I am on a mission to help people Live from the Inside Out. One of the most important ways we increase our ability to Live from the Inside Out is to Build Basic Body Confidence. It can be hard to live from a sense of our own personal worthiness when we do not believe our body is acceptable or worthy.
Sadly, it appears that most people in the U.S. (and increasingly around the world), especially women, not only doubt the worthiness of their body, they aggressively dislike and even hate their body. (A 2008 study by UNC Chapel Hill found that 75% of American women engage in some form of disordered eating). In my opinion, and research also suggests, we are suffering an epidemic of body-anxiety and body-shame in the U.S.
So, because I am on a mission to help people Live from the Inside Out, I am also on a mission to help people build Basic Body Confidence.
Basic Body Confidence is a set of mindsets and practices that help people cultivate their sense of body worthiness and partnership with their body. I refer to this collection of mindsets and practices as Basic Body Confidence because I believe they are the foundational mindsets and practices we need to form a strong partnership with our body and to address common body challenges we all face in life (which I will address later on in this post.)
In an ideal world, all of us would learn Basic Body Confidence from an early age—just like we learn to walk, to tie our shoe, and to ride our bike.
Unfortunately, there have been many developments in the last seventy years or so that have increasingly cut people off from their Basic Body Confidence. Because of this, people often don’t develop Basic Body Confidence and instead develop Body Shame.
When we have Body Shame, we believe that our body is only worthy if it meets external standards of beauty and worthiness that someone else has set for us (and that in most cases are impossible to achieve.) Body Shame cuts us off from our body signals like internal cues for hunger, fullness, and movement, and Body Shame also disrupts the natural partnership we have with our body.
In addition, Body Shame also often leads to another painful mindset which I call the Dangerous Body Narrative.
The Dangerous Body Narrative tells us that our body is deceptive, evil, out of control, and out to ruin us. Therefore, so the Dangerous Body Narrative goes, our body is unworthy, suspect, and something we must diligently monitor through punishment and harsh Discipline.
Body Shame often fuels the Dangerous Body Narrative. And the Dangerous Body Narrative also fuels Body Shame. People who struggle with Body Shame and the Dangerous Body Narrative often feel embarrassed, frightened, or angered by their body (or all three). They are alienated from it and get stuck in a never-ending battle. Such a battle is one in which people try to control their body or force it to do what they want. But they feel like it inevitably rebels against them.
The result of this is that many people live a life in which they rarely, if ever, feel peaceful or at home in their body. This can cause people a great deal of pain and suffering.
The good news is that things can be different.
Body Shame and the Dangerous Body Narrative are learned mindsets and behavior. The good news is that anyone can learn to reject Body Shame and the Dangerous Body Narrative. And anyone can learn to develop Basic Body Confidence by cultivating several alternative mindsets and practices.
And below, you can read about four mindsets and four practices to help you develop Basic Body Confidence.
Mindset One: Body Worthiness
One of the most common and destructive body messages we learn in life is that some bodies are more worthy than others. Usually we receive the message that only bodies that are very thin especially for women) or that are very muscular (especially for men) are worthy. The accompanying message is that only worthy bodies are truly deserving of love and a good life.
Since all human beings crave love and a sense of worthiness, this idea that only some bodies are worthy and deserving of love (and others are not) is extremely destructive and is the cause of a deep suffering for a lot of people.
The good news is that that this message that only some bodies are worthy is false.
It is motivated by people with a bad body philosophy and also often by people who wish to control or bully others (especially women) in some way or to make money from them.
The good news is that It is possible to stop measuring our body according to external standards. And it is possible to learn, instead, to value our intrinsic worth.
Our intrinsic worth is connected to our own unique goodness. Our unique goodness is a combination of our mind, body, emotions, and lived experience expressed for our good and the good of the whole earth. Each unique goodness has a special kind of beauty, and when we share our unique goodness in this way, we bring more light into the world. Our body is also worthy because it is part of our unique goodness, and each body has its own special beauty.
Recognizing our own intrinsic worth is foundational to Basic Body Confidence. You can read more about body worthiness here, here, and here.
Mindset Two: Body Trust
One of the most important things you can do to develop Basic Body Confidence is to develop the mindset of Body Trust. Body Trust is the mindset that allows us to listen to the signals our body sends us about hunger, fullness, movement, and other body needs, and to respect this information as reliable and actionable.
It is completely possible, and it is right to develop Body Trust. Your body loves you and wants to help you. And its number one goal is to keep you safe, comfortable, and healthy. Furthermore, it constantly sends you messages to nudge you in the right direction. Most of us learned how to listen to these body messages in some areas of our life. For instance, we trust our body signals about when we need to drink water or go to the bathroom. We don’t assume, for instance, that our body is out to trick us when it signals us to drink water or pee.
When we are younger (such as when we are babies or very young children), we are very in tune with our internal signals to eat, to stop eating, and to move. As we get older, however, these natural signals become disrupted by external factors like well-meaning (but misguided) adults, diet culture, Body Shame, and the Dangerous Body Narrative.
These external interruptions teach us that we cannot listen to our natural body signals around food and movement. And they further teach us that we must give control of this area of our life over to an external authority. This causes us to distrust our body and is one of the primary causes of the Dangerous Body Narrative. It is also one of the primary causes of Body Shame. It can lead to eating anxiety, disordered eating, full-blown eating disorders, and obsessive or avoidant attitudes towards movement.
The good news is that we can relearn the ability to tune-in to our natural body signals around food and movement. And we can learn to trust our body’s signals in these areas, too. You can read more about this here.
Mindset Three: Body Compassion
Another destructive message we learn early on is that if we can just lose enough weight and get our body to look a certain way, all our problems will be solved. So, we begin an endless pursuit to have the perfect body so that we can have a perfect life. Of course, this pursuit is futile because everybody experiences suffering at some point. No amount of weight or muscle gain or loss can prevent all suffering.
In fact, trying to control our life by controlling our body leads to more suffering. That is because our attempts to control all external events inevitably fails. If we believe we can control our life by controlling our body, we often end up hating our body when life feels out of control. On the other hand, when we learn to show ourselves compassion, we learn how to support and nurture ourselves and our body during times of suffering. In doing so, we strengthen our relationship with our body.
You can read more about the way in which we try to solve all our life problems here. And you can read more about compassion here and here.
Mindset Four: Body Care
Everyone has days in which they feel off in their own skin. This is similar to they way in which everyone has days they feel off in their relationship with people they love. Or they feel off in their work for one reason or another. Off days are a normal part of life and shouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, because of the cultural messages we receive, feeling off in our skin can lead us to feeling like we are unworthy. Or such messages can make us feel unlovable, and even deserving of hate and neglect.
It is possible to work through these painful feelings, however, by cultivating the mindset of Body Care. Body Care is the belief that even when we feel badly about our body, it is deserving of basic care. This is similar to the way in which an animal we love is deserving of basic care, even when it isn’t behaving quite as we would like.
When we give our body basic care, we make sure to give it water, nourishment, sunlight, and some movement, just like we would for an animal we love. We also learn how to soothe painful emotions, which can help us feel more comfortable in our body. You can read more about this here, here, and here. (And here’s an adorable picture of my kitty Jax. He was helping me paint this morning.)
We’ved examined four mindsets that encourage Basic Body Confidence. Now let’s look at four practices.
Practice One: Confident Breathing
When we think about our relationship with our body, we often think first about how we eat and how we move (or exercise). And we often overlook that even more fundamental to body confidence is Confident Breathing. Our breath is our first and most fundamental connection with our body. When our breath is off, it often disrupts other areas of our life, like eating, sleeping, and moving. The better and more deeply we breathe, the more peaceful we feel in our body. And the better we can to listen to the signals it sends us. You can read more about this here.
Practice Two: Confident Eating
The last couple of decades has seen a dizzying array of diets, eating plans, detox routines, and cleanse programs. At any given time 50% of people in the U.S. say they are on a diet. At the same time, research increasingly suggests that diets are ineffective, and even harmful, for pretty much everyone. You can read more about this here.
We have made people so afraid of gaining weight that eating has become an incredibly complicated ordeal. In fact, eating causes a lot of people a great deal of anxiety. And many people lack confidence around food. Eating should not be this hard.
The good news is that it is possible to regain confidence around eating. When we practice Confident Eating, we eat the foods we love that give us energy and that also stabilize our mood. Sometimes we prioritize taste, sometimes we prioritize energy, and sometimes we prioritize mood with Confident Eating. We are always the boss of what we decided to eat, when we decide to eat, and the quantities of what we eat.
There are no good or bad foods or good or bad eating styles. There are only foods and eating styles that work for us and those that don’t. And this often changes over time. The philosophy of Confident Eating is influenced strongly by intuitive eating and mindful eating, which you can read about here and here.
Practice Three: Playful Movement
Many people hate the idea of exercising, and this is not too surprising. We often receive the message that the purpose of exercise is to shrink or control our body. We futher get the idea that only certain people with a certain body type (like very skinny or very muscular) have the right to feel confident about movement.
Neither of these things is true.
The purpose of movement is to feel good and powerful, to explore our curiosity in the world, and to have adventures. And its further purpose is to give us mental and emotional equilibrium, and to develop different physical and mental capacities. Movement helps us play. When playfulness becomes the focus of movement, movement helps bring more of us, not less of us into the world.
We have more strength, more confidence, more resilience, and more wisdom.
Furthermore, anyone at any size can reap these benefits of movement. Any movement can be scaled so that anyone of any ability level can start small and build strength, ability, and all the benefits of movement over time.
Practice Four: Confident Boundaries
Pretty much everyone in life has suffered unwelcome criticism or advice from others regarding their body. Such comments are a violation of our boundaries, and people who offer these unsolicited comments are always acting inappropriately.
Usually such comments are made by people in order to dominate, bully or control other people (especially women).
When we are the recipient of unsolicited body criticism or advice, it can cause us to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or traumatized. To make matters worse, Body Shame and the Dangerous Body Narrative can convince us that we deserve such comments.
No one ever has the right to offer unsolicited advice or comments about anyone else’s body. And no one of any size or shape ever deserves unsolicited criticism or advice. We are the boss of our body, and we are in the ideal position to know what it is best for it.
Furthermore, as mentioned above in Mindset one, all bodies of every size have intrinsic worth. Because of this, all bodies of any size have the right to exist and take up space in the world without suffering harassment or assault.
When we learn to set Confident Boundaries this strengthens our confidence in our body. Aand it strengthens our belief that we have the right to take up space in the world, now matter how small or large it is. You can read more about setting boundaries here.
You Can Have Body Confidence, Too
If you are like a lot of people, you may struggle with Body Confidence and wish you could feel more confident and peaceful in your body. The good news is that even if you struggle a lot with Body Confidence, it is never to late to start developing it. Any one of any size or age can develop it. And it is not something that you either have or do not have. It something you develop by cultivating the mindsets and practices mentioned above.
And having Basic Body Confidence does not meant that you must suddenly start wearing bikinis and posting all sorts of pictures of yourself on social media (although Go You! if you do). Rather, Basic Body Confidence is our ability to use the mindsets and practices mentioned above to build a strong partnership with our body. It helps us address various body challenges that arise in our life.
If you would like to start developing Basic Body Confidence, a great place to start is by reading further about each mindset and practice in the links provided above.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing on social media.
You might also like reading about my own journey to developing Basic Body Confidence here.
 Two such influences are the prevalence of airbrushed, heavily manicured media pictures which give us a distorted sense of body reality, and the widespread promotion of diets and dieting behavior which cut us off from our natural body signals and worthiness. You can read more about the problems of diet culture here and here.
 Even auto-immune diseases, which occur when our body attacks itself, is the result of our body trying to protect us, albeit in a misguided way because it has its signals crossed.