Body Shame. It is the opposite of BodyLove.
BodyLove is an extraordinary practice of radical self-love that has the power to transform one's entire life. Body-Shame, on the other hand, separates us from our bodies by creating a pathology in which we see our bodies as separate from ourselves. When we relate to our bodies through shame, we often feel trapped within the body, as if we are perpetually trying to escape it. Over time, this learned behavior has a very detrimental effect on our spiritual, emotional and psychological well-being because from within the trenches of behavioral Body-Shaming, the body becomes one's measurement of self-worth, an object to be controlled, tamed, decorated and manipulated for a desired outcome.
Paradoxically, generally that desired outcome is for our bodies and ourselves to be Loved.
Before you continue to read this post, I encourage you to watch the thought provoking video below on how the "Ideal Body Type" shifts and changes over time, like any trend does and will continue to do.
Many of us know that cultural body ideals shift dramatically throughout time, as the video above reminds us. Despite this awareness, we still attempt to fit into a mold, follow the trend and fight our biology in order to meet a cultural standard. Have you ever noticed that women of all sizes, shapes, ages, colors, and fitness levels criticize their bodies? The negative things we women say about our bodies can be harsh -and from anyone else's perspective but our own, often untrue or exaggerated. This is the behavior that perpetuates the inheritance of Body-Shame. When we criticize our own bodies, we are adding to the culture of Body-Shaming. How? Because the people who are in your presence with either automatically compare themselves to you or they will feel sorry for you and apologetically try to make you feel better. Both situations...awkward and detrimental.
Here is a #TruthBomb that I dig = When you commit to loving your body, you make it easier for everyone else to love their own.
Body shaming is not constructive for any of us, and rather than encouraging or motivating people to heal and foster healthier body image it has the reverse effect of reinforcing a belief that the body is innately imperfect and must be modified.
WHY do we openly criticize ourselves and berate our bodies in front of others? Where did we pick up this damaging habit and how does it persist throughout our culture so strongly?
One of the ways we learn body shaming early on in life is from our parents and/or other adults around us who criticized their own bodies. And of course the most damaging reinforcement of Body-Shame has come via the media. At this point, our minds have been inundated with so many distorted media messages that self-deprecation can be second nature at the subconscious level. All we need is the little voice constantly chattering in our head about our insufficiency to keep us in the pits of self-sabotaging thoughts and habits. Quite often it is not WHAT we are criticizing in ourselves, but rather the habit of criticizing itself which makes us feel unhappy, ashamed or hopeless.
So the point is that we learn to shame the body; this is a behavior that we pick up from others, from influences outside of ourselves. For, if left uninfluenced, a child would never invent the idea that its body was not good enough or somehow greatly flawed. The idea of comparison, imperfection and competition about the aesthetics of the body is very much an invention of the human mind, and unfortunately one that our society has long espoused as truth.
SO WHAT TO DO? How do we change?
instead of devoting time to self-loathing and self-criticism, we CHOOSE BODYLOVE.
When we choose to shame ourselves, we choose to reinforce many of the habits that keep us feeling bad about ourselves. So when we choose to Love ourselves, we choose to create a reality that says we are worthy and perfect and grateful for our bodies.
Eventually, each of us must realize that, no matter how engrained the behavior, and regardless of all of the evidence you have gathered in your mind to convince yourself of your unworthiness - despite ALL of this, it becomes clear that IT IS ALL UP TO YOU to change the way you feel about and relate to your body. YOU can become the source of encouragement for yourself and anyone else by choosing BodyLove instead of Body-Shame.
And YES, BodyLove entails compassion and radical self-acceptance. Yes, it entails commitment, a sort of discipline that must come from inside. For many of us, it entails mental re-wiring; replacing the negative thoughts (the ones that we are really TRULY sick of) with positive and encouraging ones. There are many ways to start the process of transformation. I found myself doing what I thought to be cheesy and silly daily rituals such as looking at myself naked in the mirror and repeating "I love you, I love you, I love you.." over and over again until I could see in my eyes that something in my mind shifted. I would stand there with myself and I would wait until I could actually hear the words and accept and believe the meaning of "I love you."
TAKE ACTION: Do what needs to be done to recreate a reality you wish to live in with regard to your own body image. Understand how you got to where you are and now choose to change it.
In my next blog post, I will lay out a few ideas and simple exercises that have worked for me in my journey to BodyLove. If you are looking for a some strategy and support in this great CHOICE, perhaps you will find this next blog post useful.