There are things we say to ourselves that we would never say to the people we love. Can you imagine telling your best friend her butt is too big or her breasts are too small? Or telling your daughter she’d have more friends if she just lost a few pounds? How about letting grandmother in on how much more beautiful she was back in the day? I don’t think so. Yet I know a great many women who spend a great deal of energy picking themselves apart, detailing just how they don’t meet an unobtainable media-created standard for American beauty, one that says to be beautiful a woman must be young (but sexy), white (but not pale), thin (but not skinny), large-breasted, clear-skinned, able-bodied and perpetually cheerful.
Enough already. Let’s shut up the inner critic and celebrate ourselves by participating in the 13th Annual National Love Your Body Day on October 20. Established by the National Organization for Women Foundation, the first Love Your Body Day was held on Sept. 25, 1998, to call attention to harmful images of women in the media and encourage women to celebrate their bodies. Over the years participation has increased, with events held on college campuses, house parties and at private parties across the country.
In response to unhealthy and exploitative images in the media, the Love Your Body Campaign promotes positive images of women and girls, protests harmful and offensive advertisements and raises awareness about women’s health issues. On the Love Your Body website you can get the facts on body image, eating disorders, addiction, cosmetics and cosmetic surgery; view the winners of the 2010 poster contest; send a body-affirming e-card to special women in your life; and get ideas on ways to actively love your body.
Loving your body can take many forms, but mostly it’s about respecting yourself. Take a look at “20 Ways to Love Your Body,” a list put together by the National Eating Disorders Association and posted at Operation Beautiful, a website devoted to ending negative self-talk:
- Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.
- Create a list of all the things your body lets you do. Read it and add to it often.
- Become aware of what your body can do each day. Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.
- Create a list of people you admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
- Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
- Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
- Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your body.
- Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
- Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend worrying about your body and appearance. Try one!
- Be your body’s friend and supporter, not its enemy.
- Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months. Your body is extraordinary–begin to respect and appreciate it.
- Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
- Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.
- Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good. Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Friendship.
- Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body. Tell yourself you can feel like that again, even in this body at this age.
- Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself–without mentioning your appearance. Add to it!
- Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, “I’m beautiful inside and out.”
- Choose to find the beauty in the world and in yourself.
- Start saying to yourself, “Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way.”
- Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.
The bottom-line of each of these 20 ideas is to honor yourself and your body. It’s taking the Golden Rule and rewriting it so it reads, “Do unto yourself as you would do unto others you love.” It shouldn’t take a special day to remind us of this, but if it does, then let’s take advantage of it by getting together with friends (or having that private party) and celebrating Love Your Body Day.
Photo from National Organization for Women’s Love Your Body website