Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cultivating a Positive Body Image

This post is the first in a series about positive body image. 

8th grade - I hated looking younger than everyone else

A Pattern of Discontentment

From adolescence onwards, I was never quite satisfied with my body and appearance. In the early years, it was that I was too short and looked too much like a little child. I was a "late bloomer" in that I didn't start menstruating until just before I turned 15 years old. Combine that with being younger than most of the kids in my grade, and the stage was set for having body image issues.

As I moved on into adulthood, I could still always find plenty to be dissatisfied about in my appearance: my freckles, my lack of 6-pack ab muscles no matter how much I worked out or how slim I was, the gap between my front teeth, my different proportions compared to the "ideal". And after becoming a mother, I could easily find ways to be discouraged in my appearance, with my new stretch marks, bigger hips and abdomen than before pregnancy, and an overall different shape than pre-pregnancy.
2008 - early motherhood

Although my negative body image was never severe, and never caused me to do anything drastic, it was like a splinter wedged under my skin, that inexorably kept poking me for over 20 years. Did I really want to let that splinter keep festering for the next 50 or 60 years?


Deciding to Change

A couple years ago I had an epiphany: I could just decide to let go of being dissatisfied with my body.  I could decide to be content with being as I am, knowing that I take good care of my body by eating a healthy diet and getting a good amount of physical activity. Rather than continuing to be unhappy with my appearance for the rest of my life, I could just decide to let it go!

This was a big shift for me. I made the decision to stop the internal self-criticism of my appearance, and promised myself that I would be happy to be just as I am. It was a tearful, sweet moment when I looked in the mirror and told myself that I was fine, just as I am. That I am just as I was made to be. That I would love and accept myself, just as I am.

Content to be me in 2016

Settling in to Contentment

Making the decision to change how I viewed myself has been one of the best self-care steps I have ever taken. Although there have been a few times when I have seen myself shifting back into that old negative thought pattern, by reaffirming my decision to accept myself, I have been able to quickly shift back into being content. Making the conscious choice to change this aspect of myself really has worked and allowed me to live the last couple years feeling happier and more whole.

In future posts in this series on body image, I will share how I am actively promoting positive body image in my daughter and the life-changing system that has revolutionized my wardrobe and appearance.

Do you harbor negative thoughts about your own appearance that are keeping you from finding joy?  What has helped you overcome negative body image?


Anonymous said...

Good for you, Sarah!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

I look forward to reading your series. I hope to feel that way too some day, but it is hard! I would be interested in hearing how you address this with your son. I was shocked to hear my son say he was fat (in third grade, his last year of public school) and be upset, as I never expected to discuss this with him that early. We are going to start our second year of homeschool now and he is definitely feeling better about himself.

Thank you.

noradawn said...

I know just what you mean about it being like a splinter you don't want to live the rest of your life with. I can't imagine what a powerful moment that must have been. You continue to inspire, Sarah!

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks Nora!!

a. borealis said...

Awwwwww . . . I love the gap between your front teeth! It's so cute. I hope you've worked your way into loving it.

I noticed that my husband's influence has really enhanced my self-image. I'm sure maturing plays a part in it too, but I really credit a better understanding of myself from seeing/feeling myself through his eyes and the almost metaphysical intimacy that this level of connection with another person gives. There is just so much mutual respect. How could I insult his attraction by detracting myself?

(I just love him so much.)

And I agree - cutting out media influences play a HUGE role.

I have four boys and haven't had to encounter issues like this quite yet, though I hope to influence an innate sense of feminine beauty in them: that beauty radiates and it isn't something that is limited to a select few.

(I'm catching up on blog posts, as you can see.)(I've been offline pretty much all summer.)