The way we talk to our bodies – either in self deprecating comments or the really harsh stuff you say to yourself in your head – is just not the one, is it? Like most other people I am not fully confident in my body and there are parts I don’t like/don’t want to show to the world. But I am trying to be much kinder to myself and to reframe my thoughts into more realistic parameters.
Two main factors come into it I think, the first is that it is so much easier to remember the bad things than the good. Whether that’s focussing on your imperfections rather than the things you like about your body, or in remembering those little hurtful comments that someone said to you once that hit a bit close to the bone.
I have an example of this actually. One time a friend from my dance society told me that she didn’t think she could really go to ballet class because she was ‘too fat’ but seeing me do it with a similar body type to hers made her see that it was totally possible. At the same time I was both flattered and disappointed. I could relate to what she meant because I’ve thought that very thought many times. But it makes me really sad to hear that self consciousness is the reason that someone would choose not to do something that they wanted to. On the other hand I’ve had someone say to me that I’m not going to be a proper ballerina because I’m too chubby so what’s the point in going to ballet class. Yeah, they really said that. Ouch. But here’s what I’m trying to do: I’m trying to train myself to pay more attention to the positive than the negative. Every time there’s a negative comment or thought there is always a positive counter-point to be found.
The second factor is comparison. “The thief of joy” as the famous Roosevelt quote goes. Whether comparing myself to other people or comparing myself to myself from the past, it’s never helpful. It can be far too easy to do, though, especially with social media providing both your memories and the highlights of other people’s lives in the most perfect angle. I’ve seen a few posts of resistance recently on social media that was urging people to stop comparing their adult body to their teenage one. Of course you were skinnier then, you were an actual child! Especially at the age I am now (22) and seeing my friends also become adults I hear comments about how they’ve put on so much weight now and why can’t they look like their 16 year old selves again but it’s just not very realistic to wish for that. Of course your friends would never be nearly as harsh on you as they would be on themselves and the comforting advice you give to your friends when they’re doubting themselves is exactly the energy you should be giving yourself. I know it isn’t easy but it’s worth trying.
When it comes to my body I think there’s a realistic window of what it’s going to be able to look like. That window is informed by my genetics and bone structure (not worth the stress of judging myself for because I can’t do anything about it), the amount of time I have available in my life to exercise and the type of food I want to eat and cook. Within that window, my body is not going to dramatically change unless I dramatically change my lifestyle which I don’t think is very sustainable. Personally I love being active and aim to move my body every single day. When work gets really busy sometimes there’s not enough time or energy to go around but I really do try my best. Sometimes I train harder but it really depends on what time I have to give. Then food, I love food. I make a conscious effort to buy and cook healthier foods and to not go mental on the unhealthy stuff (moderation is allowed!), but the thing is I really enjoy cooking and flavour far too much to only eat grilled chicken, rice and brocoli food prep every day. Then there is everything else in life because it’s actually not all about my body funnily enough. I have to accept the balance I’ve got and what is going to be possible within that window.
There are so many ugly thoughts that have been hard-wired into our brains that it is super hard to shift your internal narrative. But the key is in recognising the reality of these factors and trying to remind yourself to be kinder. Here’s some examples of how I switch the thoughts around.
- *Your little stubby legs look crap when you’re dancing* becomes *Thank you little strong legs for allowing me to dance at all, for jumping high, for stretching as long as you can*
- *If your body wasn’t so shit maybe you could have tried to dance as a career* becomes *What a relief and joy it is that dancing can be something that is purely fun for me and doesn’t have to carry the pressure of maintaining my income/livelihood*
- *Your legs are so fat that they’re never going to fit into these jeans/trousers/jumpsuit/shorts and look good* becomes *Okay so you’re not the proportions of the average person for whom they make standard sizing, but also clothes sizes are a big lie and so variable in every shop so don’t blame yourself if you have to size up in this particular shop, just get clothes that make you feel comfortable, dammit!*
- *Your legs are so fat that you must suffer the consequences of chub rub as well-deserved punishment!* becomes *this is so much more common than you think it is, chill out, pop on a pair of shorts*
- *My far skinnier friend just said ‘ugh I’m so fat’, what must she think of me?* becomes *remember how much harsher you are on yourself than you are to others, remember how kind you would be to your friend and remember how little you really judge other people like that, then flip that on yourself*
- *Hi! This is your cellulite/stretch marks reminding you that you’re so fat* becomes *chill out again, this is also so so common and you only think it isn’t because people have been shamed into editing it out of any photo that might show a hint that you are human*
My other tip is to take in as much of the new, healthy and real content that’s out there (I personally loved watching the Savage x Fenty show for the diversity of body types and also following the #averagesizegirl hashtag on Instagram so your feed isn’t just full of models). I was quite nervous about putting all of these thoughts down but I think it’s important that we share these thoughts, relate to one another and remember that the world is a mess so why not be kind to yourself!