Body Image Acceptance: A Journey, Not Just a Goal

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It takes quite a bit of time to appreciate my body sometimes. I look at myself in the mirror, typically from the side, and cringe at the droop in my belly. I look at my face and pick out all the small pimples. And, some days, my hair just makes me want to shave the whole thing off and start anew (if I had the guts, that is).
So I definitely echo the sentiment that body image acceptance is a journey with ups and downs - you can't expect a quick fix with simple positive thinking. But you can commit to it. And committing to accepting your body can be one of the most beautiful radiant things that you can do for yourself.
As I was looking at myself in that mirror just a few minutes ago, standing with my feet spread apart and rubbing my belly as if it were a sobbing child, I had an amazing thought. I turned to face the mirror straight on. I looked at the other parts of my body that I know make me happy. Slowly, I ran my hands over the waist that I love having (it makes me into a nice hourglass shape, just not as dramatic as the girls on Top Model). I looked at the way my face is put together and the way my hair cascades down. I thought of my best moments, when I really enjoyed the outfit I was wearing or I felt strong after a great workout. And, I started to heal.
My body image woes are similar to a lot of girls that have grown up with the expectation that you will be loved and appreciated only based on the way that you look and the shape of your body. And, in some ways, the socialization to believe this idea is more powerful than the thin reality of it. There is no sense in believing that you are unworthy because of your body, yet everyone has those moments (yes, even my boyfriend and other men!).
When you begin something, even something as wonderful as the journey to body image acceptance, you might get into a blame game of "not feeling the right way." I know that sometimes I have these crazy thoughts like "shouldn't I accept this body right now?" and "if I am really trying to accept my body, why am I so unsatisfied right now?" The key to getting over these thoughts is to be gentle with yourself. For me, that is to appreciate the small things. And to continue on my workout regimen so that I can feel strong in what my body does rather than what it looks like.
But, on occasion, I still get the urge to ask my boyfriend whether he thinks I'm pretty or not. And there's no shame in that. It just reminds me that I am on a pathway towards self-acceptance and there will be some potholes along the way.

You may also be interested in my post Why Eating Can Make Me Depressed and my insights into How to Deal with Negative Comments.