Cultivating a Positive Body Image
A Pattern of Discontentment
From adolescence onwards, I was never quite satisfied with my body and appearance. In the early years, it was that I was too short and looked too much like a little child. I was a "late bloomer" in that I didn't start menstruating until just before I turned 15 years old. Combine that with being younger than most of the kids in my grade, and the stage was set for having body image issues.
As I moved on into adulthood, I could still always find plenty to be dissatisfied about in my appearance: my freckles, my lack of 6-pack ab muscles no matter how much I worked out or how slim I was, the gap between my front teeth, my different proportions compared to the "ideal". And after becoming a mother, I could easily find ways to be discouraged in my appearance, with my new stretch marks, bigger hips and abdomen than before pregnancy, and an overall different shape than pre-pregnancy. Although my negative body image was never severe, and never caused me to do anything drastic, it was like a splinter wedged under my skin, that inexorably kept poking me for over 20 years. Did I really want to let that splinter keep festering for the next 50 or 60 years?
Deciding to Change
A couple years ago I had an epiphany: I could just decide to let go of being dissatisfied with my body. I could decide to be content with being as I am, knowing that I take good care of my body by eating a healthy diet and getting a good amount of physical activity. Rather than continuing to be unhappy with my appearance for the rest of my life, I could just decide to let it go!
This was a big shift for me. I made the decision to stop the internal self-criticism of my appearance, and promised myself that I would be happy to be just as I am. It was a tearful, sweet moment when I looked in the mirror and told myself that I was fine, just as I am. That I am just as I was made to be. That I would love and accept myself, just as I am.
Settling in to Contentment
Making the decision to change how I viewed myself has been one of the best self-care steps I have ever taken. Although there have been a few times when I have seen myself shifting back into that old negative thought pattern, by reaffirming my decision to accept myself, I have been able to quickly shift back into being content. Making the conscious choice to change this aspect of myself really has worked and allowed me to live the last couple years feeling happier and more whole.
In future posts in this series on body image, I will share how I am actively promoting positive body image in my daughter and the life-changing system that has revolutionized my wardrobe and appearance.