(Note: Occasionally, I get a question from a reader that is compelling enough to become an article all its own. This is one of those questions.)
What is your view on working out to achieve a different body? Is that not having self-love if you don’t like how you look and want to change it?
I see many big women coming to self-love realizations, and although I am happy that they are happy, I can’t do that myself. I feel that even though I should not think negatively about myself, exercise and eating healthy will no doubt bring me to my ideal bodies.
I guess I am confused about self-love.”
I suppose it depends on the reason one is choosing to achieve a different body in the first place.
If you are exercising & striving to lose weight as a way of showing your body devout & loving attentiveness, then I absolutely believe that can be a form of self-love.
But if your wanting a different body stems from societal pressures & is coming from a place of nonacceptance, you’re likely going against your natural self. This “going against yourself*” & wanting to be someone else is a subtle form of self-hatred.
Self-love is self-care, & self-care can mean a plethora of things.
It can mean exercising because you know that you yourself generally feel better when you do so. It can mean eating gluten-free foods because your body responds better without wheat. It can mean indulging in a thick slice of chocolate cake because you value satiating your cravings & honoring yourself.
What matters most is the mood of your thoughts about yourself & the way they influence you to take action (or not).
This applies to everything — even choosing to color your hair or lay out in the sunshine to bronze your skin. It all depends on the underlying motive.
Admittedly, losing weight because you loathe the way you look in the mirror can be a great motivator, but it’s certainly not the kindest way to go about things. Your ego should never be the driving force behind your decisions to better yourself. Your ego (or as it’s most commonly manifested: Your Inner Critic) has its own agenda, one that is usually immersed in judgment & rejection.
When I am in the thick of my own body image issues, I ask myself where my dissatisfaction & desire to “fix” things is coming from:
- Why do I want to take up running? Because I know it’s good for my body, or to suffice the inner critic in me that is constantly telling me to get off of my ass?
- Why am I choosing to have a green smoothie for breakfast? Because it’s something I genuinely want, or am I really being militant & obsessive about what I’m eating?
- Why is it that I want to lose five pounds? To feel better about myself, or fit into the “ideal” type of beauty I’ve been accustomed to seeing?
My answers always surprise me, & bringing awareness to these questions shifts the intentions I have around my body & why I want to change it.
It’s always wonderful to see women (of ALL sizes) come to self-accepting realizations about themselves because it shows that they understand that the standard model of beauty in society is often unrealistic. So they embrace their curvatures of skin, their natural curlicues, their skin color, & they do this because they know that to not do it results in a life of playing catch-up to the tune of Not Good Enough.
Which isn’t to say that if a person of a certain size decides to eat a meatless diet & lose a little weight she is going against herself. She could very well be going with herself by choosing to eat consciously & staying active.
Again, it’s personal. And it’s also about perspective & the manner of which you are deciding to alter your appearance.
Love what you got (even if it’s a lot).
Be kind to yourself.
Accept your flaws. All of them.
And should you choose to change yourself, carefully explore the Whys.
If your motives are clear & curious, proceed with love.
If your motives are fogged by contempt, proceed with caution.
*There’s a great book called The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz that speaks beautifully about this this topic & the importance of going with yourself, not against.