I used to think I needed to have the perfect body before I could do certain things in life. Before I could feel good in my body. Before I could feel attractive. Before I could do work that mattered to me.
Until I realized I was just using this as an excuse for not moving forward in life. And I decided to take action towards my dream of becoming a food coach even though my mind kept telling me I didn't look the part.
According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT, a mindfulness-based behavioral therapy, we have very little control over our thoughts and feelings. The human mind comes up with about five negative thoughts for every positive one. This is called the negativity bias and it served to keep us alive at a time in human evolution when the world was rife with physical danger. Yet in our modern world where sabre-toothed tigers are no longer waiting to make a meal of us, the negativity bias only keeps us stuck.
And even though these negative thoughts and feelings can be very harsh and even painful, they have no control over what we do with our hands and feet. We can always choose the actions we take. I can have the thought I am such a fraud and still take steps towards building my business. This doesn't always feel comfortable, especially in the beginning. Yet what are the alternatives? Allowing myself to be moved by fear rather than being pulled by something that matters to me?
I still don't always love my body. And you know what? I don't need to. It's OK to have days when it's harder to love my body. That there will always be someone fitter or thinner or with better skin that my mind will compare me to. Because that is just the way the human mind evolved -- to be constantly judging, comparing and criticizing in a clumsy attempt to keep us "safe" by avoiding rejection. It's not personal and it isn't unique to me and it will never stop regardless of how "perfect" I look.
So my mind still tells me
You're too fat
You're such a fraud
You should look fitter
And I realize that I can have these painful thoughts and feelings and simply hold them lightly, without trying to fight them or allow them to dictate what I do next. I can allow my mind to come up with these thoughts and continue to work on my next online program because it is important to me to share my passion for healthy living. I can have the recurring thought You're such a fraud and go out there and give that talk anyway.
We so often think we have to look a certain way before being able to do things or be a certain way. Basically before being attractive enough to deserve success or love or belonging. Yet what if attractiveness comes not just from physical appearance but from treating ourselves kindly, from being turned on by life, by being fully alive and present to life right now, and doing what matters to us?
Are you waiting for your body to look a certain way before doing something? What would the thinner, fitter, more muscular version of you be doing differently? You don't need to wait and you don't need to be perfect. The way you feel and think about your body doesn't need to hold you back from moving in a direction that truly matters to you -- this is not measured by the size of your thighs or waist.
So here's my challenge to you: For just a week, act AS IF you already had the body you want. AS IF you already loved yourself. AS IF you deserved love and belonging. Allow the negative thoughts and feeling that will inevitability show up to just be there without fighting them or trying to get rid of them. What would you be doing differently?
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.