Tonight I was sitting cozily by the newly decorated Christmas tree in the living room. I was taking in every bit of sparkle and shine and just feeling really good about everything. Actually, to be honest, I wasn’t fully present and taking it all in. I was fiddling with my phone as it is a habit of mine (and many others I hear!). As I was flipping through my Facebook feed, one specific post caught my attention. I follow the page Humans of New York and I find it to be a very real and raw page where people share some intimate things with complete strangers. Today, I saw a photo of a girl, probably in her mid to late twenties. She did not smile, and she did not look directly into the camera as the photo was taken. The caption with her photo read, I’m trying not to hate my body. I love my hair and my hands, but everything else I wouldn’t mind switching out. My heart broke from these words and yet, I know she is far from alone.
I scrolled down to see all of the comments that people had written. Over 6,000 people wrote to tell her how beautiful she was, 6,000! Complete strangers telling a girl who hates her body that she is perfect the way she is, and yet, while this girl’s day may have been a bit brighter, I am not so sure it changed the way she really feels. How do I know? Because I was once that girl.
Self love is a tricky thing in that it can’t come from the outside. No matter how many times you hear how beautiful or perfect you are from others, if you don’t truly believe it yourself, then it’s just white noise. I am not saying that it’s a bad thing for people to compliment you or tell you that you are beautiful. I am saying the only way you will feel beautiful is if you hear it from yourself. Think back to the last few times you received a compliment about the way you look. Did you 1. brush it off; 2. deny it: or 3. say thank you? We are really good at downplaying compliments people give us. If someone tells us our hair looks great, we often reply with some negativity like, “Oh this mess?” Why is it so hard for us to accept that others see our beauty when we can’t always see it for ourselves? If we love who we are and as we are then when someone recognizes it, we can receive it. If we feel the opposite of ourselves, compliments are a bit uncomfortable and we don’t really know how to respond to them.
So, back to the girl from the post. I am afraid she really suffers from a thing that can be most detrimental to our feelings of self value and self worth. What is it? Comparison.
I love my hair and my hands, but everything else I wouldn’t mind switching out.
Comparing ourselves to others has to be one of the most destructive things we do in all realms of our lives. We see what others have and we want it as well. We see the way others look, and we wish we looked the same way. It’s often hard not to compare ourselves to others as it sometimes feels like a basic instinct. It happens without the slightest thought. In the world that is Keeping Up With The Kardashians, we want the grass on the other side, whether it’s greener or not.
There was a time when I was not happy with my body. I was trapped in this exact downward spiraling cycle. I wanted her arms, her legs, that girl’s nose, etc. I wanted to break myself up into tiny puzzle pieces and put it all back together but with new pieces. But these pieces would never fit. And I knew that, but I continued to try.
So how do we stop this cycle? How do we keep ourselves from wishing we could “switch out” parts of our bodies for someone else’s? Like I said, it has to come from inside. You can hear others call you beautiful, but you need to hear it from YOU. You have to be present with yourself and listen to what it is you have to say. It takes time. People always told me that affirmations were very powerful. I thought they were all crazy. I think otherwise now. A while back, I began experimenting with doing these. When I found myself having negative thoughts about my body or myself, I simply said, “I am perfect exactly as I am.” or something of the like. I would do it in front of the mirror, in the car, wherever I felt like I needed to turn off the negativity. Sometimes I had to repeat it over and over. I began to make it into a mantra and would connect the affirmations with inhales and exhales. The positives slowly but surely began to replace the negatives and I saw a difference in the way I looked at myself.
As I have mentioned over and over, yoga has been another avenue for me to break the cycle. In yoga, we talk about letting go of the ego. We are taught to let go of comparing and to be okay with what we brought to our mats this very day. If we have tight hamstrings today, we have tight hamstrings. If we can’t balance today, we accept it. We remind ourselves that it is not about how we look in the pose or what pose we can or cannot do. Yoga is about acceptance, accepting where we are on the journey in this very moment. When I found yoga, I found the path to body acceptance and self love. I found the power of being right here, right now, and not in the “if I only” train of thought. Now, right now, I am as I am, right here.
There is no one size fits all way to true self acceptance and love. It is something that some of us struggle quite a bit with and yet others not at all. The first step I think is throwing comparing ourselves to others out the door. And then locking the door, dead bolting it and putting something heavy in front of it. Don’t let it back in. When you catch yourself wishing for what others have, do something instantly to stop the thought. Take 10 breaths, tell yourself you are perfect, take a walk, anything to stop the thought patterns. Make this a habit and you will find the patterns of the mind begin to change. Be okay with the light that you have and shine exactly as you are. Today, in this moment, I will sparkle as I am.