Respecting yourself; it’s one of the most valuable lessons that we can ever learn and yet, as is the case with so many truly useful things in life, it isn’t something that we get taught at school, college or university but, instead (and frustratingly) it’s something that we have to develop for ourselves over the course of time. And, of all the different forms of self-respect, there seems to be one that is the most illusive; respect for our bodies.
In an ideal world, the acceptance that we seem to naturally have for our bodies when we are younger would last a lifetime – it wouldn’t be eroded by what we see in magazines or on TV, it wouldn’t be damaged by not conforming to a certain size or shape, and not even the harshest comments from others could destroy it. Sadly, though this isn’t an ideal world and, as I’ve come to learn, trying to regain it; to get to a place of body acceptance and respect – is something that takes time, work and constant practice. However, as I’ve come to find, learning to have a healthy relationship with and level of respect for food, your mind and body can help you to become the best version of yourself. But where to even start?
The first thing that I would advise anyone to do if they are trying to improve their respect for their body is to learn to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings – to gain a sense of body wisdom. So, for example, you may initially think that you’re hungry but, if you sit with that feeling for a while and question what’s behind it – rather than immediately reaching for the nearest snack – then you might find that, below the surface, what you’re actually hungry for ISN’T food but something else – comfort perhaps, or company and that that need might be answered better by something other than food. In doing this you might find that you uncover emotions and feelings that you had previously ignored or buried and need to explore, in which case I would wholeheartedly recommend that you get some help from a qualified professional – details of which can be found here https://www.bacp.co.uk/
Something else that you also need to do as part of the process of nurturing respect for your body is make peace with food. In reality, what this means is stopping classifying foods as either “good” or “bad”, as “healthy” or “unhealthy”, as “clean” or “fattening” etc. as, it’s when you learn that your worth or value as a person doesn’t change – regardless of what you eat – that food will no longer have the power over you that it once did. This, as well as learning to listen to your inner body cues, make up some of the underlying principles of intuitive eating. If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating then I highly recommend reading this book which explains it in detail https://www.amazon.co.uk/Intuitive-Eating-Workbook-Principles-Relationship-ebook/dp/B01LW1CXVO
The final skill that I would urge everyone to become better at is actually something you need to STOP doing rather than something you need to start doing or do more of – and that’s comparing yourself to others. I’m sure that you’ve heard the phrase “Comparison is the thief of joy” and it’s so true. How often do you find yourself comparing something of yours – be it your body, clothes, career or other element of life to that of someone else? And how often do you do that and come away feeling good? I bet the answer to that is “not very often” – in fact, it’s a very quick and easy way of making yourself feel dreadful. So why do we do it? And how about if, instead of comparing yourself to others, you started comparing yourself to …. yourself? For example, what if, instead of comparing how long it took you to run 5K compared to your best friend, you compared it to how long it took you back when you started? Or rather than comparing, why don’t we all just start being a bit more thankful for what we DO have? Maybe you don’t have the slim, shapely legs that your work colleague has – but what do the legs that you DO have enable you to achieve? Doing this is much more likely to leave you feeling positive and determined to become the best version of yourself – and surely that’s something that we are striving for?
I would love to know what you think about this subject – how are your levels of body respect? What journey have you been on to get there? And where are you hoping to get to? Email firstname.lastname@example.org