My work around body image is rarely about body image, if at all. It’s about so much more: joy, fulfillment, happiness, worthiness, tending to our inner child, greater purpose, and more. When these parts of our lives and others are out of alignment, the body tends to be a convenient scapegoat.
We were also given our bodies as a way to experience this incredible life, so of course it’s still important to talk about our bodies and the challenges we face as part of this experience.
One question I get asked a lot is:
Is it possible to love my body and still want to change it?
I used to get tripped up on this too, and I still regularly check in with myself about it.
The short of it is this: yes, I really believe it’s possible to love our bodies and still want to change them.
But, it can be a little complex.
Our bodies are vehicles for us to experience this life, so we aren’t actually our bodies; we’re so much more. However, a beautiful part of the human experience is being in our bodies, too!
We have the limited opportunity to take care of our bodies and experiment with them. To have them look however makes us feel most alive and most like ourselves. Isn’t that fun?!
Changing our bodies doesn’t always have to be so serious. Life is a big experiment, and being in our bodies is part of that. Change can be refreshing and breathe new life into our time here on earth.
Where a lot of people get tripped up, however, is reconciling how much change is too much change, and I’ve found this approach to be consistently helpful for myself and my clients:
Get curious about the intention behind wanting to change.
Getting curious about our intentions, rather than judging them, inspires a sense of lightheartedness and reaffirms the fact we’re perfectly imperfect humans, all trying to figure everything out.
Now before you get in your head and think too much, I encourage you to become more aware of how certain intentions feel in your body.
There are life-affirming intentions, life-depleting intentions, and those that fall in between.
Life-affirming intentions support your inherent goodness and simply feel good in your gut. They help you feel more alive and more like you. They also tend to feel light and energetic.
Examples of life-affirming intentions might include:
I want to gain muscle so I feel mentally and physically stronger.
I want lose weight so I can sleep better and be more alert.
I want to cut my hair because it feels more like “me”.
Then there are life-depleting intentions. These don’t support our inherent goodness and tend to promote feelings of “not good enough”. They typically feel heavy and slow in the body and stem from outside influence. This is where you may feel most conflicted and unsure.
Examples of life-depleting intentions might include:
I want to lose fat so I’m not embarrassed in a bikini.
I want to tan my skin so no one makes fun of my skin tone.
I want to get liposuction to look like a magazine model.
Or, the intentions might fall somewhere in between.
While there’s nothing inherently “right” or “wrong” about any of these intentions, can you sense the different energy among them?
They tend to feel different in our bodies.
To get even clearer about your intentions, try asking yourself questions like these:
Am I changing because I want to or because society is telling me I should?
Is this stemming from comparison?
Will this change help me feel more like ME?
Does it help me feel a little more alive?
Does it support my overall health -- mind, body and soul?
There’s no perfect science to this. You are the only person who can answer these questions, and when you spend some time alone with yourself, it'll become clearer what’s underneath your desire to change. Your inner voice will begin to raise its volume and speak its truth -- the real you beyond outside influence. And with this practice, it’s important you’re completely honest with yourself.
If it’s challenging for you to hear your inner voice, unplug from outside influence for a few days. Sign out of social media and limit TV and magazines. Spend some extra alone time with yourself and your thoughts. Hearing that inner you - the truest you - will probably take time if it’s not in your regular practice, and that’s OK because it’s just that -- a practice.
The bottom line is this: You are the only person who can determine whether you love your body, and you are the only person who can determine what that looks like for you. You’re also the only one who can sense how much change is right for you. It’s a constant dance and recalibration. It’s fluid and ever-changing, and that’s the beauty of it!
What feels life-affirming for you today, might not tomorrow. Being flexible, gentle and kind with ourselves and our beliefs is key.