I don’t always love my body. Because of my PCOS, I carry most of my weight in my stomach and this has always been a source of insecurity for me. No matter what size I am, my stomach always feels like a separate appendage from me, like a foreign entity attached to who I really am. I have days where I am confident in myself and love the way I look, and I have days where I no amount of body-positive knowledge and resources will make me feel good about myself. However, I have come to a place where these feelings no longer lead me down a self-destructive path. I’ve found myself giving this certain piece of advice to several people in my life recently, and since many people seem to be struggling with body image in quarantine, I figured it was time to make a blog post about it.
The first thing that helped me is realizing that there is not just self-love or self-hate. You don’t have to constantly live in these two extremes. There is a gray area that I like to call the neutral zone. It is much easier to work yourself to the neutral zone than to try to #selflove when all you can see is the hate. I usually start with what I call “grounding phrases.” Things like: I have a body, I exist, or I am a human. I encourage you to experiment with what helps you get to a place of neutrality. From here, I can usually start to examine my feelings from a more rational perspective.
I can pretty much say that every single person I know has felt insecure about their body at some point. This is no matter their size, gender, or age. When I am feeling bad about my body, I try to remind myself of that fact, so that I recognize I am not alone in this. Feeling uncomfy in your skin from time to time is the inevitability of having a body. Also, I have to remind myself that there are things that affect my body that are out of my control, like PCOS. Recognizing all this from a neutral headspace, helps me realize that I do not have to punish or fix myself just because I feel insecure or uncomfortable. Sitting in this feeling isn’t easy, but just keep reminding yourself that this is all apart of being a person. Once you accept that what you are feeling is normal, you can begin to take actions that will actually make you feel better instead of resorting to some sort of extreme, like restrictive dieting, exercising for punishment, or other negative coping mechanisms/compensatory behaviors.
The next step in this process is to make sure that your needs are being met. From a logical standpoint, you have a body, and bodies need things like food, water, and sleep to function. Therefore, check-in on these things! How much sleep did you get last night? How many liquids have you consumed today? Have you eaten enough? If you find that you are always hungry or that you are constantly thinking about food, you probably aren’t eating enough. For those of us who have experienced deprivation or restriction with food, we may not even be completely aware of our hunger cues, because we have learned to distrust our bodies’ signals over time. If this applies to you, it’s even more important to make sure you are eating on a regular schedule, even if you aren’t hungry. Eat a snack, chug some water, go to bed early. Remind yourself that these things aren’t just self-care; they are an essential part of being a human. Also, if you take medications regularly, make sure you are still taking those as well.
Once you have accepted that you have a body and that body needs that are to be met, you can finally start to work towards feeling good in your body again. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about making a home in your body. This could mean literally anything that applies to you. Put on make-up, take a bath, trim your beard, or literally anything that makes your body feel like a part of you again. For me, I have really been trying to reconnect with movement that my body enjoys doing. There is a hiking trail right next to my apartment that I really enjoyed walking before the shelter-in-place order was lifted in my state, and I am really hoping to get back to doing that this week. Not only did it make me feel more in tune with my body, but I also was able to get out and feel more connected to nature, which is something really important to me. We are also approaching the swimming season, which is something I am really excited about. Swimming is another form of movement that I love. I’m also trying to figure out how to include more dancing, roller skating, and yoga into my life. The most important part for me is trying to reconnect with having FUN moving my body!
I may not ever completely love my body. I have PCOS and I live in a society that is obsessed with body size and appearance. There are also people in the world struggling with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and infertility. I do not think it’s fair to ask these people to love or even feel positive about their bodies. These folks deserve a space to heel and process their feelings about their bodies without having to hate or love them, as everyone does. That is the space I am trying to create with this post.
Please leave a comment if you found this helpful. I feel like the world today is so stuck in this black and white mindset, not just about our bodies but in many aspects of life. Humans can’t be boiled down to just good or bad, and when we do that we close ourselves off to experiencing the true complexity of life. Our emotions deserved to be felt, questioned, and processed. Pretending that there is only love or hate doesn’t allow room for the journey that happens between the two. It leaves no room for compassion or forgiveness, for ourselves and others. The world deserves a little more gray area.