How To Love & Accept Your Body Unconditionally

Psychologist By Kelly Neff, M.A., PhD
Kelly Neff is a psychologist, author, and professor specializing in relationships, love, and sexuality.
How To Love & Accept Your Body Unconditionally

Image by Lucas Ottone / Stocksy

I can't help but feel a strange apathy about my body sometimes, even though I know that loving and accepting myself unconditionally is integral to my own personal happiness and spiritual growth.

And yet, after so many years of being conditioned by images of femininity in our society, I've often struggled to accept the appearance of my body.

I know that I'm not alone here. In fact, I wrote in a previous article about being approached after my lectures by beautiful young women breaking down in tears because they felt their bodies were not good enough.

What in the world is wrong with us? Why is it so hard for us to love ourselves unconditionally?

Understand The Power of Conditioning

My training as a social psychologist has taught me that social conditioning is a very real and very powerful force. From birth, we are exposed to a specific series of images in our media that reinforce the attractiveness of an unattainable ideal of female beauty. We are constantly affronted with photo-shopped images of actresses and models who embody these traits, in a process designed to make us feel worthless and insecure so that we BUY MORE PRODUCTS!

The cosmetic industry is a $43 billion plus per year industry because let’s face it, if we all loved and accepted our natural bodies, would we feel so compelled to purchase diet pills, skin creams, plastic surgery, makeup and butt-enlarging underwear? (Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 offers an excellent expansion of this argument.)

We are incorrectly taught to believe that we need to look a certain way in order to be happy. Not only does thinking this make happiness unattainable by putting it into the future (“I’ll be happy when … I lose these five pounds!” or “When my boobs are bigger!”), but it directs women to focus their energies on the body while giving less emphasis to their minds and spirits.

A woman is so much more than just her body!

Embrace Your Beautiful Uniqueness

I’m sharing this picture (see above) of me at Lucidity Festival recently because it has shown me the value in loving my body no matter what. I'm standing at the entrance to the Lover’s Nest (kind of a rendition of a goddess temple).

At Lucidity, I had an amazing time feeling supported and nurtured by my spirit family. I didn’t look in the mirror for days, and I really didn’t care what my body looked like. I was too busy focusing on being in flow with spirit, feeling connected and expressing myself to the fullest.

I really love this picture because it allows me to own my natural imperfections, which actually make me feel unique, feminine and sometimes even sexy! Sure, I may not meet certain standards. I’m 5’2, curvy, I have tattoos, and I am definitely not the airbrushed model we're accustomed to seeing in the mainstream media. And I am totally OK with this! I embrace the uniqueness within myself, and I invite you to give yourself permission to do the same.

Empower Yourself with Positive Thinking

You have the power to choose to love yourself and cultivate happiness within your vessel. You can opt out of the struggle, the stress and the constant worrying of, “do I measure up?” to society’s impossible standards of female beauty because guess what? Nobody does!

I am good enough just as I am, and SO ARE YOU. Make healthy lifestyle choices that nurture your body, mind and spirit, and remember:

Self-Love is the BEST healthy lifestyle choice!

Here are some positive affirmations that have helped me on this journey. Repeat these to yourself in meditation or say them out loud in the mirror. At first this might be difficult and some tears might be shed. Just know that whatever happens, this is all part of your healing and growth.

  • I am enough
  • I am beautiful
  • I am unique
  • I love and respect my body (also, my mind and spirit!)
  • I am more than my body
  • My body is a safe, happy place
  • I reject artificial standards of beauty that do not serve me
  • I love myself unconditionally
  • I see the beauty in all living things

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