Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself and cringe? Maybe you thought you looked decent but, oh, those “Hulk” arms were a bit much? All that extra skin hanging down from your arms creating bat wings large enough for you flap away into the night. Oh, what about those stretch marks? Don’t forget cottage cheese cellulite – gross.
Why do we talk to ourselves like this? In what world would it be okay to talk to someone like that? But I do and I am going to guess you speak to yourself that way, too, sometimes. Ya know, I’ve done a lot of work on myself the past three years and as much as I try to nourish and love the body for what it is – a God-given vessel for my soul – I STILL have old stories like this that pop up, which is frustrating as H-E-L-L.
Feelings frustrating, however, is just the beginning of it. I’m frustrated with my brain, I’m disappointed, I feel guilt and shame for being so hard on myself and so it goes into a downward spiral. All of this over a photo!
One simple photo that isn’t a perfectly angled and filtered headshot, and I’m flashbacking to my early 20s counting chips for my “calorie allowance” for the day. I’m thinking of all the protien shakes I would make from powder and water, and freeze to just grab and go. I’m thinking of all the time I stood on the scale and scowled. One photo that shows “too much” skin of my arms or thighs, or, Lord have mercy, a little tummy overhang and we instantly demand a retake, don’t we? Sometimes we share our disgust with ourselves out loud around other people! Old stories just roll off our tongues and out into the air for all to hear. They sound like this:
“Ugh, I hate my chin in that one, let’s do it again.”
“Eh, my *insert body part* looks huge. Can we take another one?”
“OMG, I look so fat in that one!”
Ladies and gents, we ALL do this. Please don’t think for one second that I am shaming anyone who think these thoughts. Our brains our beautiful, complex and down right ridiculous. The human brain likes to group similar experiences, emotions and things together. Our brains are always looking for connections and ways to make sense of things, so our brain has developed a lovely library that’s a mile long. This explains why certain experiences, words, sights, sounds, smells, etc. can trigger old thoughts (such as negative thoughts we haven’t had in a while) to show up and throw a parade in the streets of our mind. Settle down brain, this isn’t Mardi Gras. When something triggers a past emotion or experience, our brain says “Oh, this is like the last time you looked at yourself and felt all those fun emotions, let’s categorize it under self-loathing, perfectionism and people pleasing.” *insert thumbs-up emoji*
Here’s a better example I’ll paraphrase from “Unf**k, Your Brain.”
Let’s say your husband buys you flowers ever year on your birthday, or maybe your grandma alway had fresh flowers in a vase at her house. When you see flowers, happy memories of time with your grandma or your husband flood in. Now, let’s say the only time you saw fresh flowers growing up is when people brought them over because, unfortunately, you attended a lot of funerals growing up. You associate flowers with sadness or grief, or perhaps you like flowers but the thought of them is bit complicated to you so you just avoid them altogether. You’re not sure why you’re not a fan of fresh flowers so you just tell people that they aren’t your thing.
I am not shaming anyone for these negative body thoughts. What I am doing is encouraging you to challenge these thoughts, especially if you are tired of them coming up all. the. damn. time. Especially if those old stories like to tell you that your legs are too big to wear shorts or your arms too flabby that you should wear cardigans in 100-degree weather. I don’t know you about you, but I already know I’m a sinner, I really would prefer not to sweat like one in church while I’m out and about with my family just because I don’t want anyone to see my arms.
I’m here to tell you right now – you deserve to take up space on this Earth.
Say it with me: I deserve to take up space. Now, rinse and repeat.
You deserve to work through all your shit. We all have things we are working on and some will take a long time to overcome but you deserve to overcome them. We deserve to love our bodies for all they were and all they are now. Not just for ourselves but for our kids or future kids. They are looking to us to show them how to love themselves – so let’s lead by example.
All bodies are beautiful and all bodies deserved to be celebrated. You can be body positive and want to lose weight but I would ask yourself why you want to lose weight before you buy into a diet plan. You can choose to eat however you please, just being fully aware of your body issues will help you make smart decisions about your health. We only have one body – we must nurture and nourish it.
Now, let’s head on over to Part 2 where I will dive right into how we can challenge and conquer these old stories in our heads. We’re in this together! Let’s reprogram our brain and start appreciating our bodies!