It has never been true that the value of a human soul depended upon the size of your jeans (or the brand of your jeans for that matter), yet I see it every day. Young women that are disgusted with themselves and with their bodies to the point of self-harm. I recognize and understand them so easily because I used to be them.
I spent years loathing my body and binge eating to cover the shame of the self-loathing. Then I would purge and hate myself even more. It was a vicious cycle that I thought would continue until I became perfect. Until I wore a size six jeans.
As I find myself having weight to lose again after the birth of my third child, I also find that it isn't just the pounds that crept back on; it was also that insidious mean girl voice that tells me I am not enough and that when I lose the extra baby weight, I can begin TRULY living. Luckily, I have the tools in my back pocket to crush that voice and I want to share them with you as well.
What I know now is that until we are willing to stop striving for perfection (which is an illusion, by the way) and hanging shame up like a framed portrait on the walls of our home, we will never truly change.
When I find myself detouring into body shame and need to be reminded that my inherent value has nothing to do with a number or a size, I remind myself of these five things and I hope they can help you stop "weighting" to live as well.
1. Change does not happen by force, shame or judgement.
True change comes from releasing judgement and the harsh, critical voice that says that you are not enough. It is kindness that provokes change, not shrewdness and belittling ourselves. What helped me climb out of my own personal darkness years ago was meeting the ego with love and taking a look at all of the ways I could be kinder to myself (even when my pants didn't fit).
2. True change occurs when you are able to genuinely and authentically love yourself.
Now. As you are in this moment and not 10 pounds less than now. I remember the day I raised the white flag against the war with my body. I let go (even though I was unhappy with my weight). I learned to love myself unconditionally and released the need for perfection. I also released the story that when I lost the weight I would love my body and I would be happy. Instead, I made the choice to start being happy right then.
3. It is a complete story that any external source or goal can provide you with the happiness you seek.
Our society teaches us that when we lose weight, make our first million, get that certain guy, or have a new Louis Vuitton bag, that then we will be happy. This may work for a week, or a month, but the emptiness always returns and brings with it more shame. Shame that comes from thinking "Well, that didn't work. Again. What is wrong with ME?" I lost the weight and I am still lonely. I have the bag and I still don't feel happy. I fit into the size six jeans and I still don't feel pretty. We never attribute the failings to the external sources. We blame ourselves.
However, when you let go of the story that any external source or goal can provide you with the happiness you seek, you actually find it. You lose the insurmountable desire to be perfect and gain the most brilliant love from the Universe. When you love yourself first everything else falls into place.
4. It's time to love yourself more than a number or a size.
Take the same energy you have spent wanting to change your life and your body and put that energy into loving yourself instead. Begin my finding all of the ways that you are already lovable and worthy, right now. Instead of focusing on everything you would like to change about yourself, begin focusing on what is right. What do you love the most about yourself now?
5. When you find gratitude in the way your body lives, breathes and moves for you, the size of your jeans doesn't matter because you love your body regardless.
Love your legs as you walk up the stairs or feel your hips swaying as you dance. Love your arms for being able to lift your child or write a love letter. Love your stomach for its ability to grow life. Start with the smallest act of love for your body, even if this seems like an insurmountable task.
Instead of thinking of how your body has failed you (and by the way, it is the diet that failed not your body), think about how has it helped you live? It is the tiniest of changes that we make in each day that add up to a huge quantum shift in our lives. If you aren't sure where to begin, let's start here:
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and with each inhale visualize yourself bringing in love and acceptance.
With each exhale, release the need to be perfect and the judgment that arises when you aren't.
Inhale love, exhale judgment.
Feel the shift in your body that came through your breath and thank it. Thank your body.
There is your first tiny change and there will be many more. If for forty days you replace any self-hate or judgmental thoughts with this exercise, watch the shame pictures on the wall come down only to be replaced with a picture of you in love with yourself and your body.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-DONTCUT for the S.A.F.E. Alternatives hotline.