An Exercise In Self-love

I think I started disliking my body when I was in middle school.

There were always girls who developed faster than I did, were taller than I was, and had some feature that I didn’t (but wanted).

I spent a lot of time with my trusty medical encyclopedia looking for answers to questions I had about what was going on with my body and religiously studying height/weight charts to make sure that I was within the normal range.

I clearly remember crying the first time the scale went over 100 lbs, even though I was well within the normal weight for my age.

It was at this point that I equated self-love with how I looked. I thought that the thinner I was, the more I deserved to love myself and to be loved in return.

NO.

I heard somewhere that it was possible to learn to love yourself by letting someone else love you first. I thought this was an amazing revelation, as it took away my responsibility to discover who I was, practice self-care, and realize self-compassion and put all of those things on another person. It was a nice idea, but one that actually hindered my ability to come into my own and learn to love whoever that turned out to be.

So I went through years of failed relationships, each time trying desperately to love myself through someone else’s eyes. Guess what didn’t work?

I never understood how important confidence was until I actually got some. I was great at pretending to be confident, but spend enough time with someone and it won’t be long before you start to see past the facade. I was insecure, lonely, and desperately trying to find someone else to tell me that I was worth something.

The reason that I couldn’t be alone for any length of time was because without someone else’s affections, I didn’t have any for myself. I hopped from relationship to relationship because if someone else could like me, I could like me too.

In case you haven’t gathered, this approach does not work. Maybe you’re like me and have to actually experience things before they finally sink in, but I wanted to give you my experience in case you’re NOT like me and anecdotes actually help you not make the same mistakes.

So yeah, it’s hard and virtually impossible to start loving yourself if you’re still spending time identifying and focusing on “flaws.” Chastising yourself for making a mistake, fixating on your weight, and any number of ways we talk down to ourselves are going to chip away at any confidence we may have and make it harder to add any more.

Since apparently I’m all about action items this month, here’s an exercise for you try:

  • Pick one body part that you always complain about, try to hide, or just plain ignore. Heck, pick more than one if you’re looking for a challenge
  • Get a piece of paper
  • In one column, list all of the negative things you think of about that part
  • In a separate column, list all of the positives you can think of for that same part
  • Read over and INTERNALIZE those positives (this may take lots of repetition)

I will tell you right now that the negative list will probably be longer and easier to write than the positive column. It’s crazy how often those negative thoughts run through our heads, and it takes some serious work to counter them with reasons why we should LOVE those parts of ourselves.

Here’s an example of one I wrote out yesterday. There are several parts I could have chosen for this exercise, but the one that first popped into mind was my arms. I recently saw pictures from the event I went to last weekend and wasn’t very happy with how they looked:

Brunch x Burn

Compared to my photo shoot where they looked like this:

Arms

I have always had muscular arms, but recently I have also been eating lots of delicious food and I think that’s where weight tends to creep up on me. I wasn’t happy that the definition wasn’t there and just started to focus on the outside instead of the inside. So here we go:

img_0225

Let me tell you, that negatives list was done in no time. I made myself sit and try to get the same number of positives on the left. Then I thought about the whole thing and realized that if it’s a problem, change it, and if it’s not then I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing.

You can even do this exercise with characteristics rather than body parts. Think about a part of your personality that you talk badly about and list ways that that part makes you unique and why you should learn to embrace it. The more you become comfortable with your body and your character traits, the easier it will be to gain that confidence.

As easy as it is to give the responsibility of loving you to someone else, I can tell you from experience that it’ll be short-lived and that you’ll never feel like a complete, individual human being. Take some time to think about what makes you AWESOME today!

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.

Question:

  • On a scale from 0-10, how much do you love yourself today?
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28 Comments

  1. May 26, 2016 / 5:44 am

    Marathon training taught me to love myself again. After so many years of being sick–which resulted in being too big or too small–I struggled to find a middle ground. When I started training for marathons, I realized that I couldn’t place value on my appearance, but I could use it to help me take better care of myself. Now, I use how I look to help me know when something is off balance (like food intake) because my body is just so sensitive.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…The Best Part of Being MarriedMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 9:32 am

      Yeah girl I feel you. You can run some marathons for me if you want

  2. May 26, 2016 / 6:15 am

    This is awesome advice! I think there’s always something I will not like about myself. It’s just in my nature to try to be perfect. As I have gotten older and suffered many physical issues outside of my control, I’ve learned to appreciate what my body has and not be so critical of it.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…How To Read The New Nutrition Facts LabelMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 9:33 am

      Same here! Now that I know how much time I’ve wasted fixated on those things I’m usually pretty quick to realize and move past it

  3. May 26, 2016 / 7:41 am

    What a great idea! I’m guilty of comparing and hating on myself too…there’s always something not good enough about my appearance. I’ll have to try this exercise!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…TOL: Food Photos & Food as ArtMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 9:33 am

      It seems silly but it’s helpful as long as you keep going over the positives to reinforce them!

  4. May 26, 2016 / 8:04 am

    I was in a dark place with myself last year at this time and working through a few books (like BodyPeace and Gabby Bernsteins May Cause Miracles) plus therapy really helped. I definitely still have work to do as I’ve been focusing in on stuff I don’t like about myself in almost every photo lately, so I’ll give this a shot!
    Bri recently posted…Tone It Up Bikini Series 2016: Week 4 update (and what happened when I went off the nutrition plan this past weekend)My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 9:36 am

      I totally went through the same things last year. Sometimes it’s tough work to get to that place of acceptance!

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 9:36 am

      Oh good! I hope it helps!!

  5. May 26, 2016 / 8:37 am

    I find that when I’m calm, relaxed, happy, I’m fine with the way my body looks. But when I get stressed out (and inevitably start stress-snacking and not sleeping), I tend to get super critical of my appearance, adding even more totally unnecessary stress to my life. That’s exactly the place I’m in now, so I’m going to use this to try to stop the madness!

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 9:37 am

      I hope it helps! I find that life is always periods of up and down, kind of like an ebb and flow if you will. Things may start to get off track and then I work on bringing them back to center 🙂

  6. May 26, 2016 / 11:49 am

    I’m not sure if it comes with getting older or what, but I’ve found that I stopped being super critical of myself the older I got. I think part of it came with finding a purpose and passion in life to devote most of my energy to, but at some point it really started to sink in how big of a waste of life it was to worry about stuff like that. But I definitely went through years and years of body image struggles, so I totally know how hard it is 😕
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…crazy powders, music feels, & an important question (ToL#184)My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 12:15 pm

      I know! I do think it comes w age and realizing that wasting all that time accomplishes nothing.

  7. May 26, 2016 / 11:58 am

    I loved this post! Your point about loving yourself through someone else’s eyes is so insightful. Thanks for sharing!

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 12:15 pm

      Thanks Kathleen! So glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  8. May 26, 2016 / 12:13 pm

    It’s so easy to get stressed about what my body looks like especially when I’m traveling, like now, because I might think that I’m ‘bloated’ because of the sugar or the food I ate, when maybe I’m not, or my mind is telling me something that isn’t true. This idea of creating a list of all the things that God has made about my body that are beautiful, is such an amazing exercise.
    Emily recently posted…TOLT: When a Homebody TravelsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 12:16 pm

      Thanks Emily! Girl, you enjoy that vacation and that food haha.

  9. May 26, 2016 / 12:48 pm

    This is a great reminder! I am the exact same way about my arms (& man shoulders as I inaffectionately call them). I’ve lost ALL my pregnancy weight except I still have a little extra in my arms…oh well. They allow me to do handstands and carry my amazing child. Our bodies – and our minds – are amazing and we owe it to ourselves to see that. Really, really love this message and the activity list. 🙂
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…Any Exercise Is “Good Exercise”My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 2:48 pm

      I left that off my list! Doing awesome handstands!! Props to you girl 🙂

  10. May 26, 2016 / 2:46 pm

    Growing up a swimmer really helped me to embrace my broad shoulders, because they helped make me a better swimmer!
    I always chuckle in barre class, because mine definitely stand out.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Thinking Out Loud 5/26My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 2:48 pm

      Neil tells me that he wants to switch shoulders with me hahaha

  11. May 26, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    I am definitely at the high end of the scale today. I have been really good to my body recently and it is loving me back. But negative thoughts do creep back so I try to focus on the positive as much as I can.
    Thanks for sharing !
    Karen @ Fit in France recently posted…Thinking out loud : MayMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 26, 2016 / 6:44 pm

      Thanks for reading Karen! Sounds like you’re doing a good job keeping things in perspective 🙂

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 27, 2016 / 8:11 am

      I know! It seems so silly!

  12. June 3, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    I hadn’t had a chance to read this post yet, but it ties in so well with what I wrote about yesterday on Unconditional Love. One of the things you wrote on your list is very close to the personal mantra I use to keep my eating disorder in check: Strong is beautiful; healthy is beautiful. In yoga we teach self acceptance, but not without striving for more or better….just learning to be content in the moment with how things are that day. We are different every day, so while some days your arms may be the bees knees, some days they won’t….and that’s okay.
    AmberLynn Pappas recently posted…TOLT: Unconditional LoveMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      June 6, 2016 / 10:55 am

      That’s all so true and beautiful and YES.

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