Love Yourself

Do you love your body, like really love it? Naked?
In my 34 years of life, I have found so many ways to be dissatisfied with my body, from my skin to my hair and even my face. I’ve dreamed of all the ways I could change the things I don’t like about myself. I’ve thought about eating differently, exercising, dying my hair, and waxing. There are so many options. If I did all of those things though, what would I really be achieving? I would finally be beautiful — then what? Would I be happy? Would I feel validation because others think I’m beautiful? Would I magically live happily ever after and would my problems be gone? No; I would still be myself and have the same thoughts and feelings. If I believe I have to look perfect to love myself or for others to love me, does that equal happiness? 

Love YourselfI have been doing a lot of introspection and the reality is that I have to love my body, my human body, exactly the way it is.

That doesn’t mean I don’t go to the gym or eat vegetables or dye my hair. But the things I do are because I love myself, not because I am trying to earn love. This allows my internal conversations to be completely different. The old conversation went something like this: “Don’t eat those carbs because you will be fat and ugly.” The new conversation goes like this: “Enjoy food because it tastes good and it nourishes your body.” Food used to be a means to guilt, shame, control and validate myself. Food, and the size of my body, became an easy way for my brain to decide whether I was lovable. The less I ate and the less I weighed, the more lovable I became. Seeing these thoughts on papers feels crazy, but it was my truth and probably a truth for many of us who have struggled with body image. 

So, can it really be that easy? Wave a wand and poof: I love my body, cellulite and all?

No way. I have to actively pay attention to my thoughts, what I am saying and why. Are my thoughts helpful? What can I change my thoughts to? When something comes up that’s negative and I know it’s a thought I do not want to continue having, I try to change it to a more neutral one. I look at the bigger picture for perspective. We are animals; do my rabbits care that one rabbit is bigger than the other rabbit, that one is white with red eyes and the other is gray with brown eyes? No, they feel no shame in being who they are. They eat because they want to live and they enjoy it; they jump and run because it feels good. In that same way, I have a human body that keeps me alive, that moves me around, that is healthy and beautiful. This thought grounds me when I am thinking, “My waist is not as small as that Instagram model’s.” Who cares? I dictate my happiness, my brain chooses what happiness looks like for me. I want to be able to run upstairs without being winded; I want to eat a chocolate croissant because it tastes good; I don’t want to eat a dozen croissants because I hate myself and I want my outsides to match my insides. That is what I used to do; I used food to soothe myself, to berate myself, and to punish myself. The same with exercise. I wanted to punish myself for eating, for having any fat on my body, for completely loathing myself. I don’t want to live this way. Food is a means of survival and can be such a pleasure. Exercise can feel so good without the negative inner monologue.  
I have stopped using and abusing food. When I am sad and I have the urge to eat, I ask myself why. I want to be able to feel my sadness, cope with it, have empathy for myself and get to the other side. My unhealthy fear was, “What if I learn to love my body but my husband doesn’t?” I recognize now that these were my unhealthy thoughts trying to derail me.

I’ve realized that if I love my body and my husband leaves me because of it, it’d be a gift because that’s not love. The truth is that my husband loves me and the more I love myself, the more he gets to see and know me instead of the armor I wear.