I had a conversation with a client a few weeks ago. We were talking about how 20 years from now, she will look back and probably think she was crazy for not loving how great she looks. She was completely aware of this and agreed with my statement, but that doesn’t mean she is ready or even willing to change her mindset.
As we enter our later years in life, when gravity has taken it’s tool on our bodies and when we reflect how much sun, stress, or laughter we’ve had in our lives, do we have the thought that we should have been more critical of our bodies when we were younger? Do we wish we would have worn more baggier clothes to hide the body others (and most likely our currently older self) would love to possess? I don’t think so.
So then why do we waste so much of our lives tearing ourselves apart instead of enjoying all the great things about our bodies? Why can’t we see ourselves the way others do? Why do we dismiss any sort of compliment that comes our way?
One thing that I know a lot of women struggle with is accepting compliments. It isn’t necessarily comfortable and we immediately want to dismiss it. We follow the compliment with disagreeing, laughing and being sarcastic, or agreeing but then bringing up a weakness of ours. A couple of years ago I noticed I would do it myself so decided to fix it because I hated when others did it, so I couldn’t hate what I did myself! So I started simply replying with a “thank you”. At first it was awkward, but now I accept the compliment with a smile because I value myself and I work hard for what I have built.
It is normal to want to improve aspects of ourselves, but to hate parts of ourselves is not. People assume that once they reach a certain look, they will find happiness and be able to love themselves. But unfortunately that isn’t the case. We reach our supposed destination, but it’s not enough. We continue to only see what we want to change and are still unhappy. As a friend of mine on Facebook just posted, happy people focus on what they have and unhappy people focus on what’s missing.
In the most tangent kind of way, it reminds me of the saying “only when you stop looking for love will you find it”. Surely you won’t find love if you completely give up and decide to become a hermit, but that’s not what I am implying. I think that when we are seeking love in a desperate fashion, we are more willing to settle for something less than love, we push away those we are seeking because we give off a desperate vibe, and in some part we are unable to love properly if we don’t first love and value ourselves. For when we love ourselves, we don’t need others to make us feel happy or loved because we already can create those positive emotions for ourselves. We put off this aura that others can feel and want to be around. People will naturally be drawn to us like a magnet and we are more able to receive love because we aren’t solely focused on filling a void. Have you ever dated someone who’s made you feel like you were their life preserver? It’s suffocating and most likely the relationship doesn’t work out because no one wants to be someone else’s life preserver. We want someone who can be our partner in life, not someone who NEEDS us in order to feel happy.
So how does one go from not being happy with how they look to appreciating their body? I wish there was a step-by-step process that I could give you, but there isn’t one and it is not a quick process either. However, I have given clients several different kinds of “homework” in hopes to improve their self love. Below are 5 different ways to try and improve your self love:
1. Are you happy? If you constantly tear yourself down, my guess is not so much. Do you know what makes you happy? Start a journal and keep track of your feelings. At the end of each day, write down what triggered emotions for you today whether you were happy, sad, angry, etc. After a couple of weeks, start doing more of what makes you happy, and try to avoid incidences that make you feel a negative emotion.
Choice Theory is an awesome book that I have my mentor clients reading. Dr. William Glasser describes “total behavior” as a combination of physiology, feeling, activity, and thinking. We may not have much control over our physiology and feeling, but we definitely have control over our actions and thoughts which effects our physiology and how we feel. He also states that a lot of our negative emotions stem from us trying to control others in our lives vs focusing on the relationship itself and understanding that the only thing we can control is ourselves. So even though I won’t be diving much deeper into this, pay attention to what relationships in your life are causing negative emotions. What can YOU do to decrease the negative emotions? Do you need to have a conversation with someone? Do you need to stop trying to get someone to do what you want them to do? Or is it bad enough that perhaps the person needs to be cut from your life?
By decreasing the negativity, we can give more room for the positive which helps with increasing our happiness.
2. What are your thoughts? How often do you say something negative to yourself? This could be another thing to journal, but it would have to be done as soon as you have the thought due to the volume of thoughts we have each day, we most likely won’t be able to recall all of our negative thoughts at the end of the day. After a week or so, read over what you wrote. What are you saying to yourself? Are there themes? With all of the negative thoughts you had about your body, your performance, etc, have you complimented yourself in those areas at all?
Similar to the saying that we are what we eat, we are also what we think. Negative thoughts can be seen in how someone carries themselves (rounded shoulders, head down, etc). You can also spot a confident person a mile away and the best thing about confidence is that it is sexy no matter what your pant size is.
I had a conversation with one of my male friends about Ashley Graham, the plus size model on the Sports Illustrated cover. He told me he found her sexy and I asked him if it was because of her confidence and he confirmed my guess. He then went on to say that he loves all different kinds of women, but a woman that would be classified as “overweight” who has confidence is way sexier to him in comparison to a girl who’s fit without confidence. This coming from a guy who has chiseled abs, thick arms, and under 10% bodyfat. So by continually tearing ourselves apart, we are only making ourselves more self conscious and less attractive. So stop it!
Start by complimenting yourself every morning. Look in the mirror at yourself and tell yourself (out loud) what you love about yourself. I know it may sound silly, but just do it! Some days it’ll be like pulling at strings, while other mornings you may love a lot! Just find something. Maybe take a note from this little girl!
Another thing you can do is every time you have a negative thought pass through your mind, cancel it out with a positive. So let’s say you are looking at the workout you have to do and see something you don’t feel you are proficient in. If the thought of “oh great, i hate chest to bars. I am so bad at them” passes through your mind, you must cancel it out by saying something positive such as “well it’s another opportunity to get better” or “I may not like chest to bars, but at least there are hang cleans and I am awesome at those”.
3. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable! I like to think of it as desensitizing myself or a “get over yourself” decision. So what does that look like? In my world, that means taking my shirt off during a workout when I am hot without thinking too much about it. I started this last year and as my body continues to change slightly throughout each year of training for the better, i’d be lying if I said it isn’t easier because I do like my body, but it’s also because I have practiced getting over myself. I have the mindset that the more you make yourself uncomfortable, the less uncomfortable you get. I was watching a quick video on Facebook by Mike Vacanti (posted below) where he mentioned the 3-second rule. The main takeaway was that if you have an urge to do something, you have to do it within 3 seconds because after 3 seconds, we start rationalizing why we shouldn’t do it. There have been days when it was hot out and I wanted to just take my shirt off (there’s something about that refreshing breeze on your midsection during a hard wod), but then I would start rationalizing or rather talking myself out of doing it by thinking “well I’m not wearing the right shorts”, “we are doing thrusters and I don’t want my stomach to get all scrunched up looking”, or even “I don’t really want people to think I am trying to show off”. Then one day I realized maybe I should rationalize why I should do what I have the urge to do. So I changed my mindset and starting thinking “Kylie don’t be such a pussy; suck it up and do it” (hey sometimes you have to be harsh on yourself), “who cares what other people think of me”, or “why not be a role model to other females to show that you don’t need to have a 6-pack to take your shirt off!?”.
4. What are you proud of? How many times do you smile about something you’ve done because you are proud of yourself? Just another positive thought exercise to add to the list. I have told clients that before they go to sleep each night, they need to tell themselves one thing they are proud of themselves for that day. Whether it was PRing a lift, not yelling at their son who forgot to do his dishes for the 14th time this week (and it’s only Wednesday), or for helping out your husband even though you would have rather done something else. It is ok to be proud of yourself and instead of trying to keep the positive emotions deep down, let them fill your soul and soak in the positivity!
5. Find pleasure in the little things. When was the last time you found joy in something minute? There is something about nature that allows me to process my thoughts, feel more at peace, and find beauty in the little things. When I feel stressed, I usually want to escape to nature in some aspect so I can clear my head and admire the beauty of God’s work–something much bigger than myself. We are so connected anymore that we tend to go through life with our heads down and thumbs on overdrive and we miss so many little experiences. I challenge you to look for the little things, and let yourself smile.
Loving the body you have is not an overnight process. There will be days when you feel like you are back at square one, but isn’t it that way with everything whether nutrition, skills, performance, etc? But like those dreaded chest to bars, with practice and time, you will get better, and one day you will realize that even though your body may not be perfect, it is perfectly yours.