Self-Love Isn't about Loving Your Body
You see it everywhere...
Blog posts, social media graphics, and influencers touting the benefits of just LOVING YOUR BODY as if it's the simple, one-step solution for more happiness and peace.
But what the heck does that even mean?
I don't know about you, but no one ever really taught me HOW to love my body.
Instead, I was taught how to control my body... shrink it... make it "better" to please others or to be more healthy.
Sure, a few well-intentioned loved ones and mentors told me to "love myself" growing up, but amidst a culture full of imagery and messaging that told me I needed to look a certain way to be accepted, it went in one ear and out the other...
In other words, the statement "Love your body" felt like a completely intangible concept when I'd been raised by a culture that touts looks over inner value and worth.
Do you feel the same sometimes?
Unfortunately, there is not a simplistic switch you can just "turn on" for self-love... The truth is, self-love is a practice that often takes time to cultivate.
The practice of learning to love oneself also comes with highs and lows. It's never a linear path to the goal and is often paired with feelings of deep discomfort before experiencing true self-love for the first time.
The reason for this discomfort is related to neuroscience and the way we have been wired from a young age. When we ask our brain to change (e.g. Be nice to ourselves), it literally can feel like a death to the parts of us that have spent years in self-loathing, destructive thinking, and pity for ourselves and the body we were given that's imperfect.
The brain will literally do anything to stay in the patterns it has known for so long... And it takes a very clear intent to clear out the baggage and make room for a more loving approach...
This loving approach consists of two very important variables; self-compassion & patience.
With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same love and attention that we'd otherwise offer to a good friend. When you do this, you are activating your nurturer voice. I learned about this helpful voice from The Original Intuitive Eating Pros.
There are several practices to activate that loving voice and one of my favorite is through journaling. Journaling will beautifully strengthen your nurturer voice and you will soon notice that it will help you to step away from the more harmful voices that may arise.
Another favorite is connecting to our heart center alongside intentional calming breathwork. When you connect to your heart center there are thousands of shifts happening, but the three I will highlight for your journey here are:
The more we practice connection to our heart center, the more self-compassionate neural pathways are built.
Our highest conscious self is revealed which only knows love of your whole self. When we look through this lens, we know with greater ease what self-care is being called for and these self-care practices are gentle touches of self-love.
Tuning into your heart’s wisdom creates a profound shift from within that helps you approach situations with more emotional balance, compassion, clarity, and personal confidence.
With patience, we allow ourselves TIME to heal from a long history of negative thinking about our abilities and our bodies. It is normal to want this healing yesterday because it has been holding you back for so long, but not allowing it to naturally unfold only keeps you where you are at longer.
Your brain will dig in its heels and keep you where you are if you attempt to leap to the end because that would be very scary (from the viewpoint of your brain). What is most effective is to be patient and take notice of the small shifts happening. Be sure to celebrate and give yourself credit for those small shifts. Every time you give yourself credit and don’t dismiss your amazingness, that in of itself is an act of self-love.
By engaging with these two tools we can start to see that "loving our bodies" is not the end goal... instead, embracing what our body needs to experience life will open up the doors to self-love.
To dive deeper into this topic listen in to the most podcast recent episode the CEO of my sister company and I recorded on this very topic.