As published in the February 2020 edition of The Women’s Lifestyle Magazine.
We all would like to love our bodies. As you may have noticed, however, loving our bodies is simply not that easy. The good news is that we can change our relationship with your bodies forever!
Experts in the field of marketing estimate that the average American is exposed to up to 10,000 ads a day! These are the images of tall, slim, breathtakingly beautiful women who look like they have it all together. This statistic does not even include the barrage of images viewed through social media platforms like Instagram, which is its own visual Gauntlet of “Keeping up with the Jones.”
Whether or not we care to admit it, those images affect us. As the Mental Health Foundation in the UK reports, “Higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.” This means that not only making peace with our bodies but also learning to love them is essential for our mental health.
When we think about how to love our body, we must remember the power of words, spoken both externally and internally. The Gottman Institute, the leading researchers on what makes relationships healthy, identified that healthy relationships include a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. When we think about our relationships with our selves and our bodies, this should be no different. What would others say if they heard what you were saying to yourself as you look in the mirror or when you get up in the morning? When you are trying on new clothes, are you acknowledging that it is the item that is not right for you, as opposed to your body being the problem?
Talk to your body as you would a friend. Being affirming and loving is not about saying things you do not believe (e.g. “I am the most beautiful person in the history of the world.”). It is about acknowledging the parts of you that are beautiful and you appreciate, even if they are imperfectly perfect and even if you have to start with the basics like the ability to have function of your arms.
Follow what Frees You
Although social media can be a challenge in itself if we are actively practicing loving our bodies, consider following body positive individuals or organizations that are constantly contributing to that positive 5:1 ratio. Follow people who look like you so that you are not constantly wishing you looked differently.
Consider how your music, movies, books, and loved ones contribute to your beliefs about your body. Maybe start a support group for others simply practicing the commitment to love their bodies, no matter what their medical abilities, size, gender, ethnicity, age or any other feature. And, do not forgot to include the rule that there is no body shaming talk!
The Ultimate Goal
The sub-title of a must-read book on this topic titled “The Body is Not an Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor targets our ultimate goal as it relates to our bodies: RADICAL SELF-LOVE. One common misconception of loving our bodies, however, is the reality that choosing to love your body does not mean that you always really do. Even Ashley Graham, plus-size model and recent darling of the beauty industry, admits this in her book, “A New Model.” Do you choose to unconditionally love your loved ones even when they are different than you would hope? In a similar way, our ultimate goal is to be able to radically love and be confident with our body no matter what.
It is true that such a change will not happen overnight (remember the magic 5:1 ratio!). Forbes reminds us that global beauty industry is a $532 billion dollar market (which, to put in perspective, is more than the Gross Domestic Product of many countries!). So, if it is easiest to keep an enemy, have it be the ads and companies trying to sell you laser hair removal. Just avoid having your body be the enemy any longer. The world is hard enough to live in with our societal beauty standards. So, give yourself a break! Make this your first act of radical self-love.
~Ashley Carter Youngblood, LMSW, LMFT, CADC, ADS, CMHIMP
Ashley Carter Youngblood is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Certified Mental Health Integrative Medicine Provider who has been in the field since 2007. She offers counseling at her woman-owned business, Inner Peace Counseling, PLC, for those in Kalamazoo, Portage, Mattawan, Battle Creek, Paw Paw, and the surrounding areas of Southwest Michigan. She is passionate about her work with clients, whether it’s providing individual counseling, couples counseling, family therapy, life coaching, or education about one of her growing passions and areas of expertise: the connection between nutrition and mental health. Her specialties include holistic healing/mindfulness, counseling for women, anxiety, couples counseling, and addictions/substance abuse.
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