I remember it so vividly. I was speaking to a large room of beautiful women and mothers about body love and self-confidence.
I had just finished telling them that they could love every inch of that beautiful body of theirs. That they could accept and even love the flaws. That they were worth so much more than they often gave themselves credit for. I felt inspired and I truly hoped they did too.
After the session, a woman ran up to the front and asked me a question that plagues so many of us when it comes to learning to love our bodies AND take care of them at the same time.
Her question was this:
“How do I know when to accept my body as it is and when I need to work for change? I don't know how to determine where that line is and that is my struggle.”
You’ve seen it all over in blog posts, in news articles, conferences, books, and anywhere you consume information.
“Love your body!” they preach.
And you want to. You truly want to.
Truthfully, you’re not really happy with the place your body is at. You’re frustrated by it. You’re frustrated you’ve “let yourself go” over the years. You’re frustrated that you’re way too exhausted to hit the gym in the mornings. You’re frustrated that taking better care of yourself feels guilty because it takes what little time you have away from your family. You feel selfish for even thinking about self-care, even though you know it’s not selfish.
It’s not like your current body really holds you back much. I mean, you’re able to still do all the things you need to get done in a day. Granted, you’re exhausted, but that’s the life of a mother! You have a good family, a roof over your head, a job that provides for you. You’re doing pretty well. You decide to ignore accept this “mom body” you’ve acquired over the years, vow to avoid mirrors or pictures, and carry on with life. Still unhappy with your body, but not enough for it to interfere that much with daily life.
If you can avoid any sort of confrontation with your body, keep that swimsuit packed as far away from sunlight as possible, and carry on with life, you’ll be just fine. It’s the life of a mother. It’s what you signed up for, right?
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball
Why can’t you love that “mom body” you’ve so faithfully earned over the years?
The truth is, there is nothing wrong with learning to love and accept your body right now AND still seek change. It doesn’t mean you have a bad body image. It means you love yourself enough to want to take better care of it. It means you speak kindly of your body, embrace imperfection, and love the journey.
What is the balance between body acceptance and seeking body change?
First, practice gratitude.
Have you ever thanked your body for all it’s done for you? I mean really stepped in front of a mirror and turned every negative thought, every flaw into gratitude?
I go into major depth about using gratitude to change our body image in this post, but it truly is the first step in any journey toward more self-love.
If the thought of standing in front of a mirror and saying nice things about yourself is too much right now, grab a piece of paper and write a letter of gratitude to your body. Spend 5-10 minutes writing your letter. Come back to it every time you find that negative body talk creeping back into your life.
Second, be realistic.
Sometimes I think we want the body we had in high school with all the maturity and wisdom of a 30-year-old woman.
Or, maybe you want to get your body back to wherever it was when you were in your “best shape ever”. Having goals is fantastic. Working hard to reach them is fabulous. Chasing an unrealistic ideal is not. It will only leave us feeling deflated, defeated, and frustrated.
There is a fine line between setting good, challenging goals and being completely unrealistic.
Ask yourself what is realistic for you. In fact, ask yourself “why”. Why do you seek change? Will taking better care of your body give you more confidence? Do you want to be a good example for your kids? Do you want to feel like you’re doing everything you can to live the fullest life possible?
Instead of a number on a scale, how do you want to feel? How do you want to feel in your own skin? That’s the change you’re working toward.
Having a goal that means something to you is so much more than a dress size. It’s not stressing about the time frame or the end result. It’s taking care of yourself in a way that fits your lifestyle right now. It’s knowing that you’re doing everything you can with your time and resources to take care of that special gift that is your body.
Third, change one thing at a time.
When we want change, we usually want it all at once. I hope this blog post today has helped you understand how important it is to love yourself first no matter what kind of change you desire.
Once you have a self-love practice, the “taking care of you” part comes much more naturally.
Start making daily choices that nourish your body in a way that will get you one step closer to your desired change.
Love your body enough to give it lots of fruits and vegetables. Love your body enough to go to bed early so you can fit in a quick 20 minute exercise routine in the morning. Love your body enough to buy clothes that you feel comfortable in now. Love your body enough to learn how to do some strength training (because if there’s anything that will make your body feel physically strong, it’s that). Love your body enough to manage stress in ways other than turning to junk food.
Only you will be able to find the balance between self-love and seeking change, but, when you get there, you’ll know it.
You’ll start to feel confident. You’ll take care of yourself in different ways than ever before. You’ll throw out the guilt for taking care of yourself because you realize it’s what makes you better in everything you do.
If you’ve ever used affirmations or are curious about how to bring more self-love into your life, I’ve made you an entire workbook to help you create your own self-love affirmation to guide you in this journey. There are even some pre-made affirmations if the thought of writing your own feels overwhelming. It’s a great place to start replacing the negative self and body talk into positive and uplifting words and phrases.
And if you have a friend or family member whom you love and want to share this with, please share this message. We need a world filled with more confident women who love themselves in every way.