body confidence and compassion

Today as I write this article, I have three magazines on my desk with claims of the ultimate workout to get me in bikini shape. Summer is here and bathing suit shopping, for most, is on the same level as a root canal. Remember when you were a kid and a bathing suit was merely a functional piece of clothing to facilitate experiencing the exhilaration of the water? 

Here’s your body. Imagine that everything is perfectly okay, just as it is. Hard to do? Did your inner critic pipe up immediately? You are not alone. Every person, especially women, are targeted with the same seasonal question: “Do you have the bikini body you need this summer?” Ouch.  

Well, the answer to that question is a resounding YES! Yes, you do have exactly the body you need to enjoy the sun on your skin, the joy of playing like a kid in the ocean and the freedom to stand boldly almost naked in public.

This month, I am offering a mirror exercise you can use to empower yourself before you go shopping for that infamous bathing suit, or to enjoy an outing with friends at the beach or just to celebrate the beauty of you naked in the mirror. This tool will help you grow your self-worth muscle, which is located in the mind, not the heart.

To illustrate that feeling good about being you starts in the mind, think back to when you were a kid at the carnival, looking and laughing at your distorted reflections in the different mirrors that made you look short, tall, skinny and wide. Did you actually morph into what you were seeing in the mirror? No. The carnival mirrors operate similarly to how your mind perceives your body in the mirror. Is there reality to thinking your waist is the size of a sumo wrestler’s when you stand in front of the mirror? Of course not, but because you think it is real, it feels real, and you walk away feeling defeated about not being good enough.  

Mirroring Your True Beauty Exercise

Find a moment when you’re not in a hurry, well rested, not hungry and just generally in an overall positive mental space. Put on some soothing music, light some candles if you like. This is your time to romance yourself. Get your full-length mirror out. Remove all your clothes. Stand in front of the mirror without judgment. Breathe deeply 10 times. Notice how your body feels with each breath. Keep your mind empty. If criticizing thoughts come up, observe them, and let them pass. Avoid following the negative thoughts, they only create more unproductive thoughts. This is your time to practice cherishing, honoring and adoring your body. Like the old saying goes, “If you don’t do it, no one else will either.”

Start at the top of your head and notice your hair. Place your hands lovingly on your hair. Name one thing you appreciate about your hair out loud while you’re touching it, prefacing it with the word amazing or beautiful. Even if you’re always unhappy about your hair, you could say at the very least, “I am grateful for my beautiful hair because it covers my head; I’m glad I’m not bald.” Sounds funny, but it works.

Continue affirming each part of your body. Keep your statements thoroughly positive. Avoid comments that seem uplifting, but at the back end slap you silly like, “I am grateful that I have thighs; they carry my fat butt around.” Even if you might feel thoroughly disappointed in your thighs or other body parts, say something like, “I am grateful for my beautiful thighs, they carry me where I want to go.”

Here are a few examples to get you started:

“I am grateful for the color of my beautiful, exotic colored eyes.”

“I am grateful for the symmetry of my beautiful nostrils.”

“I am grateful for my amazing, distinct cheekbones.”

Check in with yourself to make sure you are breathing deeply and being very gentle with yourself. This is hard work, and I commend you for taking this journey of self-discovery. Try a few more.

Up to this point, this exercise might not be too uncomfortable. But as you get to areas where you have major self-loathing, recommit to this exercise, because it will be difficult to hear your inner coach over the possible demands of the inner critic. Now that you’ve recommitted to your healing, let’s begin again.

“I am grateful for my beautiful stomach because my abdominal muscles help me get out of bed every day.”

“I grateful for my thighs; they are strong and allow me to go for long bike rides on the beach.” 

It’s almost over. Just like going back to the gym for the first time in awhile, it’s tough, but it gets easier each time you do it. Keep going until you reach your toes.

“I am grateful for my buttocks; it is shapely and fills out my pants.”

“I appreciate my back; it allows me to stand up straight.”

You are done. Be very gentle to yourself, as you would treat a child who needed comfort from an “owie.” By doing this exercise, you have changed on a cellular level. Commend yourself for your bravery and courage to take this on. Even if you couldn’t finish it, try again next week to go a little farther. Over time, you’ll be even more generous with your compliments. Most importantly, your brain will start to tell you why you look great in the mirror, why you get to feel confident in that bathing suit and why you are so lucky to have YOUR body!