Am I limited to just one body part that drives me bonkers? We all have them; some of us have more than one.
Maybe you tell yourself:
Ugh, my bust is too big (or too small).
My arms flap in the breeze.
I hate the way my muffin top smooshes out over the top of my jeans.
I’m too short.
I’m too tall.
I’ve got (AACCCKKKK!!!!!) cankles!!!
And we’ve become conditioned to believe all the nasty stuff we tell ourselves.
Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati psychologist who specializes in body image says: “Neuroscience has shown that whatever you focus on shapes your brain. If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body, that neural pathway becomes stronger—and those thoughts become habitual.”
And it’s not just women who are overweight or obese who engage in this self-recrimination. Women who are lower than average and average BMI report just as much negative body talk as heavier women.
So what does that tell us?
That our negative self-talk doesn’t have anything to do with what our bodies actually look like.
Dr. Kearney-Cooke explains: “Let’s say you’re in a meeting and you suddenly think, ‘Ew, my arms are huge.’ Well, you’ve had those same arms all day. Why are you suddenly feeling bad about them now? Maybe it’s because you don’t think your professional ideas are being valued or you’re not fulfilled in your job. Instead of focusing on the real issue, all you can think of is hating your arms. And it becomes a vicious cycle: All the push-ups in the world won’t make you feel better, because your arms weren’t the problem to begin with.”
So how can we stop being our own worst critic and find peace with our bodies, no matter its size (or the thickness of our ankles)?
Write down all the things you like about your body.
Literally write them down as positive thoughts pop into your head.
My hair is on point today.
Yep, Audrey Hepburn eyebrows here.
Becoming conscious of our thoughts is the first step to rewiring those neural pathways.
Love the one (body) you’re with.
Learning to appreciate what our bodies are capable of is life-changing, in every sense.
For many women childbirth is their first extreme physical test. Yes, it’s painful – maybe excruciating – but childbirth is a perfect example of how there is wisdom in our bodies’ abilities, whether we’re conscious of it or not.
I recall one particularly wise midwife telling me – in the middle of labor with a child who was not cooperating and myself feeling rather panicked – “Your body knows what to do. Let it do it.” Okay, easy for her to say, she wasn’t seeing stars from blinding pain, but ultimately she was right. My body did know what to do.
And you’re welcome, son.
Yes, exercise improves our physique so maybe there are fewer body parts that we’re displeased with, but the real magic in exercising comes from the mood boost that we get with it. In fact the positive feelings associated with exercise come much more from that “Holy-cow-that-was-hard-but-I-did-it!” feeling than from chiseling rock hard abs. That sense of accomplishment transfers to other aspects of our lives, including increased positive self-talk.
Focusing on what we’ve got – strong, muscular legs, a killer sense of humor or a gorgeous hourglass shape – reminds us that we’re more than the sum of our parts.
Rewiring our brains to hear only the good stuff is gonna take time and practice. But I’m a big believer in the “fake it till you make it” strategy. Besides, you don’t have to have well-proportioned calves that taper elegantly to feel good, and – yes – sexy!
Oh, and one last thing: Watch this video and you’ll win a FREE lifetime supply of beauty patches! (But you’ve got to wait until the very end so you know what’s in the patch!)