***Disclaimer: This week’s Self-Care Sunday post deals with societal pressures to have a perfect body and discusses topics such as diet culture and restriction. This post is not about eating disorders but could be potentially triggering for those who have experienced eating disorders or something similar. Please take care of yourself if this is a sensitive topic for you!
The sun is SHINING, people! It officially hit 70 degrees in Columbus and I swear the entire campus has come alive. People are out on the quads throwing frisbees, grilling, hammocking, and just soaking up the glorious, long-awaited sun. I’ve finally filed away my winter coat (hopefully) for the season and replaced my boots with sandals. Especially being a student, the thought of summer is pure bliss and this weather is making it feel so close! Despite all the warmth and happiness that the thought of summer is bringing me, I know from my own experience that gearing up for the change in seasons can be a struggle. As the weather warms up, there are so many messages thrown at us about radically transforming our lives to achieve that “perfect summer body”. The fallacy of a “perfect” body aside, summer does mean swimsuits, shorts, and tank tops for most of us. If you have even subtle body insecurities, summer can mean you literally have less to hide behind.
In my twenty years of hearing and sharing stories, I’ve learned that body image impacts almost every single person in some way. I’ve truly never met someone who has never felt pressure to look a certain way or present a certain image. Whether that has to do with weight, body shape, height, skin tone, acne, clothing style, hair, or something totally different, almost everyone I know has one or more specific narratives about the way they look. Despite what mass media and stereotypes might tell us, body image isn’t just something that one group of people struggles with. And if struggling with your body isn’t already hard enough in the first place, so many people are told that their insecurities and struggles aren’t valid because of how they look or identify. I want to start by saying this: No matter who you are, your voice is valid and important in the world of body positivity. There is no such thing as being too skinny, too muscular, too curvy, too manly, too strong, too carefree, too positive, or too confident to have body image struggles.
I talked about my relationship with fitness in depth on a previous blog post, which was a huge part of my personal journey to being comfortable and confident in who I am and how I exist in this world. Around this time of the year, I notice that so many fitness influencers come out with weight loss teas, juice cleanses, detox products, and fat loss programs for “shred season”. What I’ve come to learn after years of consuming these messages on social media AND in real life is that people can and will profit off of our insecurities. When we are insecure about some aspect of who we are, our instinct is to latch on to anything that can help us change it. The twisted thing is that these quick “fixes” are a trap—We think investing in these restrictive dieting schemes or punishing our bodies is part of our self-care or self-improvement journey. It is so critically important to not confuse holistic wellness with Instagram health. It genuinely breaks my heart to think about all the time and energy being invested into this false self-love.
Have you ever wanted to wear something that you absolutely loved, but decided against it because you didn’t think your body looked good in it? Have you ever loved the style of something, but thought it just “wasn’t flattering for your body type”? Have you ever enjoyed a treat out with your friends or family, then thought about how you “shouldn’t have eaten it” for hours after? Have you ever missed a workout and felt guilty or ashamed? Have you ever wanted to post an Instagram photo but instead scrutinized the way you looked, then deleted it? If you said yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. I have said “yes” to every single one. In the world we live in, deciding to love and show up for yourself is a radical act. The hard truth is that these dangerous, harmful schemes both damage our relationships with our bodies and divert our attention away from true self-love practices. Restricting your food or punishing your body in any way is not showing up for yourself out of love. If this is something that touches your heart and your story deeply, I want you to know that I see you. I want you to know that your pain is so valid. This topic is much more a part of some people’s stories than others, but society’s emphasis on the “perfect body” impacts us all.
One of the most powerful things you can do to love your body is to get very real about the root of your thoughts. I know for me, I had this surface level justification for being so mean to myself and my body. I would disguise my self-loathing thoughts as attempts to get “healthy and fit”, to “only fuel my body with good things”, etc. If that was really the case, why did I never feel any healthier? If I was truly investing in my health and wellness, why did I feel physically and emotionally drained in the process? Why did my relationship with my body, with food, and with fitness only get worse? Why did negativity plague my thoughts? The reality is that the root of my thoughts and actions, underneath all the ways I was trying to justify them, was this—”I need to change my body for others to accept and love me. I am not good enough or loveable in this body. My life would be better if I looked differently.” The most transformational thing I ever did was be honest with myself and call myself out for my true self-talk. Even if I was covering these thoughts up with an Instagrammable health and fitness journey, the truth is that my relationship with my body was deteriorating even further. If you are struggling with your body image, what are the basic thoughts you are telling yourself? Underneath all the stories you are telling yourself, are you really showing up out of love and kindness for who you are today?
What I’ve found in my own personal experience is that these damaging thoughts about our bodies have less to do with physique or health and more to do with love and acceptance. I know this to be true because when I was struggling with incredibly damaging thoughts about my body, I was showing up in the gym and thinking of others. I was thinking about how I looked during my workout, if other people were looking at me and judging me, if people found me attractive, if people would find me more attractive if I was thinner or curvier, if my outfit was unflattering, if I looked bad from a certain angle, etc. I was thinking about being loved and accepted by others. Once I got real with myself about the root of my thoughts and decided to make a radical change in my life, my mindset completely shifted. I’m now showing up in the gym because I want to have the energy and endurance to go on adventures. I make goals to get stronger because I am proud of myself and my progress. I fuel my body because I love myself and am thankful for how my body carries me throughout my day. But I also rest because I know my body needs it. I miss the gym some days because life happens. I eat ice cream every single day on the beach because it sparks joy in my life and is a memory with my friends. The difference is that now I show up in my health and wellness for me, and see my body as a vessel for who I am.
Your body is simply a vessel of your soul—it is the vehicle that carries you through your goals, hopes, and dreams. It has taken you through every challenge and victory. It’s the way you share your joy with the world through laughs and smiles. It’s the way you share your love with others through hugs and kisses. It’s how you spread comfort, empathy, and compassion. It’s how you serve. It’s how you create. If your body is doing all of that, how could it possibly not be beautiful? Hear me when I say that your weight is not your worth. Your weight is not your worth. Your summer body is the body you have in the summer. Your bikini body (or swim trunks, or one piece, or whatever you want to wear) is the body you put a bikini on. You are worthy of love and acceptance at any weight or physique. Changing your body will not make you love yourself. Intentionally investing in positive self-talk, self-love practices, and asking for help when you need it will help you on your self-love journey.
I want to acknowledge that having goals for your holistic wellness is an incredibly positive act of self-love when you show up with a mindset of patience, kindness, and care. I absolutely love lifting weights, stretching, dance parties, rock climbing, swimming, and other things that make me feel strong and energized. I absolutely love cooking foods that nourish my body. These things spark joy in my life because they come from a place of pure love for my body. They are acts of self-care because I am safely and thoughtfully investing in myself. But at the end of the day, I know that my self-love does not come from the way my body looks. It comes from constantly working to believe that I am enough exactly as I am.
If this resonates with you, I know how steep of a mountain it can be to climb. If you’re struggling with your body, I know it can seem daunting to tackle the deep-rooted stories you are telling yourself about not being good enough, attractive enough, fit enough, loved enough, accepted enough, enough. Know that you are not alone. Know that asking for help is brave. Know that asking for help is a radical act of self-love. Know that asking for help is a revolutionary defiance of everything that has made you question your worth. I am sending so much love and positivity to every single person reading this in preparation for summer. When you see messages of restriction and punishment, know that you do not have to buy in to those lies. If you feel shame and guilt about your body, know that you are worthy of profound self-love and abundant acceptance. If you need help tackling your thoughts and actions about body image, know that you are worthy of support. If you feel inspired to show up for your holistic wellness in a new way, I would encourage you to be incredibly intentional about making every choice from a place of love. Above all else, I hope that you give yourself permission to make memories exactly as you are. I hope you say “yes” to adventure and fun. I hope you say “no” to the lies of a “perfect body”. I hope you don’t wait to live your best life until you look a certain way. I hope you recognize your inherent, abundant, overflowing, remarkable worth.
Choose radiance. Choose fearlessness. Choose you.
With light and love,