Everybody keeps telling you you have to, but very few tell you how.
This phrase used to annoy the shit out of me when I was bulimic. Love yourself. Pfft. I’d see the phrase “Love yourself” in more and more ads, everywhere.
Usually for products that were supposed to turn your skin softer, your hair shinier – to make you better – translation: because the way you are right now is not good enough, but if you use our product you will be, blah blah LOVE YOURSELF. Or, our product WILL make you love yourself. I called bull.
It got even worse after I stopped throwing up and started gaining weight. I was so grossed out by my own body that I wouldn’t shower for days, just so I wouldn’t have to see it. So, how did I get from that to where I am today?
Well, let’s just say it was not easy. It was not a miracle product, a miracle quote or a miracle switch. I didn’t decide I loved myself one morning and that was that. It was a process – it still is a process. I still have days in which that nagging voice is trying to take over again, especially now, that this summer came and left me with some extra weight. That doesn’t mean I am back to square 1, it just means that you can’t easily erase patterns of thinking that ruled you all your life in a few months.
Your relationship with yourself is, or should be, just like any other relationship. You don’t just up and fall in love with someone because you decided to one morning, right? Or, better yet, after years of dysfunctional relationships, you don’t just throw yourself at a new one. So, how better to start this process than by following some of the steps you take when you fall in love with someone else?
Take is slow – Go for respect instead of love
I’m a firm believer that every healthy relationship is based on respect first, everything else after. It’s also easier to respect someone than to fall in love with them, right? You can’t look in the mirror and suddenly love what you’re seeing, however, you can respect it. You should respect it. So, instead of overly analysing everything you hate about your body, the next time you look into the mirror, focus on the things you actually like about it. If you can’t do that yet, follow that old saying: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Don’t obsess over your body. Just don’t focus on your body at all. Which brings me to my next point.
You are not your body. Your value is not measured by your weight.
I’m pretty sure that the most important thing, or the thing you love most about your partner is not their looks, right? So why should it be the most important thing about you? Things started getting better for me when I realised that what makes me valuable is not my body. That I am so much more than just my weight. Since I couldn’t come to terms with the weight that I was gaining, I chose not to focus on my body at all – I did everything I could to keep myself occupied, in a productive and enjoyable way – meaning I did things that helped me grow, not buried myself in work I hated. I started working on the blog that I had at that time, slowly opening up about my body image issues and that eventually led me to the realisation that I love writing and that I am actually good at it.
That was one pivotal moment in my process, as I came to the conclusion that I have more to offer than what my body looks like. I think that shifting your focus from your body and making it a less important aspect of your life takes away its power over you. Suddenly, you become more than an obsessive whirlwind whose every thoughts revolves around their body. You become a friend, a writer, a mother, a student, a reader, a dancer – and when you look back at it, it’ll be downright amusing that you spent so much time obsessing over your body, when you are SO MUCH more.
3. Working out is not a punishment
This one is not exactly relationship related, however it’s a very damaging thought pattern that I feel needs addressing. Most women I know treat working out as a punishment. You HAVE to work out because you ate something wrong. You HAVE to workout because you haven’t this week. I used to think like that too, always. And it put a tremendous amount of stress and pressure on me. Whenever I didn’t work out when I “had” to, I felt like a worthless piece of shit that couldn’t do anything right. I’d feel so, so, so disappointed in me, which prompted me into a spiral of furious self hate.
You shouldn’t see working out as something you have to do because of whatever reason. Try to look at it like a reward instead. A reward for your body, something you do because you love it, not because you hate it. Strive to become healthier & more active for your health and, most importantly, from a positive place, not a negative one.
4. The first fight is not the breakup
It’s so easy to quit when things get hard. But you wouldn’t break up with your partner just because you fought once, right? It’s the same with the hiccups we meet along the way. It’s ok to have bad days. It’s ok to feel crappy once in a while. Allow yourself to sulk, but analyse those feelings and try to find out why you’re feeling them. Just don’t get discouraged and quit. Identify the problem and try to work it out. That’s the key. That’s the point of it all, right? To solve the issues that you have with yourself. As someone wise once said, them issues are not going to solve themselves.
5. Take yourself out of your comfort zone (and LIVE)
Wear that dress. Go on that trip. Get that haircut. Go for that job. Do all the things you put on hold because you’re “not skinny enough”. You’ll find out that the worst thing that can happen is people staring more than the usual. Are a few stares or a few comments worse that not living your life to the fullest? I don’t think so. Of course I was terrified about going out of my comfort zone, however every small victory, from getting pink hair, to wearing the clothes I actually liked, to going on a stage and speaking in front of people gave me such confidence boosts that it no longer mattered what anyone had to say about it. It’s your life and you have the right to live it to the fullest, no matter what your body looks like.