Let’s start the week off on a self-loving note! Today, we are SO blessed to have a body-image altering guest post from Melissa King, who blogs at Simply Flaw-Thentic and is a wellness coach at MyHeartDances.
This is joyful Melissa. There’s no way you can’t look at her huge smile and give a giant grin right back.
She’s also the mastermind and creator of the video My Body … Finally (which also happens to be THE most shared video ever from the Crunchy Betty Facebook page). After you’ve nourished your heart/brain/body with the post, be sure to watch the video at the end of the post. After watching her video, I begged her to write a guest post for Crunchy Betty. I think you’ll see why in a minute … (THANK YOU SO MUCH, Melissa!)
Wanna Love Your Body? Start With Loving Mine
As a life and wellness coach who works with women to improve self-esteem and body image, some people wonder how I became comfortable with my body. Did it come naturally or did I have to work at it?
Wait. I’m comfortable with my body!? Who said?
No, I am not totally comfortable with my body, but I work at it.
As women in this society, I’m not sure that it’s possible to reach a place where we are completely unaffected by social expectations of beauty or completely free of comparing ourselves to other women and images we see in the media.
And as we endeavor to navigate to a place of greater comfort with our bodies, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out where the line is drawn between a healthy desire to care for our appearance and the point at which that desire disables or disempowers us.
I mean, I LIKE to feel pretty. I do. I suspect I’m not going out on a limb to say you probably do to.
I don’t want to give that up.
Is that a terrible thing? I don’t think so.
It’s probably not surprising that research shows that positive feelings about one’s appearance predict well-being.
But, as women, society keeps asking us to evaluate and question our appearance, and this makes it difficult to have positive feelings about how we look. We are asked to think about whether our complexion is clear and even toned, whether our eye lashes are dark, thick, and long enough, if our lips are plump enough, if our hair has the right amount of body or is vibrant in color. We are asked to consider whether we are an attractive size and if our shape has the right proportions. We are asked to evaluate how plump our breasts are, how flat our stomach is, how wide our hips are, and whether the cellulite on our thighs is noticeable.
And we are asked to fix or improve these things even if it is uncomfortable, painful, or detrimental to our health.
I wonder… If we weren’t constantly being sold appearance improvements, would we still pick apart our bodies and determine that these parts are not good enough?
I don’t want to let advertisers influence how I feel about myself anymore. I’m tired of being distracted from enjoying all the ways in which my body experiences life, focusing instead on whether my looks are good enough for me to be worth having any experiences at all.
Do you know what I mean?
So what’s a girl to do? How do we love ourselves in a ambiguously hostile environment such as this?
If you’re reading this blog, there must be something in you that believes in your worth. You’re worth the time to read something that inspires you and makes you feel good, worth the effort to care for yourself, worth the extra energy to use natural products that nourish your skin and are even made by you!
By the way, did you know that research shows that women who spend more time in nature have higher self-esteem? I wonder if immersing yourself in making products out of nature works too? Hmmm…
Ok, so what about some specific things women can do to change the way they feel about their bodies? Overtime I have noticed that there are a few things that seem to make a particularly big difference for my clients (and for myself).
1. Daily physical activity that gets your heart rate up.
I know you’ve heard this before, but I’m listing it here because of how much I’ve seen it work. If you do nothing else on this list, do this one because it will make the most difference in how you feel about yourself.
There are a lot of studies out there that show the benefits of exercise for our mind. Women who exercise regularly feel better about their bodies even if they haven’t lost weight! Physical activity is a way to de-stress, take some time for ourselves, actively value our health, improve energy levels, and reduce symptoms of depression.
How much does it take? I think it’s important to do some form of physical activity everyday. And the important thing is to GET YOUR HEART RATE UP. Walking is a great option and is the exercise that people are most likely to stick to for the long-term. But make it brisk.
Bottom line. Exercise makes you stronger and is empowering!
2. Commit to changing your negative thoughts about other women’s bodies.
We criticize women for being fat. We criticize women for being thin. And women in the middle get every body part scrutinized. How can anyone win?
When we think this way about other women’s bodies, what are we saying about our own bodies?
When negative thoughts about another woman’s appearance pop into your mind, be conscious of them. Ask yourself why this particular thought is standing out to you. Ask yourself if the thought is fair.
If you focus on changing the way you think about other women’s bodies, you will change the way you think about your own.
3. Stop speaking negatively about your own body.
So easy, right?
Women are socialized to talk negatively about their bodies when they’re together. This is one way that women bond. We come together and talk about how fat we are and the next diet we are going to start. We talk about how we hate the pooch of our bellies and the cellulite on our thighs.
Kinda crazy, right? Just think of all the other ways we could be spending that time!
Find another women (or a group of women) and agree that whenever you’re together not one of you will speak negatively about her personal appearance. Commit to this for 30 days. Use the time to share things that you like about your bodies and what you like about yourselves.
It can feel slightly awkward to speak positively about our bodies. But when we do this activity in my women’s groups, we all get inspired.
How wonderful it is to hear our friends finally saying things they like about themselves!
Changing our thoughts and our talk can change how we feel.
4. Normalize normal bodies.
Start paying attention to the bodies that surround you. Don’t judge, just look. How are they shaped? Are there people you find beautiful who do not have a body that looks like it came out of a magazine? Do you see others of various shapes, sizes, and looks who are enjoying being in love, passionate about their work, or indulging in a hobby?
Women I find beautiful have wide hips, skinny hips, big butts, small butts, tiny breasts, huge breasts, pimples, and bad hair days.
Add your observations to your discussions in #3. Having conversations with other women about women’s bodies in an objective and positive atmosphere can do great things for our own body image.
Taking care of our bodies through physical activity and joining other women in changing how we think and talk about other bodies makes a big difference.
When I feel solidarity with other women, I can’t help but feel more feminine… and prettier.
Hey, you know what? Right now I am feeling pretty comfortable with my body. I wonder what it is that’s going to take this feeling away — a picture in a magazine, an unintentionally hurtful comment, seeing a women I consider more attractive than me? Seems kind of silly that any of those little things can take away, even for a moment, something so important. Don’t you think?
5. Watch the My Body … Finally Video
From Melissa’s video page on her site (I encourage you to read the whole thing – the background, the thoughts behind it, the women she chose), she says:
“Struggles with body image affect women of all shapes and sizes. Body consciousness is not just about weight and shape, but it includes skin color, skin tone, hair, eyes, etc. It is made up of all the things so many of us worry about and try to hide or perfect before we walk out the door (or decide which pictures of ourselves we’ll permit others to see).”
But this video, a real look at real women, stands to relieve those struggles by showing us that we are, in fact, all in this together, and many of us have the same silly fears or criticisms that keep us from enjoying life to its fullest.
At the end of the video page, Melissa says this: “We need you. We need each other. The more women who risk being confident in front of the world just as they are helps everyone.”
Truer words have never been spoken. Now, watch the video. You’ll thank Melissa later.
Melissa King is a Life and Wellness Coach in New York City. She offers private coaching, women’s groups, weight loss groups, workshops, organic cooking classes, and publications geared towards inspiring women to honor their personal needs and values while developing practical solutions to life challenges. www.myheartdances.com