Do you have a good relationship with your body?
I don’t just mean whether you like your body or not or whether you exercise, eat your greens, or have a good skincare routine. Your relationship with your body means the whole package— how you take care of it internally and externally, how you see it, and how you feel being in it.
When I ask people if they like their bodies, I often get a sigh followed by fumbling and low grumble of complaints about what they don’t like about their bodies. There are some people who take pride in their bodies, but even then, there’s often a ‘but’ of some kind. Some might be proud of their legs, but hate the shape of their waist. Others might love their supple skin, but think their necks look far better on a giraffe.
If you’re discontent with your body, you will likely do a lot of things to fix it and improve it. The irony is that if we have this “fix-it” mindset, we’d never run out of things to fix.
It’s as if we can’t help but feel shame for our bodies when we should be celebrating them for serving us all these years.
It’s the stories we tell ourselves.
After reading numerous studies and articles on body image, I’ve come to realize that the stories we have been told and the stories we tell ourselves about our bodies tremendously affects our relationship with it.
Since the day we’re born, we’re bombarded with messages and stories on a daily basis from different sources of influence. We hear messages and stories primarily from our family.
When our very own family jokes about us not getting married if we won’t lose weight, this kind of message will get absorbed by our subconscious, even if we just find their remarks funny. The message is clear: we have to be fit to be worthy of love. And this message, combined with all the other messages we received, will form a narrative in our heads about our self and our body.
Then we also hear messages and stories from our neighbors, friends, teachers, and—the most important of them all— the media.
These “outside forces” have only intensified during the pandemic. There’s now a boom in plastic surgery due to Zoom “dysmorphia” (a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance)…and of course social media! It’s no longer just a matter of looking good but a veneer of looking sketched…animated. Beauty filters have made us change the way we see ourselves, causing full-blown body dysmorphia for some of us.
We often think taking care of our body is about keeping fit and eating healthy, which are both great, but if we are obsessive about getting fit because of the latest 21-day-fitness fad, then staying fit and eating healthy are still being dictated from the outside.
How we can think and operate differently
The constant barrage of images and messaging about the ideal body, when not questioned , processed, and monitored, will seep through our subconscious and skew our views time and again.
As long as our view of our body is from the outside in, society will be in charge of our body and how we feel about it. Unless we take a deeper look at our views and beliefs of our body, we will continue to flip-flop between diet, exercise fads and what the influencers tell us.
We have to carefully select the stories that we allow to influence us and to unlearn how we view our bodies. We have to shift our minds for us to start having a better relationship with our bodies.
The first step is to ask why.
We need to take ownership of our body and its unique needs.
If we’ve become obsessive about our bodies externally—in other words, if we’ve become a slave to it—we have to ask ourselves why?
Why do we want to have those abs? Why do we want to become super fit to the point that we’re depriving ourselves of a good life?
It could be that we want to prove that we have self-discipline, it could be that we have anxiety, it could be that we want to be loved. In order for us to truly own our bodies, we have to ask the hard questions…and be willing to sit/be with the answer.
Remember: The only person that has and should have say over your body is you.
It won’t be easy, but everyday try to remove the voices that do not serve you in creating a healthy relationship with your body. Become clear of the stories you’ve accumulated all these years and begin to let go of the ones that are not aligned to your soul. When you have the thought, take a deep breath and upon releasing it, send the thought out with it saying, “This story is not true and I will no longer believe it” and if it comes back (as it most likely will), release it again…and again.
Everyday, allow some time to be with your body exactly as it is; all flaws, all gifts.
Listen to what it needs from you.
Does it need more rest than exercise? Then do just that. So what if you skip one day of the 21-day-fitness challenge. You have to listen to your body more than any fitness guru.
Make your body your friend, be at peace with it, know its strengths and limitations…and stop turning it into a “project.”
Inside out instead of outside in
To have a good relationship with our bodies, we need to stop focusing on the external. I’m not suggesting we should not care entirely – because we’re social creatures, so it’s almost impossible to not care how people perceive us. My point is, we should not obsessively be reconfiguring our external appearances when there is little peace and harmony internally.
We have to go deeper, inward, and remove (or at least tone down) the white noise so we can focus on what is truly important – a sacred and loving relationship with our body, exactly as it is at this moment.
Our body is truly the vessel of our soul; the house and vehicle where we reside and ride throughout this glorious life. If we think about our bodies as the vessels of our souls, how we look becomes less important than keeping it healthy and functioning.
Think of your body as a machine
Your body is an exquisite machine. It’s been serving you faithfully since the day you were born, and it will do so until the day you die.
And like any machine, it needs maintenance – all nine body parts, 78 organs, and 100 trillion cells.
The better you treat it, the longer it will last. How we treat our bodies needs to be inclusive of the stories we tell it and how we regard it because our thoughts, emotions and body are intrinsically connected.
Treat your body as you would a baby
Do you treat your own body with tender loving care like you would a baby?
I certainly do now but in my twenties, my body was the last thing I worried about. I partied too much, hardly slept, and pushed my body in many ways. One of the great things about getting older is that your body doesn’t allow you to ignore it. If you drink one too many glasses of wine, your body will let you know pretty instantly. You don’t sleep, you don’t function.
If we think of our body as we would a baby, then we’d default to taking care of it, naturally. We’d shield it from harm, make sure it gets some fresh air every day, let it run around and play, feed it the healthiest of foods, never deprive it of sleep. We also wouldn’t bother applying make-up to a face we already believe is perfect. I’m not suggesting we don’t wear makeup but that we feel beautiful regardless.
The point is that we adore babies exactly for who they are. We need to start thinking about ourselves in the same fashion. It takes a good deal of unlearning and undoing but it will be worth it.
It’s time to take back what’s yours and yours alone—your body.
Our relationship with our bodies have been influenced by outside forces long enough. It’s time to shut off all the noise we’ve been hearing about how we should see and treat our bodies. It’s time to start connecting with our bodies from the inside out. Only then can we work on the outside in a healthy way.