Overcoming self-image issues with the “new” norm

Whenever I read something on how to stop disliking your body and find peace with your appearance, most sources tell you to just start loving your body the way it is, but don’t tell you how. We don’t live a fairy tale or a movie with a happy ending. You are probably familiar with the scene: the character experiences a moment of enlightenment,  encouraging and inspirational music starts playing in the background, the face changes along with the changes the person makes right there and then. Have you ever experienced anything like that? I haven’t, no matter how much I’d like to. I couldn’t just one day become fully satisfied with my looks after reading yet another manual on how to love my body just the way it is! And if they tell you that’s all it takes – wrong! It’s a process of cultivating self-care and self-respect that does not produce instantaneous results, but does reward you with an experience of finding the peace with you body along the way. Here’s what to do:

1. Understand that you are not alone. Millions of people struggle with their looks, trying drastic weight-loss diets, cosmetic surgeries and all kinds of hacks to look better. Knowing that there’s an army of people like you in the same situation might help with realizing that your rare condition is not that unique, it’s rather common and manageable in different ways. It is not non-normal to dislike one’s own body, we are all humans, weirdos even, everyone has his or her own “norms”. One thing you have to keep in mind is that you are not trying to make yourself better by reducing the extend of your problem to be more like other people, who are not dealing with the same thing. You are doing it to improve your quality of life. There’re therapy groups and social clubs where people with similar problems meet and discuss solutions that could help them. Joining a group like this either in person or online is a good step forward to acknowledging that self-image issue needs to be resolved. And it does, because it occupies so much of your time and effort, often keeps you from going to social gatherings and spending time with your friends, brings on dark mood and thoughts, takes away your freedom to just be you and enjoy life. Remember, resolving this problem is a process, therefore don’t stress if you feel like your are not making much progress, don’t even think about it – just prepare for a long journey to finding your relationship with your body.

2. Find something positive in it. Whether it is the reason why you are eating healthier – to lose or maintain weight for instance, or exercising to improve your looks – these are the positive factors you can take out of your problem. Healthy diet and exercise will bring on concurrent pleasant changes like healthier younger looking skin, improved endurance, reduces inflammation, better mood, reduced cravings and better sleep, besides improved appearance. And while you might not see dramatic improvement in your looks (at least in your own eyes, you’ve been too critical with yourself for too long) – improved mood will change your attitude and the way you see yourself. 

3. Shift you focus. As I meantioned above, dwelling on your appearance takes up a lot of time and effort, so much sometimes, that you don’t have much of it left for other things. Things like community involvement, playing with your kids, enjoying a hobby like cooking or writing, expanding your horizons on to something bigger than you – some serious problem the world is dealing with like starving children or disappearing species of animals. The world needs help and every one’s effort counts. You can be so much more than just you by contributing your time and effort to help with those global issues. It will bring sense of accomplishment, delight from your contribution, it’ll improve your insecurities and make your self-image problem feel insignificant. Your problem will be resolved mostly on its own and you’ll find a purpose in life that will fulfill you.

You might never be able to fall in love with your body and your look the way you think you’d like to. But you will be able to change the way you think you should love it – what if you don’t have to love it at all?! What if you can just have your body and not experience any feelings towards it – no love, no hate – no judgement! It’s just your body, you want it to be healthy and perform the functions you need it to perform. Your body serves you well, it does all the things you tell it to and things it doesn’t know – you teach it and it’s very responsive. You don’t have to caress yourself continuously repeating the mantra “I love body the way it is”, sounds unnatural and a bit pathetic. You have a body – and that’s good enough, that’s the norm.

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