Over the past three years, I have been researching the importance of self-care for moms, and working on a book that provides moms with strategies for turning the idea of self-care into an everyday reality. While researching and conducting interviews for the book, I also have been teaching yoga to hundreds of women, and discussing the challenges and rewards of practicing self-care. As I step back to analyze my findings, I noticed many patterns in how women think about self-care as it relates to their bodies. This will come as a surprise to NO ONE, but women are HIGHLY and OVERLY critical of their bodies. Lots of women struggle with body image issues.
Just try to give a woman a compliment, “Wow, you look amazing tonight!” Most likely you will get a response that includes a grunt, a moan, an eye role or a snicker, followed by some kind of self-deprecating remark, “Thank goodness for Spanx,” or “Yuck, I feel so gross, I know I shouldn’t have worn a sleeveless dress, my arms look so fat.”
The reasons why women are so hard on themselves run deep, and the media certainly doesn’t help. Society is bombarded with commercials about diet pills, weight loss and quick-fix fitness plans, and women and girls often interpret these messages to mean that they are not okay unless they are skinny. Research shows that girls as young as three years old “are already emotionally invested in being thin,” and some are dieting by the age of six.
In an effort to challenge these types of messages and to feel good about yourself as a whole person, I challenge you to focus on being kind to yourself in how you think about and talk to yourself about your body. It is so easy to get caught up in habitual negative thought patterns, but changing to a mindset of empowerment and positivity will make a huge difference in your life.
In other words, regardless of what number shows on the bathroom scale, whether or not you can fit into the dress you hoped to wear for your next event, or how close or how far you are from your fitness goals, I urge you to move away from self-criticism and toward self-love. Being compassionate with yourself will allow you to feel better overall appreciate the joy around you. Also, when you feel good about yourself, you are also more likely to treat yourself and your body well by making choices that are good for you.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate acceptance, compassion and gratitude into your thoughts about your body and yourself every day:
- The moment you wake up, find gratitude for the fact that your body and mind are healthy, that your body will do most of what you ask it to do and that you are able to get out of bed and start your day.
- Be grateful that you possess the gift of movement, and commit to using that gift throughout the day, even if that means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or kicking the soccer ball around with your child.
- Find gratitude and empowerment in your ability to make choices about what foods you will fill up your body with.
- Be grateful that you have access to a plethora of healthy, safe food to nourish your body.
- When you look in the mirror, look with loving and accepting eyes. Talk to yourself about your body the way you would talk to your best friend, highlighting the positive and not being overly critical or judgmental. Give yourself a compliment and throw in a dose of gratitude, “I really like the color of my eyes.” “I am so grateful that I have long eye lashes.”
- Be truly compassionate with yourself and with your body. Acknowledge that you need to treat your body with love, honor and respect, just as you treat your whole self.
So, commit to loving and embracing your body, and letting go of self-criticism. Notice how much lighter and happier you feel when you do. And when someone tells you that you look great, make sure to smile big and before that automatic, critical voice blurts out something negative, quickly say, “Thank you. I feel really good. And you look fantastic too.”