Ready for the cure to the Valentine’s Day blues? Give yourself a Valentine. It doesn’t have to be wrapped in a box. It can be a love letter to yourself, listing the many things that make you and your body beautiful--and loveable.
Easier said than done? You’re not alone.
Most of us, especially women, have body hang-ups. We live in a world where we’re confronted with images and standards that tell us “unless you look flawless, you aren’t enough.” We’re also told if our bodies aren’t perfect, it’s our fault and it’s on us to get closer to perfection through diet, exercise, or surgery.
It’s not always that simple.
Not everything about our bodies can be changed through diet or exercise (ask a mom who’s had a c-section, someone suffering from a debilitating chronic illness or someone with extra skin after drastic weight loss), and not everyone can afford what’s usually considered cosmetic surgery.
Not all of us are even in the right mindset to adopt a healthier lifestyle in the first place, thanks to body shaming destroying our self-esteem.
What if, instead of striving to change what we don’t like on the outside, we work on silencing the voice inside ourselves telling us that we aren’t enough?
The following list of ideas was inspired by conversations with women just like you: women who are on the journey toward self-acceptance and body positivity.
Some of them haven’t gotten all the way there yet, but they’re closer than they’ve ever been to fully accepting themselves as enough, as they are.
This Valentine’s Day, forget the heart-shaped cards and the rose bouquets that symbolize love and and join us as we give ourselves actual love. Here are some ways to transform your relationship with your body so you can focus less on what you think is wrong with you––and appreciate everything that makes you amazing.
1) Practice mindfulness and gratitude
One of the most popular suggestions is to focus on “what is” and rather than “what should be.”
Sue D. says meditation has been a major part of her inner transformation. “I meditate for 20 minutes a day and I attempt to be mindful throughout the day --it has been the biggest help to either support me or give me ideas. Sometimes being in the silence of oneself holds the answers.”
Kate H. suggests that you keep a gratitude journal about what your body can do rather than what it looks like. “Everyday you list at least one thing you're grateful about your body. It can be being grateful your eyes opened and you could see the world or that your arm muscles are allowing you to write.”
Val G. agrees that gratitude and reflection are good medicine for a wounded sense of self-esteem. “I have a body hang up that was caused by a surgery. And I’ve found the most helpful thing to do is to focus on the other areas of my life that are working really well.”
2) Let go of your negative self-talk
Do you think “ugh” every time you see a picture of yourself? It’s a bad habit that can be hard to quit. Break the cycle of harmful, critical thoughts by changing your behavior in moments that trigger them.
Lisa S. told us “I took a class in weight loss once, and one of the things the teacher talked about is how that when we look into a mirror, we send our eyes immediately to the place that we don’t like. Do just the opposite. Glance at what you don’t like and spend a lot of time looking at what you do.”
3) Get rid of unhelpful assumptions
Examine the messages created by society to shame you into buying things or conform to a role that’s “lesser-than” the people who are in power.
Marisa M says the key to body positivity is changing your perspective.
“Be compassionate to yourself and remember there is nothing *wrong* with your body; the only thing wrong is the way we are taught to see our bodies. It's totally fine to want to look and feel your best, but important to remember that your best is only yours, not some false idea about who or what you should be.”
4) Explore your sensuality
Get to know your body beyond what you see in the mirror. Appreciate the softness of your skin, the contours of your curves, the scent of your favorite perfume... go ahead: find your erogenous zones. Or have someone help you find them. :-)
Irene F. says sensual healing was just the trick to appreciating what she’s got. “I've always had rolls on my belly and hated it until about 5 years ago. Now it's one of my favorite parts of my body. The shift came from shifting my relationship to pleasure. My body brings me so much pleasure...being touched, caressed, massaged, stroked. When I let go of being so much in my head, worrying about what I look like, and actually shift to feeling all the sensations in the skin and my body... all I can say is wow.”
5) Get Physical
Going to the gym can trigger our worst doubts about ourselves. But the gym isn’t the only place you can experience the power your body is capable of.
Deborah F. shared that doing things that made her feel powerful helped her to get over her body shame.
“I have little boy boobs. I spent my adolescence waiting and hoping and praying for them to grow, for me to become “womanly,” and it never happened. I considered surgery more than once, but couldn’t get past the cost/pain/putting-something-foreign into my body thing. I can say now that I’m finally 100% hang-up free about it. Two things helped me with that—time (I’m now 50 and couldn’t be happier to be able to go braless, wear backless tops, etc.) and also discovering amazing things my body can do. For me it’s yoga, but for someone else it might be running, skating, dancing, whatever. If you feed your body well and challenge it, and watch how strong and healthy it can be, then the things about it that are not so perfect don’t seem important anymore. My advice would be to use your body in ways that make you feel powerful and joyful, and it will reward you. My body isn’t like anyone else’s—it’s mine. It’s strong, it’s flexible, it can do amazing things, and I love it. I love my little boy boobs too. Because they’re part of what makes me ME.”
6) Get Silly
Go ahead––laugh! Laughter stimulates love hormones like oxytocin, which helps you have a sense of wellbeing and compassion toward yourself.
Kira H. says the best way she’s overcome a body hang-up is to own it and poke fun at it: “Turn it into your superpower (and have a good sense of humor about it).”
7) Brag yourself up
Are you crazy good at crafts? If there was a Grammy for singing in the shower, would you win it? What are you exceptional at doing? When you acknowledge the positivity you put into the world, you start feeling positive about every bit of yourself.
Olga B. discovered just how powerful it was to appreciate her superpowers...as she was listing them! “I’m good at languages: apart from my mother tongue German I’m fluent in English and French, have studied Latin for years, understand Italian and Spanish and have started Czech. Also I’m good at connecting with people and I am very interested in art. I’m a fairly good painter...and I am a passionate teacher! Feels good to say this!”
8) Pamper yourself
Do you feel like your outside doesn’t match your inside? Come on out, girl! Bring out the inner you by getting a fabulous hairstyle/tattoo/mani-pedi/makeover.
Amanda P. says that as she’s gotten older and her body changes, she’s learned to appreciate the opportunity to transform her wardrobe along with her body.
“Buy something new that makes you feel sexy and beautiful now. It will help you re-define and let go of the old version, in favor of the you that exists today and deserves to feel great.”
9) Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel like you’re not enough
Even when we know that our favorite Insta-celebs use filters and carefully positioned poses, it’s hard not to compare yourself to what you see in your feed.
Kim T. says it’s time to block the trolls in your head by unfollowing the people who trigger them. “I started to consider cosmetic surgery for things changing on my face and realized I needed to stop thinking of fixing things through surgery because that will be a slippery slope for me. Eyelid lift, then maybe a neck lift. Oh and maybe facial laser resurfacing and hey I could always have a surgeon address my bat wing arms and well I can always consider a boob lift. So I stopped following a plastic surgery poster on Instagram and no longer look at those kind of websites. Instead I remind myself that my body will change in ways I do not like and will eventually fail. That is normal and that is nature. Then I ask myself how do I want to LIVE?“
Marisa M. recommends replacing social media accounts that perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards with Body Positivity advocates. “I have found Instagram has made a major difference in my view of self to see images of a range of body sizes, abilities, shapes, identities. There are great body positive people on FB too. Start with The Body is Not an Apology- it's a website and social media page. Also a great great book...
10) Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good
It’s hard to feel good about your body when you feel self-conscious in clothes that highlight your hang-up spots instead of accentuating your assets.
The number one most popular suggestion among the ladies we spoke with? Shapewear! (We didn’t prompt them! Promise!)
With shapewear, you can smooth and sculpt the bits that distract you from living in the moment.
Liat S. says that she realized overcoming her misgivings about shapewear gave her confidence to wear whatever she wanted. “I used to hate shapewear, but a woman once referred to them as a warm hug. I guess feeling that way about them makes it easier to wear them. They will hold in any extra skin quite effectively.”
After a dramatic weight loss journey, Laura D. uses her shapewear to celebrate her accomplishment and ignore the drawbacks: “I have taken off about 60 pounds, with more to go. Where my butter fat (lol) was I now have pockets of loose skin. Joy. I am more self conscious about that then I ever was about the fat that filled it up. Go figure. It’s time for shape wear to squish everything into shape!”
Lisa R. says shapewear helps her to flaunt what she’s got: “I’m in the 2 unplanned c-section pouch club. I wear shapewear with dresses that are more form fitting, longer tops and still wear bikinis. I try to deflect with cleavage.”
You are enough as you are. And you’re not alone in your journey. Anytime you’re feeling ashamed of your body, try out one of these simple acts of kindness toward yourself. You deserve nothing less this Valentine’s Day––and every other day of your life.