You will never look like someone in a magazine. That person in the magazine doesn’t even look like that person in the magazine.
It’s likely that the ideal you are striving for is a fabricated image, photo-shopped and edited 100+ times, and therefore, totally unrealistic and unattainable. The expectation to look like the models in the magazines, the celebrities in movies, or that girl from high school with the most beautiful selfies is unachievable because they don’t even look that way naturally. In movies they often use body doubles for scenes and images are always retouched and filtered to make people look skinnier, stronger, bustier, etc.
So what ideal should you strive for? The answer is not the thin one, not the handsome one, not the muscular one, not the curvy one, not the beautiful one… It’s the healthy one. The healthy ideal is about striving for a healthy body and mind. It is healthy to eat all foods in moderation, it is healthy to exercise, it is healthy to have muscles, it is healthy to have fat, it is healthy to have alone time, it is healthy to spend time with your family and friends, it is healthy to feel grateful for your body, and it is healthy to compliment, accept, and celebrate yourself.
When you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? If it’s, “Oh my god, my thighs are so big. My stomach is so fat. I wish I were taller. I wish I had bigger muscles. I wish I were a lot skinner. I am so ugly.” I challenge you to look at yourself, and comment on at least one (but I promise you there are many, many more) of your positive physical, emotional, intellectual, and social qualities. For example, “I love my freckles. I have a cute belly button. My legs are strong. I am a good friend. I can run fast. I like the sound of my laugh. I study hard.” Seriously, do this every time you look in the mirror (this includes your phone too when you are trying to master that selfie). I also use the 5 Year Old Trick to assess whether or not I am engaging in positive or negative self-talk- “The next time you’re about to say/think something negative about yourself, ask if you would say that to a 5 year-old.”
When you comment on your body, switch the focus from appearance to functioning. Instead of saying to yourself, “Am I pretty? How many calories did I eat? I wish I were skinnier. I can’t eat breakfast tomorrow because I had dessert tonight. I am too fat to wear that.” say to yourself, “Did I eat some protein with breakfast? Am I drinking enough water? Did I take my medication? Did I get in some movement, fitness, physical activity today? Did I get my heart rate up today? Do I have enough energy? Am I sleeping well? What am I doing to take care of myself?” Shifting the focus from how our bodies look to how our bodies feel and are functioning helps keep us on the healthy ideal track.
Increasing awareness of our bodies is another powerful tool in learning to accept and celebrate our bodies. How to do this? Take a yoga class, learn to belly dance, practice belly breathing, go to a hip-hop dance class, give meditation a try, scan your body for areas of tension. Also, increasing awareness of our emotions is another important component of self-acceptance. Note: Fat, Ugly, and Skinny ARE NOT feelings. There are other emotions at play when you say to yourself, “I feel fat. I feel ugly, I feel skinny.” Are you feeling sad? Lonely? Anxious? Ashamed? Worthless? Afraid? Worried? Inadequate? Learn to observe, identify, and accept the emotions underlying any body dissatisfaction.
And always remember: you are more beautiful, intelligent, strong, and capable than you think.
Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.