In my work with clients, I witness the negative relationship they have with their bodies. Often it feels like a couple’s therapy session where one partner is trying to fix the other. The partner sits there with their head down in shame, unable to move, feeling guilty until finally they get so angry and resentful they storm out of the room.
The inner dialogue often involves feelings of shame, hatred, anger, frustration. It often sounds like “I don’t like the way you look”, “You’re ugly”, “you can’t do anything right”, “You’re not doing enough”, or “You’re not enough” .
Harsh stuff right? Can you imagine if you heard a parent speaking to their child this way? You’d call child protection services I hope!
Without shifting these psychological patterns, I don’t believe health behaviors can change in any sustainable way.
If this is something you struggle with, here are a three suggestions you could try that will help you shift your mindset, or your mind chatter, from unhealthy to healthy.
Think of these 3 words: OPENNESS, ACCEPTANCE & ACTION
Openness means having a curious and nonjudgmental stance towards your body, regardless of how it looks, its limitations, the pain you feel. The practice of openness is just listening, breathing, becoming aware of whatever messages or sensations that are going on in the body. The patient awareness that you can build with openness will help rebuild the bridge between you and your body. Rather than allowing the critical voice to run amok, pull back the reins and allow yourself to feel your body.
Next is acceptance, which means kindly accepting and acknowledging what you hear and what you notice in your body or about your body. This would include the sensations, thoughts, feelings, and shape. Acceptance yourself with love and kindness. Acceptance is allowing yourself to see clear what’s going on. It’s not the same as approval of harmful habits. Acceptance is powerful because it brings you into the present moment; the only moment when you can actually act. Accepting means saying “Ok, I haven’t been taking care of myself and this is not ok. I accept the truth that this is what’s been happening and that it’s time to change.” It doesn’t have to have the energy of self-contempt. A person would engage in the practice of openness and acceptance because they care about themselves. Hold that intention in mind as you consider your health and the changes you would like to make.
The final step is action. Ask yourself: What can I do that I am willing to do? What action, big or small, can I do in the next minute, hour or day that will help me manifest a healthy mindset towards my body? We can quickly become disempowered when our actions are directed by other people’s expectations or standards. Take back that power by doing all the little things you can do today whether that’s closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath, taking your lunch break or taking the stairs. Remember to be open and the accept yourself.
I believe that a person doing all the ‘right’ things behaviorally could still be very unhealthy if they act with force, stress or contempt for their body. I’ve seen this over and over again. “I’m good when I do xyz, but I’m bad when I don’t” This conditionality creates insecurity which negatively impacts self-esteem. In the end, it doesn’t work. The body knows better. It deserves our respect.
By listening with openness, accepting what you notice and taking action, you can change the inner dialogue from negative to positive, from shame to self-compassion. We all have a relationship with our bodies. Imagine the way you treat your closest friend and imagine that your body deserves the same respect. After all, your body is enabling you to read this awesome post, right?;)
If you know someone that you care about that would benefit from hearing this message please share!
Take care and don’t forget to move!