Women, more than men, deal with some major body image matters and expectations. Yet they are by no means alone in this struggle.
I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN. I was not the norm, because unlike the majority of the people I knew, and their Scandinavian heritage, I came from Eastern European stock. There was much humor standing in lines in High School, me at 5’6” with dark hair and dark eyes surrounded by 6’ and taller blond-haired blue-eyed guys.
Then, just to add another amusing wrinkle to my existence, I was a fat kid. Not to the point of being a totally unmoving slug, but I was always last when we had to run in gym class and among the least athletic people in school.
It is not easy to be the odd man out. Especially when that gets applied to multiple matters. But because of what I was surrounded by growing up, plus the messages from mixed media and beliefs about self-worth and my own value relating to my weight, it made it very hard to look upon my own body with any amount of positivity.
This has carried-on well into my adulthood. Only recently have I begun to really work with not just accepting my body, but learning to love it.
Disliking your body doesn’t serve anyone
I know a lot of people who get tired of being told to “feel good” and “be positive” and change their focus. However, if you approach the world as a terrible, no-good, troubling place of negativity…that’s what you draw to yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you believe in the Law of Attraction or conscious reality creation…like tends to attract like. So if you go into a situation with a bad attitude you tend to come out of it feeling vindicated after the bad you expected comes to be.
Mindfulness is not just about awareness when it comes to thoughts, feelings, and actions. This also gets applied to how you perceive your body.
Are you imperfect? Are there aspects of your body that you dislike? If that’s the case, then changing those things about your body can be particularly complicated.
There is a fine line between hating your body and letting that displeasure dominate your thoughts, and desiring to change your body. It’s all about perception and approach.
Negative emotions tend to draw more negative emotions. So hate, which is an incredibly negative emotion, doesn’t serve you.
I get this. I have had a long-standing set of arguments with my body. These have been about various joints and how they function, unacceptable and annoying pains, and most of all my large gut.
For a long time, I have disliked removing my shirt in front of people because of the prominence of my belly. I have reached a size where my jeans mostly fit, though I can’t tell if they have started falling down because I’m losing weight, I have no ass to speak of (seriously, I am booty-less) or because my gut is not held-in sufficiently.
Hard to like your body when you struggle with it.
Coming to terms with my body
I have been fighting this battle all my life. The combat is never on a single front, and anyone who is a student of history knows that the more battlefronts you fight upon the more your resources get spread thin.
There is an emotional battle, combatting old data and impressions from my childhood and experiences of the past. Another emotional battle with feelings of unattractiveness, concerns about the impressions of other people, and the like.
There is the battle with food, struggling to control portion, what I eat and when I eat. Exercise is yet another combat zone in this ongoing battle. Finally, there is a mental battle that is fought every time the words I AM get uttered.
Five battlefronts create longer and longer supply chains and stretch you out to a point of near exhaustion. Where do you put your focus to most effectively combat the enemy?
The mental battle is the ultimate hot spot. Why? Because when I follow I AM with words like fat, unhealthy, unattractive, unlovable, unworthy, unwanted and the like…it’s not a pleasant picture.
This is my only body. Its current state is the product of the thoughts, feelings, and actions of my past. For the most part, I spent a lot of time letting my subconscious have control. That’s one of the aspects of working with mindfulness when it comes to what is going on inside my head also impacts my body.
For all its flaws, my body is strong, flexible, healthy, and resilient. I have had any number of amazing experiences in this body, and while it is imperfect it’s mine — and I like it.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement.
Change begins within
Once I shift my focus over to the mental battle the next logical place to go is the nearby emotional battlefields.
It’s extremely difficult to fight an external fight when the internal struggle rages on. Diet and exercise are all well and good, but if I’m feeling bad, and have a negative attitude about my body, nothing I do is going to have a lasting effect.
Body negativity is reinforced by so many outside influences. Seldom are the heroes of pop culture heavyset guys (but damn do I enjoy seeing overweight Thor finding his worth and being a hero in Avengers: Endgame.) Overall, leading men are either slim or well-toned. Even if they are “normal” they’re still in pretty decent physical shape.
Advertising sells pleasure and sex. To be worthy of that and other finer things you need to be in shape. Not true, but if you take the messages of the media at face value it sure as hell looks that way.
Coming to terms with this is part of the struggle. Why? Because the only opinion that truly matters is yours.
When you feel bad about yourself and your body it’s even more challenging to improve and change it. Finding the deep roots of negativity about your body allows you to dig them out and discard them.
I have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror. The flab around my gut makes me feel far worse than my impressive scar collection. When the site of me makes me feel bad I am the only one with the power to change it.
This change has to begin with the emotions. I can diet and exercise all I like, but if I still feel negative about my body odds are it’ll never be good enough.
My body is perfectly imperfect
Perfection is utterly in the eye of the beholder. As such, everybody is perfect and nobody is perfect.
Yes, I have a bunch of wicked scars, some skin tags, a mole or two, and a chubby belly. My legs are short and stubby and I have joked for years about having t-rex arms.
Yet despite a lot of damage and struggles my body works. It doesn’t just work a little it works really damned well. I am super flexible, can run despite fused bones that should prevent that, and am pretty bloody strong.
There is room for improvement, but isn’t that true of nearly everything in life? We are constantly growing and changing and evolving, so of course, our bodies change, too. The best way to make a change is to start from a place of body positivity.
I am a guy finding body positivity. I know that I am not alone in this struggle. Together, you and I can show the world that unusual is attractive, and the strength of the soul inside this stocky body is super-impressive and a bastion of positivity.
Body positivity is a choice. It is a choice I am working on making on a more regular basis.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter — howsoever your body looks.