It's become part of what it means to be human: point out something about yourself you don’t like, a perceived flaw that needs to be fixed.
We haven’t learned this behavior all on our own: we're constantly being bombarded with images of “perfect” (airbrushed, sometimes completely reconstructed) bodies. We're constantly being fed a message of needing to slim down and tone up. Want the job? Lose weight! Want your dream partner? Lose weight! Want to be happy, rich, successful, attractive? Lose weight!
It's easy to see why we're so hard on ourselves, finding it impossible to reach a beauty standard that's absurd and unattainable.
At a healthy size 12, I work as a plus-size model. I find the label degrading, but at the same time, I’m happy there's a place in the industry for my body type: I love representing curvy women and showing more diversity in fashion.
I've certainly been guilty of comparing myself to others, and definitely had some emotional moments being the “big girl” on set when shooting with size two models. But these insecurities ultimately let me heal and release, and that's been the greatest blessing of all.
Here are some of the steps I've taken and committed to that have enabled me to love and honor my body:
1. Practice the art of acceptance, even when it seems impossible.
Loving your body starts with acceptance. You have to know who you are and what you’re working with.
I’m built exactly like my dad: tall, strong and athletic. I'm not, have never been and will never be super skinny. It isn’t my body type or bone structure. But I eat clean, work out and stay active. I’m not the skinniest girl in the room, but I’m definitely one of the strongest!
Focus on your best assets. My thighs may be "big," but they're are what help me be a great athlete, and I find beauty in strength and fitness.
2. Learn to forgive wholeheartedly.
Through guided meditations, energy work like reiki, journaling, walks in nature, reading and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle, I've learned to forgive myself for negative self-talk and others for the unkind things they say about my body or body type. Forgiveness is a choice I choose to make on a regular basis.
Recognize unkind words as just thoughts, perceived fear not based in reality. Forgiveness releases you and others, allowing you to live your life from a place of love. Anything you've done to your body that didn't come from a loving place can be forgiven and healed.
3. Be willing to see your body in a new light.
Be willing to let go of old thought patterns that don't promote a positive body image. Be willing to see love instead of fear. Be willing to eat healthy, exercise and take care of your body. Be willing to try new things.
For me, it was reiki, fascial stretch therapy and meditation. These practices put me more in touch with my energy, body and ability to heal. As the old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Or as I like to say, If I can do it, so can you!
4. Gain a sense of perspective.
A shift in perspective can literally shift your life. By choosing to see your body as beautiful and appreciate it for all it's done for you, you can honor your body instead of complaining about what’s wrong with it. Our egos love for us to believe bad things about ourselves, so don’t take the bait. Choose to see your body as the temple it is instead.
5. Don't compare.
This is a big one, and something our society loves to do. Comparing keeps us small. It lowers our energy. Quite simply, it feels like crap.
I meet many naturally thin women who tell me they wish they had my curves despite sometimes wishing I had a slimmer stomach. It’s imperative that we stay in our own lane. The wasted time and energy you spend comparing yourself to others could be spent nurturing your own body.
6. Take a bath.
It might sound silly, I know, but I take a bubble bath almost everyday. Besides getting clean, I find it extremely relaxing and it helps me connect to my body. It's my time to take care of and nurture myself. It’s not just a skin-softening ritual, but also a body love ritual.
Warm water, healing epsom salts and essential oils give me such a sense of calm and draw attention to my sense of self. We're all so busy working and taking care of others that we often neglect ourselves. A bath slows you down and allows you to love yourself in a pure, simple way.
7. Say thank you.
Forget the grueling hour-long sessions with your trainer, marathon races or even child birth for a second. Yes, your body does all of that for you, but it also got you up out of bed this morning, showered, fed and out the door. Our bodies are constantly working for us, doing almost everything we ask of them and yet we're so hard on them.
Starting today, try saying thank you to your body for all it's done for you. We all want to be appreciated and our bodies are no exception. Gratitude goes a long way, even with ourselves.