Thought this was a great article about loving ourselves like we should! (I.e., at least as much as we love others). Enjoy!
"Not to get all cheeky with clichés like "you must love yourself before you can love others," but how many of us truly adore, admire and respect our bodies? Just the way they are? Flaws and all?
Only about 10 to 15 percent of women, according to body-image expert and author of "Love Your Body, Love Your Life," Sarah Maria, who also says it's truly shocking that the vast majority of the current American population is dissatisfied with their bodies.
"One of the most pervasive cultural myths that is adopted by women is that they should somehow be different from how they are," says Maria. "This belief is internalized, and they spend their lives trying to be someone, trying to be perfect or better in some way. This is projected onto their bodies, and creates nothing but perpetual suffering and addiction."
For most women, that suffering begins with their weight, age or specific body parts (breasts, hips, butts and thighs top the list). And it's not surprising that society, media, peer pressure and Hollywood play a significant role in promoting the idea of a "perfect body" or even a "better body." Studies even show that when women see images of people they think have the ideal bodies, they feel more dissatisfied and ashamed of their own.
"This false belief drives people to chase after an illusion that does not exists, all based on a delusion that something is wrong with them to begin with and they need to change the way they look," adds Maria.
So if 90 percent of women don't like their bodies, the question then becomes, why? How can we be so critical about the very body that allows us to do what we do every day? The strong legs that run, jump, walk, hike, climb or bike. The beautiful arms that multitask at work, plant in the garden, care for our homes and give others a much-needed embrace. And the powerful core that bears our children, keeps us strong and holds us upright everyday. Our bodies are really amazing machines when you think about it. We just tend not to.
Women who seem to love their bodies the most are those who accept themselves no matter what, according to Maria. "They aren't worried about pleasing other people, and they know they are perfect just as they are -- not because they are special or look a certain way, but rather, they are perfect simply because they exist."
It's this confidence, this gratitude, this sense of purpose that allows a woman to feel great in and about her body.
For the majority of us who may lack that self-esteem and positive body image, the good news is that it's possible to change simply by starting to focus on what we have versus what we don't have.
Maria says the first step is to recognize that you have a negative body image and be willing to change it. From there, it's an ongoing process of shifting your attention. For example, whenever you find yourself obsessing about your body or lamenting how it looks, shift the focus instead to the gift of your body. "Each and every body is a true miracle -- a living, breathing miracle. Simply becoming aware of this fact can make all the difference in the world."
Psychologist Robyn Silverman agrees.
In her book "Good Girls Don't Get Fat", Silverman talks about the importance of "assets" or the positive aspects of a woman's life. The more assets we have, the more likely we are to thrive despite the negative messages out there about our weight, size, shape and figure.
"Assets such as an encouraging support system (positive parents, peer groups, mentors), a strong sense of purpose, positive self talk, positive role models and involvement in constructive activities like sports, extracurriculars and volunteerism all go a long way towards shaping the way we think of ourselves," says Silverman.
Again, it goes back to focusing on what our bodies can do -- not how flabby our arms are, how big our butt is or what the scale says every morning. In fact, why not get rid of that scale? Most of the time, we don't like what it says anyway, so why start our day with that negativity? Instead, focus on how you feel each morning. Let the amount of energy you have and your outlook on the day be your guide to making any shifts in what you eat, how much you exercise and how you relate to others -- not some idealistic image of someone else.
In addition, here are other ways that Silverman says you can learn to love your body:
Speak up: If you have friends or family who are constantly talking about weight, size and appearance in a negative way... say something! Many peer groups get into a pattern of "fat talk" that is detrimental to everyone. When you bring it up and ask to make your gatherings into a "Fat Talk Free Zone," you may be surprised how much others are sick of the fat talk too. If your friends aren't interested in changing that focus, re-evaluate who you are hanging out with!
Be accountable: Take note of when you feel happy with your body and when you feel the most dissatisfied. If you are unhappy after watching certain shows or spending time with certain people, make the necessary adjustments.
Focus on health, strength, joy and energy rather than weight: Eat and engage in physical activity that makes you feel great rather than tired and drained.
Think positive thoughts.
Volunteer your time: There is nothing like getting a little perspective to help you realize how fortunate you are. Volunteering can get our minds off what's wrong with our bodies and focused on how we can be helpful to others. When we are helpful to others, we feel gratified and valuable. We stop evaluating our worth based on appearance and start evaluating it by the good we do in the world.
Be the role model young girls need: We need more women to show young girls that we are more than a sum of our parts. Show them that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Imagine a young girl you love (a daughter, niece, etc.) standing by your side at all times. What are you saying about yourself? About others? Realize that you are part of this culture and by changing the way you speak and behave around weight and appearance, you may just influence someone else to develop positive body esteem. Set the example!