I realize as I embark on today’s mission of blogging about things like body image, and appreciating our positive qualities and learning to like ourselves, that this subject alone should be a three part series! I am attempting to do the impossible in one blog! I will do my best to summarize without losing a great deal of content!

While in general, for a person who wrestles with their body image when they look in the mirror, it may be easy to see all the flaws, wrinkles, bulges, grey hair, and within seconds of asking the question of what you like least about your body, you could easily rattle off about 50 things you hate about the way you look.

Let’s begin with a simple exercise in non-judgment. Instead of looking at ourselves in comparison with what society and media says the average man or woman should look like, let us rather appreciate the beauty in others and in ourselves, and try not to make comparisons or judgments. It’s an effort in changing the way we think about ourselves, as well as what is important.

The reality is, outward beauty will always fade away eventually, and if this is what we live for, we are missing a deeper, more authentic and internal beauty of strength and character. I am not saying “Don’t be fit”, “Eat junk food all day long” and just let yourself go. By no means! I am suggesting that we care for our bodies, spirit, soul and body. We all know eating healthy, and staying fit is good for our bodies in a multitude of ways… Exercising regularly and eating well not only help mental acuity and promote healthy a heart, and make our brains happier, but it also does so much for helping with emotional issues such as depression and anxiety! I believe we need to learn to care about our whole self, simply because we are worth it.

Our worth is intrinsic and God given. What we need to determine is WHY we do what we do. If we are at the gym 5 days a week out of pressure to look good according to society, bearing ourselves up for not losing enough weight, or eating too much at the last family holiday dinner, these motives can actually be harmful to us, and do not promote healthy self care. If, however, we are learning to have compassion for ourselves and learning to like who we are, and are doing these things to be healthy and to care for ourselves, not only will your success and results come sooner, but you will also notice you are beginning to feel much better about yourself as a person. What you see in the mirror will be someone you care for and treat with respect and honor and love.

So how do we get there? Paying attention to the negative messages we are telling ourselves and believing is a good start. Noticing them enough to reframe the message to something positive or to simply say ‘stop’ to ourselves when we begin to judge ourselves harshly, and practice non-judgment of ourselves is a good start.

I’m going to propose a few steps further.

First, I’m going to ask you to write a list of ten positive things about yourself that are true and realistic. For instance, you might recognize that you are a loyal friend, or that you are very organized, a good listener, or compassionate and empathetic. You might like the fact that you take charge of a situation when it is needed, or are an advocate for those who need one. You might believe that you are responsible or successful. Make a list of these qualities. They can be internal character traits or external, such as you might like your eyes even though you aren’t happy with your current weight. You might like that tattoo you have that expresses who you are or that you are talented and athletic.

Are you, or have you been recently,

Kind to anyone?
Clean?
Helpful or handy?
Humorous in a way that helped another person?
Trustworthy or loyal?
Gentle?
Determined?
Strong or resilient?
Do you see the best in others?
Are you patient?
Disciplined?
Imaginative or creative?
Persuasive?
Intelligent?
Co-operative?
Open-minded?
Accepting?
Expressive?
Energetic?
Affectionate?
A leader?
A good story teller?
Adventurous?
A thinker?

You should have a pretty good list by now to get the juices flowing! Are you already starting to feel less negative about yourself if you find yourself identifying with anything on the above list?

Once you have your list, try repeating it to yourself daily for a while. It helps to re-wire your mind and train your Brian how to think using new neural pathways that are more positive toward yourself. If you have just done this exercise, you have just been kind to yourself and loving! Way to go!

If you struggle with negative physical body image, focus on six areas of yourself physically that you DO like, and repeat that to yourself daily! Often we see ourselves externally in a way that we allow to affect how we view our core worth. Our core worth does not come from anything external. We simply have worth. But for the purpose of this exercise, to help you get to that understanding, look at yourself in the mirror several times a day and look for things that are ‘right’ about your body and physical appearance and find what you feel is attractive about yourself. This too, is caring about yourself, despite what others think, say or do, increasing your own sense of intrinsic worth which is not dependent on such externals like other’s opinions or popular media ideals.

Next, let’s take a look at the deeper part of the self. Your character. Your moral values and strengths you possess in these areas. As they say, beauty is only skin deep. If all you have is the outward looks, but are empty inside, you will become a shell of a person. The charisma of a person comes from what is on the inside and flows outward. Let’s look at the inward beauty you possess, which miraculously, automatically makes you more beautiful outwardly!

Which qualities from the list below do you identify with and feel are attributes you possess? Mental note, do not look at this list from a place of judgment of yourself for each quality you don’t identify with. Without counting a score, or getting down on yourself for what you don’t relate with, simply take a few moments to enjoy the qualities YOU possess! We are all unique and have our own gifts, skills and talents. None of us were meant to all possess all qualities. Variety is the spice of life!

Do you feel like you have:

Integrity?
Love?
Empathy?
Knowledge?
Affection?
Compassion?
Patience?
Respect for others? Yourself?
Willing to admit your faults?
Honesty?
Helpfulness?
Thoughtfulness?
Supportive?
Tolerance or appreciation for diversity?
Trustworthy?
Forgiveness?
Hope?
Selflessness?
Friendliness?
Courtesy?
Appreciation?
Gentleness?

Your challenge today is to combat your negative self judgments with anything positive from the lists above that you identified with, and repeat them to yourself and remind yourself to have compassion toward yourself and self care by being loving toward yourself!

Good luck!

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