As a psychologist and body image expert, I regularly give talks about body love. During one of my talks I had started out by talking about what self-love is (the unconditional love and respect you have for yourself).
Immediately a hand went up. "You don't mean what I say to myself when I look in the mirror, right?"
"Is that showing you unconditional love and respect?" I countered.
"Well no, but that's my body..." she said.
Everyone laughed self-consciously as the realization dawned. Your body is you. By picking apart at ourselves, we are not showing our bodies, minds or spirits the love and respect they deserve. Yet, we do it anyway, and I am, perhaps, one of the worst offenders. Not necessarily in what I say to myself but with my incessant picking.
I look in the mirror and see imperfection. I pick, poke, pluck, prod, ineffectively trying to remove any blockage, blackhead, whitehead, stray hair. I succeed in making things worse. I know I'm not alone in this. As women, we are our own worst critics, our own worst enemies.
I don't care whether it's fat talk, dieting, or popping zits. It's all manifestations of the same thing -- we pick apart at ourselves because we can't stand to be less than. And for whatever reason, we've fixated on a certain aspect of ourselves that we tend to pick on more. But therein lays the problem. By picking apart at ourselves, we are sending ourselves the message that we're never going to be good enough, worthy, perfect.
What we need to realize is that it's OK to be vulnerable. It's OK to not be perfect. It's OK to just be you.
But in a world that is constantly telling us we are less than, how do we do this? I've gotten it down to a four-step process. One that, with time, actually does help you learn to be your own best friend instead of your own worst enemy.
Step 1: Stop comparing your body, success, intelligence, etc. to everyone else.
I know it's hard. Everywhere we look -- magazines, video games, TV -- we see perfection. It's almost human nature to compare ourselves to others. We call it "motivation" but in reality it often does more harm than good (see step 2). When I made my vow to stop comparing myself to others, I had to enact a media ban. No Cosmo, no People, no Time and no TV. It was too easy for me to see how great a job everyone else was doing (after all you don't get on the cover of a magazine for being average) so I had to stop watching it.
Step 2: Stop the "fat" talk -- or whatever your vice is.
"I'm so stupid." "Why can't I be more like my sister?" "Does this make me look fat?" As I've shared on the blog before, research suggests that negative messages are five times more powerful than positive ones. In other words, every time you say or think something negative about yourself, you need to counteract that by immediately saying five positive things about yourself. Or you could just stop saying negative things about yourself and other people. While you're at it, refuse to listen to negative talk (from you or others).
Step 3: EnVision What You Want
Get out your journal and ponder these questions: Why are you here? What's your true purpose in life? You probably weren't sent here to be a supermodel or rocket scientist or [insert whoever you tend to compare yourself to]. So stop comparing yourself to them. Celebrate you! You have unique talents and gifts. So it's pointless to compare you to anyone else because you're you.
Step 4: Learn to get comfortable in your own skin again
I know, I know. This one seems impossible. But once you stop the comparison game and the negative self-talk, you'll find it easier to be nicer to you. Start with this simple exercise. First thing in the morning before you open your eyes, feel -- the softness of your sheets against your skin, the cool air touching the exposed areas of your body; gently stretch -- roll your shoulders, your neck, flex your feet and hands. Feel the amazing miracle that your body is and all that it does for you every day. If you feel so inclined, you might want to say a little thank you to your body and yourself for just being you. Next, think of five things you are grateful for. By starting your day focusing on the positive, you'll set the tone for a better day. To complete your morning ritual, do something that makes you feel absolutely amazing - something you really enjoy doing. It doesn't have to be anything extravagant. Maybe you just listen to your favorite music while taking a shower. Or dance while you make breakfast. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks - just enjoy be-ing you.
I hope these tips serve you. If you'd like to learn more, I am hosting a series of free calls with even more tips and tricks for learning to love you again. Find out more here.