by Laura Jane Davis
So many of us enter into January with the pressure to shrink our bodies, to set resolutions that focus on changing our body and that message implies there’s something wrong with our bodies in the first place. A study by the Mental Health Foundation with YouGov, found that 1 in 5 Adults felt shame because of their body. So what can we do to start cultivating body confidence?
Write a letter to your body
There is so much power in our words and getting them down on paper can really help us understand how we truly feel about ourselves and our bodies. Write a letter to your body, let the words flow, and hold no judgments for what comes. Write how your body makes you feel, why it makes you feel that way, and what you want to feel towards your body. Writing a letter to your body might sound strange, it might feel uncomfortable but we often separate ourselves from our bodies and this is a really useful exercise to build a connection with the very thing that is keeping us alive.
Write a list of all the things your body does for you
Getting into the attitude of gratitude with our body can be hard, given that we are constantly fed the message that our bodies are not enough and do not meet the desirability standards set for us by others. Starting to practice gratitude for your body and all the things it does for you, will help you build a healthy and loving relationship with it. Rather than focusing on the things your body is not doing, shift your attention to the things your body is doing for you. There will be so many things on the list that you can easily forget that you woke up today and you are breathing with absolutely no mental work on your part; your body is working for you all the time, and that is incredible. Stripping it right back to such basics is a great place to start shifting your relationship with your body, from a place of lack to a place of gratitude.
Focus on qualities you like that aren’t related to your body
We focus so heavily on how our body looks, that we often use it as a direct comparison of our worth. The reality is, that your worth is made up of so much more than how much you weigh and what clothes size you wear. How often do you sit and think about the things you like about yourself that have no relevance to your body? Your kindness, your ambition, your drive, your empathy for others. These are the things that make up your value to the world. These are the qualities people who love you will list off when speaking about you. These are the things that are going to aid you in achieving those goals you’ve set yourself. Start by daily writing 3 things that you like about yourself, that have nothing to do with your body. Speak them out loud, focus on how they make you feel, what emotions arise, and how much joy it brings thinking of these amazing qualities. Feels good right?
Look at your Language
How are you speaking to yourself when it comes to your body? Do you talk to yourself with shame around food, do you criticize your body when you look at it in the mirror? Before I began working on my relationship with my body, my habit was to stand in the mirror and pick apart all of the things I didn’t like. I used to shame myself for eating food I enjoyed, I would use language that perpetuated the cycle of shame, and it continued until I started to notice it. The first step is to begin speaking to your body with kindness and gratitude. Become aware of how you address yourself to your body. Do you use kind words to yourself when you are restricting foods you actually enjoy? Do you speak with resentment and shame when you honour your hunger? Try correcting yourself if you say a statement like “I shouldn’t have eaten that” reframe it to “I am honouring my hunger”. Think about how you would speak to your friends and family. Would you shame them if they chose a burger over a salad? Would you tell them all the things that are ‘wrong’ with their body? You have over 6000 thoughts a day, let them be thoughts that spark confidence, not comparison.
Refine your feeds
Social media usage has increased dramatically in the last year, and what you consume, you create. So if your social media feed is full of people who make you feel bad about your image or who fuel the shameful language you find yourself using, it is time for them to go. There are so many incredible accounts that promote Anti-Diet Culture and document their journey with Body Confidence. Fill your feed with these people. Fill your feed with bodies like yours and bodies that are different too. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, so no one body is the same, no one body is more or less worthy of celebrating. The more you start to widen the lens of the bodies you see every day, the more you will begin to realize that no matter what you eat, how much you exercise, what clothes size you wear, all bodies are different. Most of the bodies you see on social media don’t even look this way in real life. Some accounts focus on calling attention to how lighting, filters, and editing apps can alter how bodies show up on social media. Follow those accounts too.
You deserve to feel confident in your body. You are worthy of celebrating all of the things your body does for you. It takes practice and compassion; because we live in a world that feeds on our insecurities. There is nothing more freeing and powerful than choosing to work on our thoughts and feelings around our bodies. One of my favourite quotes from Caroline Caldwell is “In a world that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act”.