Lately I have been thinking about things I would tell my young self about shame, bodies, and confidence.
One of my main goals in life is to help girls and women (and everyone really) feel peaceful in their bodies. Many women (and increasingly men, too) struggle with body-anxiety and body-shame. And I believe this crushes our joy and dims our power. (You can read more about this here.) So, I believe it is really important to have regular discussions about accepting and loving our bodies.
This is a powerful lesson I have learned over the years.
When I was younger, like a lot of girls and women, I struggled with persistent and acute feelings of body-shame and body-anxiety. I definitely felt a lot of joy and happiness in my life. But I was also consistently plagued by feeling gross, ugly, and ashamed and anxious about my appearance and body. These were feelings I developed because of some bullying experiences I had when I was younger. (You can read more about this here and here.)
Of course, I am still human and still have days when I feel gross and disconnected from my body or when I have flare-ups of body-anxiety and body-shame. Occasional feelings like this are a normal part of life, just like periodic feelings of sadness, anger, and fear are normal.
Feeling Body Peace
In general now, however, I have so much more peace and confidence in my body. And most days I love my body and all of me.
I think a lot about the lessons I have learned about body love. And I think about what I would say to my younger self about body peace and body love. Here are ten things I would tell her:
One: You have permission to be exactly who you are right now, no exceptions.
We get a lot of pressure to look like someone else and be like someone else. This is all a bunch of baloney. You are on this earth because you have a beautiful and unique light to share with the world. And the more you focus on being yourself in the most loving way possible, the more this light shines.
Two: You don’t have to change anything about yourself to be worthy of love.
A lot of people communicate to us in some way that we should look differently. For instance, they may communicate that we should lose weight or gain weight or have straight hair or curly hair. You have permission to ignore these people. They do not have your best interest at heart. And they tell you such things because they have skewed perceptions of beauty. Or often it is because they are trying to use you to meet some false need they have.
You are not required to meet people’s expectations of you. Your main requirement, in fact, is to be yourself with love and respect.
Three: You have permission to love and respect your body right now, no matter what, so that your body can express its unique power.
When we love our body, we recognize and honor all the good and healthy things about it. And we also work on showing it kindness to heal its hurts and weaknesses. When we respect our body, we realize that our body has its own unique power that is to be used for good. In realizing this, we support our body in expressing this power.
The ideas on the far left and far right are two unhealthy extremes we often fall into. The spot in the middle is the place of Body Peace.
Four: You have permission to trust the wisdom of your body.
Your body has a beautiful, internal wisdom. It wants you to be healthy, happy, and it wants to give you the nutrients you need to function well. You can learn to tap into your body’s internal wisdom. And this is the best thing you can do because your body knows you and knows what is good for you better than anyone else.
Five: You do not have to feel good about your body all the time. In fact, you are allowed to have off days and months and even years.
Just like we feel sad or scared or angry sometimes, sometimes we feel bad about our bodies. This is normal, and there is nothing wrong with you if you feel this way. Sometimes we feel gross in our bodies because our body is sending a signal that we need to care for it more gently by sleeping or eating nourishing food or moving or drinking water more.
And sometimes we are going through a phrase.
When you have these off days, keep being kind to your body and trusting it. You are going to figure it out, and this phase will pass.
Six: You don’t have to have your body, your appearance, or your style figured out yet. And you have permission to figure it out as you go along.
Sometimes we feel bad because we don’t know what to do with our hair. Or we don’t know what our style is, or we aren’t sure how to take care of our body in the best way. It’s okay. You don’t have to have this all figured out in advance. No one does. It’s okay to figure it out as you go along.
Seven: You don’t have to be ashamed of food.
You have permission to love food. And you have permission to eat a lot of food sometimes or a little bit of food. You have permission to eat and love ice cream and hamburgers and chips and French fries and cheese.
Food is not the enemy, and food is one of the many wonderful parts of life. Eat what you want to eat, slow down, pay attention to what you are eating, notice how it makes you feel. Focus on eating foods that you love and that make you feel really good. You are going to figure it out.
Eight: Exercise so there is more of you, not less of you.
Your body loves to move naturally, and you never have to exercise to be smaller. In fact, when you move your body in a way you love, you become more joyful and powerful and confident. This brings more of your light into the world, and the whole world benefits.
Move in a way that bring you joy. For instance, you might like to run, to dance, to hula hoop, to do yoga, to walk, to play sports, to play on playgrounds. Listen to your body, and it will help you find a movement you love to do.
Think about how you can move regularly in a way that feels good and brings joy: like dancing or climbing trees or running or skipping rope. Whatever.
Nine: You don’t have to eat to deal with painful emotions, and it is also totally normal to do this sometimes.
We all suffer painful emotions sometimes. This is a normal part of life. Because food tastes good and is really soothing, sometimes we eat food to soothe our painful emotions. It is totally normal to do this sometimes, but we can also learn to use other, more powerful soothing strategies. In doing so, we learn that food is not our only mechanism for dealing with painful emotions.
You have so many powerful tools within you to help deal with painful emotions, and you are going to figure it out.
There is more about this idea here .
Ten: The world needs you to fall in love with yourself exactly the way you are right now.
You might get the message sometimes that you have to change yourself to be worthy. This is not true. What the world needs if for you to fall in love with yourself exactly the way you are. The more you do this, the more you strengthen the good in you and heal the suffering parts of you.
When you do this, you use your power for good in the world, and you help to heal the world. And healing the world is not all up to you, but you are an incredibly important part.
Darling. Let your light shine.
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If you are an older woman reading this post, and you wish you had known some of these things when you were younger, it is never too late. (You can read more about this here.)