Everyone has one, that is, a body that we walk around in everyday. Our bodies can give us immense pleasure and joy, and take us places – literally and metaphorically. One of my favorite things to explore with clients in session is their relationship with their own body. Something I have noticed in working with my clients and separately in learning about my own body, is that it can be difficult to fully accept and love our bodies. We can be the most neglectful, spiteful, and judgmental critic of our own body.
Most of us learn through our interactions with others and the media how to feel about our bodies. I remember when I was just hitting puberty at 15 and my boyfriend’s best friend made fun of my boobs. We were all hanging out one day when I was not wearing a bra and he said “wow, you have really pointy boobs, and it looks like you have big nipples.” He meant it to be offensive. Regardless of the fact that I did not think very highly of this guy to begin with, what he said still stung my fragile 15 year old training bra ego. It took me years to learn to be happy with the shape of my breasts and love them for the teardrop shape that they have. I have learned that we have to make friends first with and accept our own body before we can expect someone else to love them and actually believe their praise.
This week I was working with a client who has a lot of body shame around hair; particularly hair on his face (he didn’t have much). He felt so betrayed by his face for not growing hair that he had actually stopped looking in the mirror. As we looked into the mirror together, and talked about how he had been rejecting his face all these years, it became very clear to us that he was holding himself hostage with negativity. This client had experienced pretty severe bullying around his lack of facial hair, and even after he was physically away from the people who belittled and criticised him, he was actually doing the same thing to himself; repeatedly, everyday since the encounters many years ago. The self bullying had gone on for so long, he didn’t actually know how to relate to his own body without those mean voices. As we explored the landscape of his inner world, he started to soften and even experienced a brief moment of compassion and acceptance for himself.
Too often we look to the outside world to make us feel better about ourselves. I often hear people talk about the longing to be with someone who truly sees them and accepts them, yet often, they are doing a huge amount of rejecting of themselves. It is hard to ask someone to accept us, when we ourselves have not fully accepted us. Furthermore, if we do not feel love or compassion for ourselves, giving love to others will feel draining after a while because its very creation within ourselves is being thwarted.
Now, I realize that I am writing about this like it is as easy as switching a flip and all of a sudden you’ll now be able to fully love your body. It is not easy. It is a process.
The first place to start is by undressing in front of the mirror and taking a good hard look at your whole naked body. Backside and all. If it seems overwhelming, work up to it.
- What do you see?
- What do you like?
- What do you hate?
- What is hard to look at?
- What is easy to look at?
When you identify the difficult areas, see if you can feel the negative messages you have sent this area all these years. Maybe it was something someone said to you about your body, like what that guy said to me or my client’s experience with bullies, or maybe it is something you internalized from impossible beauty standards portrayed through the media. See if you can understand how these are not your words, they are other people’s. See if you can feel the pain this part of your body has felt all these years taking the negativity. Lastly, try to bring some compassion for this part of your body. Can you be friends with this part of your body?
Let’s face it, your ass, chest, skin, hair or lack of hair did not intentionally try to hurt you. Some people in the world might still reject your body, but at least if you begin to accept yourself, that is one less person who isn’t. It’s a really great start.
Featured image via WeHeartIt