Recently I decided to perform an impromptu body-image experiment on a group of pretty intelligent and confident women including myself. As we all stood around in a circle I posed the daunting question, “What’s the one thing you love most about your body?”. As daunting as it may have sounded, it was a pretty straight-forward question, but yet I was met with quizzical looks. After clarifying, I then asked for each of us to shout out the first thing that came to mind. For some reason this was a difficult task for most of us.
No one really wanted to go first, but some how the first woman to step up to the plate started to ponder, and ponder. And ponder. As she racked her brain trying to figure it out, some of us chimed in, “well I love your eyes” or “I love your smile”. But the thing was, that wasn’t part of this exercise. It wasn’t about other’s perceptions of ourselves, but simply put, what we thought of our own reflexion. As everyone took their turns (eyes and smile for me), some didn’t even have to blink to quickly say “I love my legs” or “I love my arms”.
There were a few things that stood out in my investigation. First was the fact that whether we like or dislike certain aspects of our bodies, others will always have their own opinions. This point was clearly demonstrated when one of the women said “I love my smile”. We were all shocked because while she has a beautiful smile, we’ve always loved her hair. She has the type of hair you could see in a magazine ad, yet, some how she emphasized her smile.
Secondly, I was perplexed as to why some of us had a really difficult time, and by that I mean taking more than a minute, in picking one single admirable body part. Why was it so much easier for some of us to pinch a non-existent muffin-top or wish we had “her” legs because our thunder thighs are too overwhelming. I get it, we ALL have our own insecurities about our bodies. Unfortunately it’s what our society has snuck into our water and we’ve drunk it up like Kool-aide. And I, like the next woman, sometimes go to bed freshly bathed feeling great after a workout only to wake up and wonder why I look so tired or why did I inherit these raccoon eyes. So why is it we don’t all have self-compliments about our bodies on speed dial???
I’ve come to the conclusion, as I am sure others have, that we have been conditioned to tear ourselves down. We tear ourselves down because to give ourselves compliments could garner labels like narcissist, show-off, beauty queen, conceded, etc. We are professional tightrope walkers walking the fine line between confidence and self-loathing tendencies. It’s all or nothing. Another aspect of this conditioning is that our behavior is contagious. I bet you if you are in a room and you ask women what do you dislike most about your body, a few will yell out instantly, and soon enough you’ll have everyone else burping out their own self-criticisms. Is it the fear of missing out on negative self-talk? Do we feel obligated to say something negative about ourselves so others feel that they are not alone?
This brings to mind that episode of Sex in The City where Samantha decides to have nude pictures taken of herself to hang in her apartment. The rest of the crew looked at her cross-eyed and wondered if that was really needed. Wasn’t that a bit much? To which Samantha said I love my body. I work hard for this body. And you know what, yes, she was right. What was wrong with her simple display of self-love in the comfort of her own home–of her own mind???
So today I am challenging myself and anyone else who happens to read this post, to stand in front of the mirror while doing the last once-over before walking out the door and say it–“I love my lips”, “I love my ass in these jeans”, “I love my eye lashes”, “I love that character-giving gap in my teeth”, “I love my boobs”, “I love my nose”, “I Iove my toes”. Just one thing, that’s all. It’s time to start practicing more self-love than self-abomination chicas.