How do you feel about your body? More specifically, how do you feel about your physical appearance?
For many of us, especially me, these are not easy or fun questions to
answer. Most people I know have issues, concerns, or complaints about
their body and about how they look. I often struggle, and have for
much of my life, with a negative view and feeling about my own body –
thinking it isn’t fit enough, obsessing about certain features and
aspects of my appearance that I don’t like, and simply feeling flawed
in various ways physically.
While this has ebbed and flowed for me throughout my life – based on
certain stages, various injuries, and other factors and obsessions –
for the most part, feeling bad about my body and appearance is
something I’ve dealt with for a long time. I continue to struggle with
body image issues, even though I pretend I’m "too evolved" to be
concerned with such “superficial” insecurities and erroneously think
that with all of the personal growth work I’ve done I should be past
this by now.
There’s nothing wrong with us wanting to look our best, take care of
ourselves, be fit, and more. However, when I tell the truth about it,
so much of my own desire to be “healthy” and to take care of myself
physically, has more to do with me not wanting to not get fat, look
bad, or be viewed (by myself and others) as unhealthy, ugly,
diminished, or flawed.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with “body beautiful.” Billions
of dollars are spent each year by advertisers telling us we don’t look
good enough and need improvement. In return, we spend billions of our
own dollars collectively on various products which are supposed to
reverse our aging process, re-grow our hair, smooth out our wrinkles,
whiten our teeth, help us lose weight, make us look and feel better,
and much more. I’ve spent my own money on these types of products,
usually with a sense of embarrassment for doing so, as well as
disappointment with the ultimate result (or lack thereof).
While all of this is not that easy for me to admit, especially given
the work that I do, I know that I’m not alone and that this is a big
issue for many of us. This isn’t something that only affects teens,
celebrities, or women – it’s something that people of all ages, races,
genders, backgrounds, professions, and more struggle with. Many of us,
including us men, often don’t admit our body image issues, fearing the
judgment of others as well as our own personal shame.
I’ve recently decided to address my own appearance issues directly. I
feel ready to both deal with this honestly and heal it genuinely,
although I find myself feeling scared, embarrassed, and vulnerable
about it at the same time.
In this process, I’ve come across a powerful new book called Love Your Body, Love Your Life,
by an amazing woman named Sarah Maria. This book has had a profound
impact on my own life already (and I just picked it up two weeks ago).
Sarah Maria, a prominent body image expert and spiritual teacher,
teaches us that we are not alone in our “Negative Body Obsession”
(NBO). So many of us, especially in our culture, struggle with varying
degrees of NBO which negatively impacts our lives, our work, our
relationships, and how we feel about ourselves in a significant way.
In reading this book and practicing some of the techniques, however,
I’m really starting to see and understand (in a real, not simply
theoretical, way) that how we feel about our bodies has a lot to do
with how we feel about ourselves and our lives. And, at the same time,
NBO is not as much about how we feel about our bodies; it’s about how
we feel about ourselves.
What if we could truly love, accept, and appreciate our bodies and how
we look, right now? Imagine what life would be like without NBO?
Sarah Maria calls it “befriending” our body. So often, we treat our
body like an “enemy” we’re trying to beat, conquer, or at least keep at
The key to all of this is not about losing more weight, finding the
right workout program, getting the best products, or buying better
clothes. It’s really about us making peace with our bodies, and on a
deeper level making peace with ourselves. Loving our body can give us
access to loving ourselves more deeply. And, paradoxically, how we can
really begin to love our body and let go of NBO in a genuine way, is to
practice loving ourselves authentically.
While there is no “quick fix” to all of this (as is the case for most
important things in life), there are some things we can think about and
practice as we enhance our capacity to love our bodies, ourselves, and
our lives more genuinely.
– It’s essential for us to forgive ourselves and to also forgive our
body. In many cases we have done, said, and thought really negative
and damaging things to and about our body over the years. With a sense
of healthy remorse and a deep sense of empathy, we can begin to forgive
ourselves for how we have treated our body in the past. At the same
time, we can practice forgiving our body for not being “perfect.”
– Making peace with our body and appearance is an important step in our
process to love and heal ourselves in a genuine way. What if we could
accept, appreciate, and love our body as it is right now – whether or
not we’re at our ideal weight (which most of us aren’t) and even if we
don’t love every feature of our body (which most of us don’t).
Acceptance leads to peace, peace leads to healing, and healing leads to
love. Accepting our body and our appearance are fundamental aspects of
loving ourselves and our lives.
3) Get Real
– How we truly feel about our body and appearance is something that
many of us aren’t comfortable thinking about or talking about with
others in an honest, real, and vulnerable way. However, for us to
shift how we feel about our body, our appearance, and our life in a
genuine way, we have to be willing to address this at a deeper level
than food, exercise, cosmetics, etc. Body image issues cut to the core
of how we feel about ourselves as human beings. Our issues with our
body often reflect the deeper issues we have with ourselves. When
we’re willing to get real about this, like with anything else in life,
we have an expanded capacity to learn, grow, and heal. Getting real
about how we truly feel about our body also reminds us that we’re not
alone in this, that there’s a lot of support around us, and that
there’s nothing “wrong” with us for feeling this way – it’s part of
As you think about and talk about your honest relationship to your body
and your appearance, be kind to yourself. Many of us have a lifetime
filled with negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about ourselves
physically. And, as we’re able to forgive ourselves, accept ourselves,
and get real about this, we give ourselves access to transforming our
relationship to our body and our life in a profound and positive way!
Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote
speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else
is Already Taken (Wiley). More info - www.Mike-Robbins.com