The Beauty of Self-Love: Making Peace with Your Body

Group of people on beach at sunset raising linked hands to sky“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.” —Francis Bacon, English philosopher

A large portion of the U.S. economy would grind to a halt if people made peace with their bodies. Billions of dollars are spent each year on plastic surgery, botox, lasers, corsets, diets, and psychotropics to deal with body-related depression and anxiety—all of it fueled by the advertisers’ goal: making people feel unattractive and inadequate. Photoshop and other image-manipulation tools, with their ability to refine and enhance the already polished, have only added to the impossibly perfectionistic landscape.

If you want to get off and stay off the train of self-loathing and body hatred, stop watching or listening to any programming that features ads. Ditto for many magazines. Embrace the way you were made.

If you have curly hair, learn to love it. If it’s thin and wispy, love that, too.

Curvy? Fabulous! No waist? Just great! Tall? Beautiful! Short? Lovely!

Celebrate your unique beauty.

There will always be someone who finds you appealing. If you spend your life in a state of self-hatred, how can you expect to attract anyone you might want?

Try this approach instead.

Hate your thighs? Imagine having no legs. Hate your arms? Imagine them gone. Start being appreciative of what your body is and what it can do. Can you see? Hear? Move? If yes, lucky you. Lamenting what you don’t have and buying into unattainable ideals of beauty (always youthful, of course) is a clear path to misery.

Be strong. Swim against the tide of peer pressure and groupthink. Use your own brain. Decide for yourself what is important. If it’s looks and physical prowess, I can assure you they will fade. Then what?

When you don’t think you look your best, make a point of emphasizing your best qualities. Maybe you have a wicked sense of humor. Perhaps you are very kind. Let these qualities shine. Mother Teresa wasn’t a fashion icon, yet was beloved by more people than we can count. No one remembers Marie Curie for her looks, either.

Want to feel liberated? Care less about what you assume others think of you. Trust me, they are way too preoccupied thinking about themselves to give your appearance more than a passing thought.

What do you bring to the table? Bring it! Even when you think you might look ravishing, your attention to externals may come with less focus on internals. How will that help develop you as a person? Bring your truest self to every situation; perhaps you won’t be universally liked, but whoever likes you will like the real you.

Want to feel liberated? Care less about what you assume others think of you. Trust me, they are way too preoccupied thinking about themselves to give your appearance more than a passing thought.

Want a great relationship? Don’t base it on appearances. Anyone attracted primarily to your looks may want to trade you in for a newer model when you are no longer so fetching.

Want to feel better? Give yoga a try. Any yoga, unless it’s grueling and torturous, will help you make peace with your body. How does it do that? It combines mindfulness with deep breathing to promote calm. A relaxed body is usually happier than a stressed one. All those yummy chemicals yoga catalyzes may help you feel good about yourself.

Move your body, sleep at least seven hours a night, and eat a vegetable-heavy diet. If you do these things more days than not, a compelling case can be made that whatever weight you are is your natural, healthy weight.

Celebrate your unique beauty every day. Look in the mirror and do as motivational author Louise Hay does: say, “I love you, (your name), I really, really love you.” After thousands of repetitions, you just may start believing it too.

How much of your precious time do you want to spend having an adversarial relationship with your body? How do you want to feel about it? Do you want to appreciate all its miracles? Do you want to focus on everything that works well? When you hear yourself thinking a negative body thought, ask yourself, “Is that what I really want to tell myself? What would I rather think?” Practice this and see what effect it has.

Your body, right now, in its current form, is a temple. Treat it that way and watch what happens.

Reference:

Dent, M. (2016, March 9). Plastic Surgery Reaches a New Record: The Top 5 Nip-and-Tucks in 2015. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/09/plastic-surgery-reaches-a-new-record-the-top-5-nip-and-tucks-in-2015.html

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, therapist in Buffalo, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Berniece

    Berniece

    May 5th, 2016 at 9:54 AM

    This is a tough battle because we told that certain things are right to look like and others are wrong. I want to feel good about who I am and what I look like, but is a struggle daily.

  • Jeff

    Jeff

    May 5th, 2016 at 1:18 PM

    It is time to begin focusing so much more and that which we are grateful for having instead of the things that we think that we want but that we can’t have.
    Those things that we think that we want are generally petty and make no real difference in terms of the overall quality of our life.
    I want for us all to think a little more of things we do have, the things that make our lives special and just know that the rest? Those are likely the things that we can most do without.

  • Nicole Urdang

    Nicole Urdang

    May 6th, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    Hi Berniece,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is a struggle because we women have been inundated with messages since the day we were born that we are not good enough. If we thought we were ok the way we were we wouldn’t need almost any of what they are trying to sell us. The answer is to be gentle with yourself and realize changing your automatic thoughts takes time.
    Good luck!

  • Nicole Urdang

    Nicole Urdang

    May 6th, 2016 at 9:21 AM

    Hi Jeff,
    I couldn’t agree more. I like to stop before eating, after yoga, or going to sleep to be grateful for all my blessings. Focusing on what we have rather than what we think we lack is always good therapy.

  • Rebecca

    Rebecca

    May 6th, 2016 at 12:35 PM

    Thanks for another point of view —-Gratitude for a healthy body rather than focusing on what I don’t like.

  • Dee

    Dee

    May 7th, 2016 at 5:20 AM

    We might not like what we actually see when we look in the mirror
    but look at what is underneath all of that external
    are you a good person? do you do things for other people? do other people like you because they know that you are grateful and kind and a giver?
    those are the important things that we should all focus on
    not necessarily the skin that we just live in

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    May 7th, 2016 at 4:35 PM

    Thank you, Dee. We yogis like to say: It’s not how you look it’s how you feel. Your addition of how it’s also how you act is very helpful. One way to feel better is to do something for someone else. It certainly helps take the focus off more superficial things.

  • Landon

    Landon

    May 9th, 2016 at 7:51 AM

    I always try to tell myself, you know, what if I didn’t have this body that allows me to do so much?

  • meg

    meg

    May 11th, 2016 at 11:11 AM

    I am seeing more of this being written about, but there is still a part of me who doesn’t believe that we will just all of a sudden come to love our midsection or our thighs because others are encouraging this self acceptance. I know that for me so much of this is ingrained in me that I know that I would never be happy if I didn’t weight what I wanted to weigh. Call me shallow, but I don’t think that just because it is becoming more acceptable in society as a whole that this in any way means that the individual needs are going to go away.

  • Nicole Urdang

    Nicole Urdang

    May 14th, 2016 at 5:26 AM

    Hi Meg,
    Thank you for your thoughts.
    Yes, individual needs will always be unique. At the same time, people are more accepting of different body types, different ways of dressing, different gender orientations and expression, just to name a few ways societal perceptions have changed. This shift will not happen overnight. It’s a process. We have all been trained, especially we women, to revile our bodies. Some may never come to love their midsection or thighs, as you suggest, but more kindness towards ourselves in all areas can go a long way towards a happier life.
    One more thought: As you age, you may find the size and shape of your body is less important than whether it works, or not.

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