargaining: “Okay, but let me try one more diet to see if I can be happier.”
Depression: “I cannot believe I have wasted my life chasing a body size I will never have.”
Acceptance: “This is the body I have, what can I do with it now, at this moment?”
And we can flick back and forwards through all of these stages for some time.
Self-acceptance is about recognising that a lot is out of our control (body size included). But it is also about recognising our positive attributes, even if we are not where we want to be. It means accepting all aspects of yourself, even the aspects you consider to be negative. Acceptance is believing that you are worthy of care and respect.
Finding Body Acceptance Rather than Self-Love
Self-Love is a lot for someone to ask of you. Self-Love cannot simply be bought with face masks and a girls’ nights in, but body acceptance is work that we can practice daily. When you think about it, how cool is it that we can simply pursue acceptance and in the pursuit of acceptance, care for ourselves with unconditional self-regard?! It is not a linear process, sometimes your relationship with your body is a literal rollercoaster. But, beginning to work through those feelings of resentment or anger towards the body you currently live in, is a good start. We can all choose to either fight the reality of our bodies or accept our bodies as they are.*
What are some ways that you could respect your body in the here and now? Here are some examples below:
- Make that doctors appointment
- Take your prescribed meds
- Honour your hunger
- Move joyfully – what movement brings you joy and pleasure?
- Get out in nature
- Seek therapy
- Have food in your house that you find satisfying and nourishing
- Cook a delicious nourishing meal
- Forgive yourself
Choosing to feel our discomfort, leaning into it, and moving forward is brave; it is acceptance. Below is the, “Manifesto of the Brave and the Brokenhearted” by Brené Brown. It reiterates that we author our own stories. This Valentine’s Day, feel your feelings, lean into discomfort, and admire your body for carrying you this far.
“We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings. We craft love from heartbreak, compassion from shame, grace from disappointment, courage from failure. Showing up is our power, story is our way home, truth is our song. We are the brave and broken hearted. We are Rising Strong.” – Brene Brown.
If you’re struggling with your relationship with food and/or your body, or you just have more questions, feel free to email me (hello@nudenutritionrd,com). I personally read and answer each and every email.
Or if you would like to talk through your challenges with me, you can schedule a FREE 20-minute no-obligation chat HERE.