It is often said that the body is a temple- and there is nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel at your best. In fact, taking care of your body in all ways is nothing less than a spiritual act of self-love.
Being comfortable in our physical body is important for living a good-feeling life. In this image-conscious world, it is perhaps more important than ever before. Not because physical appearance is the be-all-and-end-all, but because a low opinion of our physicality can get in the way of us living our best life and take up a lot of our time- time which could be spent fulfilling our life’s purpose.
We are our worst critics and are often the last to recognise our beautiful qualities. Sometimes we tend to bat compliments away and listen to the criticisms, which are usually our own, turning them over and over in our minds. Some of us may have been teased at school or we ourselves compared our physical bodies unfavourably to other classmates- either way becoming self-conscious and self-negative. And many of us have felt the gradual erosion of our self-esteem from an onslaught of airbrushed images in the media. Whatever started our habitual criticism is irrelevant. What is important is that we make an effort to change it. However overwhelming this can seem, change is possible.
Change the thoughts; Change your inner talk to one of self-appreciation – and the feeling will change, which means your body will follow suit and change also. This can sound a little ‘out there’ or too-good-to-be true. However, through the many people I have worked with, I have witnessed this happen again and again with people as their self-image improves followed by a change in the body itself.
Looking in the mirror in the ‘chance’ of catching an image of yourself you will like is not the way to a healthy body image. Neither is waiting for someone to speak a compliment about your physical appearance so that you can then feel good about yourself. As clichéd as this is going to sound: beauty is within. And only you can do the work to feel this inner beauty; only you can begin to make changes.
Empowerment about your physical body is deciding that you’re beautiful regardless of what the mirror or other people suggest. It is then that, as a by-product, the mirror (and the ‘mirror’ of other people) will begin to reflect back your feeling of beauty.
Many of us try to ‘fix’ our bodies in order to get the appreciation or encouragement but this is back-to-front thinking. Haven’t you noticed those moments of feeling so good that you just look absolutely great and don’t even see those things you once obsessively thought needed to change? It’s all about perception. And when you are perceiving beauty, beauty will expand in your experience.
And so the question is not “How do I fix this or make that better to be more beautiful in the future” but rather “How do I feel more beautiful, now”. Because when you consistently feel beautiful, you are beautiful.
A change in perception: Beauty from the inside out
All of us have seen ourselves looking vastly different in the mirror or in photographs- almost like different people- and this shows it is our perception not any kind of fixed reality that we are seeing. You hear of people who go to the gym every day and are incredibly muscular- yet see themselves as skinny. Plus there are many examples of people moving from cosmetic surgery to cosmetic surgery- always dissatisfied- because they are taking their critical perception with them.
People considered attractive are physically different with all shapes and sizes of physical features; what they all have in common is the feeling of confidence and attractiveness they exude. They feel attractive- and so they are.
Taking a step back
A tip that I share with people who are insecure about their looks is to ‘zoom out’. When looking in the mirror, particularly if you are feeling unattractive, step back with your vision and see yourself ‘in outline’ – rather than focusing-in and analysing. If you were to zoom in on the individual features of a supermodel or sex-symbol actor, you’d see a whole host of seeming flaws.
So ‘take a step back’ and choose to feel attractive regardless of what you observe. People often get obsessed over ‘if I could change that particular feature I’d feel more attractive’ but it isn’t true. It’s a general feeling of attractiveness you are after. It is the same with thoughts; Rather than trying to change your thoughts around specific physical features, be more general: I feel beautiful and attractive is a good start- and you will find your own better-feeling thoughts.
The irony of life is that when we most need a compliment or a good image in the mirror- or anything to uplift us- it is not there. It is up to us to bring ourselves into the feeling that we would get if we already had the compliment. Once we love and appreciate ourselves in this moment, so the world will reflect this straight back to us.
First step: Accepting yourself, now
You may be reading this and preparing to speak endless affirmations of ‘I am beautiful’ or immediately visualising yourself looking ideal. And this is your aim. But if you have been feeling the opposite way for many years, this can be too big a leap and leave you exhausted as you ‘ping-pong’ back and forth from a moment of liking yourself to feeling awful.
The first step is to accept where you are right now.
Self-acceptance means that you stop resisting or fighting against what is not wanted. It doesn’t mean you resign yourself to staying this way forever. Some people think that, for example, if you are overweight and accept it- you will be a happy, overweight person. But this is not the way it works. “What you resist, persists” said Carl Jung- and he was absolutely right. Trying to aggressively ‘sort the issue out’ can sometimes keep you stuck where you are, obsessed with the very ‘issue’ you are trying to leave behind. That is why there are so many people who have struggled for twenty years or more to lose weight and are still the same size or bigger, yet even more disappointed and frustrated: their battle against excess weight isn’t working.
You have two choices right now whatever the situation is: to accept where you are or not. As you try to relax into where you are, realising that nothing has gone wrong, you open yourself up to solutions – and you are free to move on to begin feeling attractive without struggle.
Enjoying your life
Remember that the process of thinking good-feeling thoughts or dwelling in good-feeling images is firstly for the enjoyment of it. Getting the beautiful body is the inevitable side-effect of these good-feeling exercises. If you are working hard on yourself, ‘trying to be positive’ and not feeling good – you are missing the point. The secret is to ‘go with the flow’ and have more fun with the process. Make your inner work be to feel good so completely that you don’t even care whether anything changes or not. And then, in that detachment, change will happen.
SIX TIPS TO A BETTER BODY IMAGE
- Confidence, which is a word which embodies self-love and self-appreciation, is the key to beauty. The way others see you will completely change as you learn to feel confident about yourself. When you are feeling more confident, you may be inspired to treat yourself to go shopping for new clothes etc. This will in-turn influence your inner confidence, which is the true advantage of an outer makeover.
- Ignore the mirror when you don’t feel attractive. When you don’t feel attractive, you won’t see ‘attractive’ images. The mirror is more about a reflection of what you think of your body than anything else. Mirror checking will just lead you into a negative spiral. In these moments, distract yourself with meditation or anything that gets you off the subject. And then try to feel good and attractive regardless of how you judge yourself to look.
- Make a list of all the times you felt attractive. Often, we all-too-easily remember the times we felt unattractive, we remember the criticism. Take your time and write at least ten times you felt good about yourself.
- When you are feeling good, spend several minutes imagining yourself looking and feeling beautiful. Close your eyes and let the image find you- imagine yourself looking in a mirror and seeing your reflection. This may be difficult at first- but make time for this practice every day. Once this becomes habitual, the reality will match your predominant vision and, when you feel not-so-good you will have a good-feeling, practiced image to quickly switch to.
- Remind yourself that many people who are now considered (and therefore feel) attractive have felt unhappy about their body image and have come through it- and so can you.
- Have patience with yourself and the process- don’t be disheartened if you don’t see instant results.
Please click to read the article ‘Demystifying meditation’