For the past few months, we’ve been on a journey to fall in love with our bodies. First, we tackled Body Awareness, and then we moved on to Body Neutrality. Last month, we stepped into Body Appreciation. And today? Today we’re graduating to full-fledged Body Love.
Now, I know “body love” can feel really intimidating—and honestly impossible for some of us. But I encourage you to think about the people you love. Your friends, your partner, your family, your kids. Are these people in your life always easy to love? Are these relationships completely free of discomfort and conflict? Of course not! That doesn’t mean you love them any less.
We allow room for grace and growth in relationships with other people, but we often don’t allow the same space in our relationship with our bodies. We expect our bodies to bend to our will. We ignore physical and emotional messages. We simply do not listen to the wisdom of our bodies because of fear or judgment or just habit. However, the way we learn to love our bodies is by building a relationship with ourselves. It isn’t a switch we turn on or a decision we make—it is a consistent practice of kindness and love.
Let’s imagine that you meet a new friend at book club. You enjoyed her company and you want to get to know her better and continue to build a friendship. You can imagine the two of you getting pedicures, drinking wine over your favorite books, getting coffee on the way to an art festival. But before you get to that point, you need to lay the foundation for a relationship. The same goes for our relationships with our bodies.
Once we have the foundation of love, we have to continue the commitment to the relationship. This commitment includes working through the challenging times in the relationship. Did you disown your sister the first time she disappointed you? No. Do you completely ignore your best friend because she didn’t react the way you wanted her to? No. Relationships require love, acceptance, and give-and-take. The same actions are required to build a positive relationship with your body.
Spend Time with Your Body to Reach Body Love
This may be very hard. You may have avoided mirrors for years. You may put on your makeup as quickly as possible. In order to love your body, you need to know how it looks, feels, smells, and (sometimes) sounds. All of this is simply information to build a loving relationship with your body.
I invite you to be curious about your body. Take your time in the shower, paying attention to all of the parts of you. Notice how your skin feels. How your hair feels. How the water feels over different parts of your body. Notice if there are parts of your body that you typically ignore or avoid and simply invite your attention there, even if just for one breath. If you hold judgment in your belly, notice something about it. Maybe there is a freckle or maybe your belly button is way off center (mine is about an inch to the left of midline). Can you allow room for a quirk to be something that you can enjoy about yourself?
Be Kind To Your Body
I spent decades wearing clothes that were uncomfortable. I refused to buy clothes in bigger sizes, or I only bought what made me look thinner. Over time, I have released that thinking. And, just as importantly, I have freed myself from zippers. I hate them. On pants, on the back of dresses, wherever they are. I hate them. They are constricting. I’ve gotten hair stuck in them. I just don’t like them. So what does that mean? I don’t wear clothes with zippers. Even my jeans are jeggings. My body does not like them, so I don’t wear them.
Check in with yourself right now. Notice each article of clothing and jewelry and shoes that you are wearing—are they comfortable? Is there something you are wearing that you never want to wear again? Get rid of it! Once you get momentum with wearing clothes motivated by kindness, you can move on to beauty products that make you happy, and styling your hair in a way that pleases you. This practice is about kindness. That’s it.
Have Conversations with Your Body
How do we get to know someone? We talk to them. We ask questions. We notice where we agree and where we compromise. The same process is required for a loving relationship with our bodies. I frequently ask myself, “How am I?” and, “What do I need?” Sometimes the answer is “I’m good!” Sometimes I need a drink or I need to pee. Sometimes I need a hug or a walk or a few jumping jacks. From my big smile in dance class years ago, I learned that my body LOVES jumping jacks. I’m going to encourage you to do that right now. What do you need? Close your eyes and ask yourself that question.
Now, how can you respond to that need? If you don’t know, keep asking the question. Respond with attention and love.
Body Love Meditation
Our meditation for body love is based on a style of Buddhist meditation that sends positivity and kindness to others by repetition of a few short phrases. The audio meditation below takes that process and turns it inward, toward ourselves and our bodies. You can practice this meditation sitting in a comfortable position, laying down or—if you’re up for it—in front of a mirror. Create an intention of building a loving relationship with your body, and press play.