By Susan Biali, M.D.
What do you think when you look in the mirror? Do you focus on what you like about yourself? Or do you see your flaws, and wish they were different? Perhaps you even wish that you were different? Younger, or taller, or skinnier. We all have things we’d like to change about ourselves.
Most of us would like to significantly change the state of our body, be it its appearance or the kind of health it enjoys. We’d love to become our ideal vision of ourselves, and most of us already know what the necessary steps would be. But I’ll tell you right now – the success that you’ll have in becoming your “new and improved” version of yourself, is directly related to how much you appreciate and love yourself right now, exactly as you are.
Let’s think of your body as a person who you’d like to convince to change. For example, let’s say your husband or wife has some annoying qualities. And let’s say you have two choices as to how to address this issue with them: 1) you could make faces whenever you see them, and tell them that they’re driving you crazy and that they’d better change soon or you won’t love them anymore; or 2) you could let them know how much you appreciate and love them, and that you’d like to talk about some minor issues that could potentially affect your mutual happiness. Which approach would be best?
You know the answer. And, to take it a step further: how valuable do you think it might then be, to then sincerely ask your spouse what they’d like you to change in your own behavior? This is how I’d like you to consider thinking about, and “talking” with, your own body. It’s a two way street!
Our bodies do so much for us, and everyone takes their body for granted. Until, of course, something happens and we lose something we’re used to having – such as our sight, or our hearing. When that happens, one becomes almost worshipfully grateful for that function that the body once provided so naturally, effortlessly and unselfishly.
Let’s use the example of losing weight. I see so many women who despise and resent their bodies, giving themselves nasty looks in the mirror and trying to avoid seeing themselves undressed.
What if you looked at your body in the mirror, and found something, or lots of things, to appreciate? Or what if you actually talked to your body, and apologized to it for having fed it so many giant meals and junk food? That you understand that it really isn’t your body’s fault, that you realize that it’s doing its best considering the circumstances it has been subjected to.
If you’re trying to lose weight, do you see cutting out junk food or barbecued ribs as a sacrifice that you resent? Do you resent your body for being overweight and therefore forcing you to have to say no to foods you love?
What if, instead, you decided to work with your body? That instead of seeing eating well as being an unwelcome sacrifice, you saw it as a thankful tribute to the miracle that your body truly is? Your body deserves to eat healthy foods, and drink lots of water, and get fresh air and exercise. How else would you expect it to show up looking, feeling and performing its best?
Do you that giving your body a kick with Red Bull or caffeine is really in the best interests of either you or your body? If you burn the candle at both ends, are you going to be angry at your body if, one day, it just doesn’t want to get up anymore?
I used to get frustrated if I got sick just before a big event, or on a really important day, as if it was my body’s fault. Studies show that if you take well-rested people and stick cold virus up their nose, few get sick. By contrast, those that push themselves ragged drop like flies when put through the same experiment.
I sometimes wish that I had more hair. A lot fell out, during a time when my life was out of control and I barely rested, ever. Is it my body’s fault that my hair is how it is? No. I could probably have avoided the entire experience by being more balanced and taking time to rest. Therefore, does my hair deserve the sad or resentful looks that I give it sometimes, in the mirror? I should really be grateful that my body managed to maintain a decent head of hair under the circumstances. I know people who went completely bald, eyebrows and all, after a period of massive stress. I try to remember this whenever I start feeling like what I’ve got is “unfair”.
It’s your attitude that’s got to change. A person who can’t be bothered to change their attitude about themselves can go out and get plastic surgery, but if they’ve never worked on loving and appreciating themselves as they are, a month after the procedure they’ll probably be focusing on resenting something else about themselves that they have to now “fix”.
Find things about yourself and your body to love, however small, and spend time focusing on them. If you catch yourself making a face at yourself in the mirror, stop and find something to compliment. Don’t be afraid that loving yourself “as you are” will prevent you from making changes – if anything, a kind loving attitude toward yourself and your body is what facilitates real change and transformation. Don’t kid yourself that eating that entire bag of chips, or smoking that cigarette, as comforting and feel-good as either may be, is a kind loving act to yourself or your body. You know it isn’t.
Be kind. Start with yourself.