This isn’t one of those articles that’s going to tell you how to lose 20 pounds or whittle your waist or which skin products to use to make your body glow.
This also isn’t one of those articles that’s going to tell you which affirmations to use in the mirror every morning or how to meditate yourself into self-love.
What this article is going to do, is walk you through my process of going from hating what I saw in the mirror to actually liking my own reflection. I’m going to share with you the two things that made the biggest impact on my development from constant self-criticism and loathing into body-confidence and self-love.
I specify body-confidence because I believe this is a very specific kind of confidence that women in America are taught from a young age is not allowed. Maybe you were taught that being confident in your body was too sexual and wrong. Maybe you were taught that you could never actually have the perfect body. Maybe you were taught that your body didn’t actually belong to you but instead to everyone else – anyone who could set eyes on it, that your body was only here so that others could judge it as worthy of praise or not.
As most other American girls, I grew up comparing myself to women in the media, on TV, in movies and even other girls at school (this was before social media and I can’t imagine how the carefully curated images of women in bikinis all over Facebook and Instagram would’ve affected me, yikes). In comparing my own body to these other women, I always found flaws with my physical appearance that were unacceptable and induced so much self-loathing its amazing I didn’t spontaneously combust.
As I grew older, I saw other women as beautiful no matter what their shape was – tall or short, curvy or straight, tan or pale – everyone was gorgeous.
Everyone, of course, except myself.
I would never allow myself the grace and admiration I gave to everyone else. Honestly, if I saw another woman on the street who had the exact same body as I do (which is impossible for all of us), I would probably have thought she was gorgeous and yet when I looked in the mirror, all I saw were rolls and flaws and misplaced curves.
I spent decades of my life in this cycle and believed there was no way out.
What’s that Universal Rule that basically says you find what you’re looking for when you stop looking for it?
That same thing happened with my own body-confidence.
A few years ago I decided I wanted to get back into rock climbing – a sport I’d really gotten into in college and in the years afterwards. I remembered it being a fun activity where I only competed with myself and I didn’t have to wait around to be the last person picked for a team. I didn’t want to do it as a way to change my physique, I just wanted another activity to do and another excuse to get outside.
One of my favorite things about climbing is that it’s so unique and individual. Every climber climbs the way that suits them best – their body, their strength, their reach and their mindset. I don’t have the most upper body strength, I’m not very tall, but I have strong legs, great balance and good flexibility. There are so many metaphors between climbing and living; the rocks remind me of the important things in life on a regular basis.
As I started to climb in the mountains near Denver more and more, I picked up my love of hiking and camping again, backpacking to alpine lakes and summiting 14ers. Being in nature is a sure-fire way for me to connect with my soul and fill my cup.
Overtime, I realized that I cared less and less what my body looked like and more about what it could do for me when I was exercising regularly and exercising in ways that made me feel happy, empowered and playful. For me, this means rock climbing, hiking, and basically doing the same stuff I did as a kid when I went outside to play.
The more active I was and the more fun I was having with my body, the less I cared about what it looked like.
Now you might be thinking, “if you’re moving and exercising so much, you must be losing weight and getting that perfect, fit body.” And you’d be wrong. My physique hasn’t changed all that much since I’ve been working out more regularly. I also haven’t stepped on a scale in years so I’m not sure what that would say either although muscle weighs more than fat so I imagine that number to have gone up, if anything.
My own personal value I place toward my body has shifted from “it must look good or else it’s worthless and therefor I’m worthless” to “I want it to work properly so I can keep doing the activities I like to do.”
Find an activity or three that gives you the sense of joy that you used to have when you were a kid playing with your friends! For me, it’s climbing and adventuring outside. For you it could be dancing or playing volleyball or swimming. What did you do as a kid that made you happy and moved your body? Was there something you always wanted to try but didn’t get the chance to?
The second thing that more or less accidentally made me love my body more was spending more time naked.
I was living in my own apartment, alone, and everyone always talks about how if they didn’t have roommates they’d be naked all the time and I wasn’t one of those people. I always had clothes on and was very uncomfortable looking at my naked self in the mirror.
I started being naked more because I almost felt like it was my duty since I didn’t have the constraints of roommates. I had to take one for the team and be naked for all those folks who didn’t have as much opportunity to as I did.
Being naked kind of… normalized…? my body to myself. I’d see myself more frequently in my bathroom mirror and when I looked down to grab a book off the table, instead of a shirt, there would be…me.
Instead of naked time being “Let’s Look In the Mirror and Scrutinize Every Imperfection,” it became time to cook breakfast, clean the living room, read a book – just normal things. We don’t get the opportunity to see “real” bodies very often and what’s more real than our own body?
Having more body-confidence has spilled over and given me more confidence in other areas of life as well. For example, I am able to more fully express myself through my clothing choices. Instead of looking at an outfit and thinking “I could never wear that, my breasts are too small/butt is too big/belly has a pooch/whatever your insecurity is that day,” I wear the thing and it gives off a more accurate representation of who I am and what I like.
I am more comfortable in my own skin and that allows me to express myself more authentically with my words as well. I’m not afraid to meet new people, worried about whether they’re judging my appearance or not.
And of course, I still have bouts of self-doubt, insecurity, inadequacy and anxiety. I still find things that I want to change about my body. The point is, they happen less and less, they hold less power over me and I am able to deal with them better.
A negative thought about my appearance doesn’t send me into a tailspin that could last for days, I remind myself what fun adventures my body can take me on instead. A piece of clothing that doesn’t fit the way I want it to doesn’t launch a full campaign of self-blame, I put the clothes down and find something that *does* fit me properly (it’s not my fault, its the clothes’ fault).
I want this for all humans! YOU are a beautiful soul with a beautiful body. This body is your vessel to get through life. You can’t trade it in for a newer model (not in whole, at least).
Try these 2, simple steps for 6 weeks and send me a message with an update!
- Play more – Move your body in ways that make you happy
- Spend more time naked