This lesson is divided into three sections designed to let go of our need to compare ourselves to others, to relearn a love of our body and to practice silence and solitude. While we compare ourselves to others, we take away opportunities for personal growth. All that focus we put on striving to match or beat someone else’s expectations, means less energy to put into our own goals. If we don’t love our bodies we will never have a whole healing from depression. Part of both these lessons requires getting in touch with our true self and that is why solitude and silence is necessary on our healing journey. Remember, you are perfectly imperfect, but were probably taught that you are simply imperfect. That’s yet another thought you can unlearn!
Part One: Stop the Comparison Cycle
One of the nastiest ways we can feel bad about ourselves is when we compare our bodies, minds, and accomplishments to others. There will always be someone smarter, stronger, younger, prettier or more accomplished. That’s okay. In elementary school, I learned it was not okay to be “less” than others. I became obsessed with comparing my status to my peers. I also felt like I was never as smart as my older siblings. I barely remember a time when I didn’t question my intellect and abilities. Another side effect of depression is how much confidence you can lose. I constantly doubted myself and often felt so sad that I couldn’t make decisions. So, I stopped learning, stopped trying to be better. I was convinced that this was as smart as I could be and that I was basically a loser. I became my own bully long after school ended and the bullies were no longer in my life. I believed I was less than others.
Do you fall into the “Less Than” trap?
- When you look at another person are you thinking they look better?
- Do you resent them for their looks or confidence?
- Are you comparing yourself to them?
If you answered yes to any or all than you’re stuck in the same trap I was stuck in. This isn’t unique. Every day I hear people say disparaging words to themselves.
This isn’t just some issue women deal with. I have talked with grown men who shared their own insecurities because they don’t look have the ‘right look’ of six pack muscles, perfectly toned skin and features like the men they see in the media. We really need to crush this idea of always being “more than”. We are perfectly imperfect beings and together we can start a revolution of appreciating ourselves.
While these days I rarely find myself comparing my life to others, the thoughts do occasionally pop into my mind lasting only until I become conscious of my suddenly negative outlook. At this point I can stop myself fast, but it took practice. This required me to pay attention to ALL of my thoughts and be patient with myself as I changed my thought patterns. Our thoughts become our habits and habits become addicting. A helpful fact in changing your thoughts is realizing that we are biologically wired to be creatures of habit. It seems to me that most of our addictions arise unconsciously.
Steps to changing your thoughts.
- Live in the present. Don’t compare where you are to where you want to be. Challenge yourself to accomplish goals that are important to you, not goals that society defines as important. Learn what your strengths are and use those to get what you want out of life.
- Be aware of your weaknesses. This is important because when we consciously say no to unwanted behavior, then we have more time to spend on positives.
- Focus on self-care. You’ll feel and look your best when you have emotional and physical balance. Eat healthier food, pay attention to how your body feels and what you put in it and on it. Junky fast food and toxic chemicals in our personal care products cause our body to work overtime to protect against what we are willingly adding to ourselves.
- Don’t fall into the less than trap. To truly love your body and appreciate your beauty you must consciously monitor your thoughts and actions. While this, like all new tasks can be difficult at first, controlling our thought patterns eventually becomes an instinct.
Write the following affirmation and place it somewhere you can look at it daily:
“I live in the present, I am aware of my weaknesses, I focus on self-care, I won’t fall into the less than trap.”
Most of life is about learning and growing, not reaching one peak and never trying anything higher. Remember that you are perfectly imperfect.
Part Two: Love Your Body!
I really used to hate my body. I was never skinny enough, my skin was never clear enough, my hair never straight enough. Looking back, I’m surprised at how much I hated myself. I know that it started with teasing at school, snide remarks from adults and societal pressure to look a certain way and even though my mom did her best to correct all that, telling me to respect my body, I just couldn’t do it.
In my research, I eventually found a simple truth, we only have one body so we should take care of it. I always knew I only had one body. This wasn’t some new scientific discovery! Even so this resonated deeply with me. There was a major celebration at that moment. “Hurray! This is it, my only body. I am my body and I belong to myself, not to society. I will be grateful to my body from here on out and treat my body with the same respect I’m treating my mental health.”
Celebrate your imperfections. What is with this obsession over imperfections? We obsess over our image, personal mistakes, and work failures as if these are the worst things in the world as opposed to simply quirks that make us unique and lessons we learn from. But it’s all so ridiculous, because these are all based on outside views that others have told us or how we presumed they judged us. There are two reasons that we need to heal from this obsession.
- Most of us are more too concerned with our own flaws to notice others. If we do, we tend to perceive what they think are “flaws” as assets. Flaws are really just a perception.
- It’s a waste of time, energy, and money. Why waste your time trying to look or be perfect? Flawless is for manufactured products, not living, thinking, loving humans.
Answer the following question in your journal. Be truthful. If you like the smell of your earwax or your ability to do a wheelie in your wheelchair then write that down. Don’t wait for anyone else. Celebrate yourself now!
- What negative beliefs about my body am I holding onto?
- What “flaws” do I love about myself?
- What would I never change about myself?
Write a love letter to your body. Include a list of body parts you feel gratitude towards. Tell your flaws they are really perfections and be as loving and gentle as you would if it was your best friends life on the line! Check out this body love letter I wrote to myself, https://impoweryou.org/2017/10/02/body-love-letter/
*If you hate your body or are dealing with an eating disorder please check out the Love Warrior Community at http://lovewarriorcommunity.com. They are a wonderful, supportive community that can help you love your body. Every January they host the 31 Day Self Love Writing Challenge to help individuals cultivate healthier body images. I always enjoy the challenge because it reinforces my belief of loving my body and my whole self. You might also find guidance through the book, “Self-Love Diet: The Only Diet That Works” by Michelle Minero, Mft.
Part Three: Schedule Solitude and Silence.
Silence and solitude used to be my enemy. I needed noise and distractions to drown out the painful memories, my chaotic thoughts and cruel words other people told me. With time and self-love, I’ve learned to make peace with, and even enjoy, moments of silence and solitude. What I’ve found is that solitude can be very healing for me because I am forced to be with all the good and misunderstood parts of myself. When I honor that desire, life feels less scary. I have less stress because I have time to work on my own projects. I feel more balance because this allows me to finish what is most important.
Silence allows us time to be present, rejuvenate and heal. Our days are filled with work, commuting, celebrations, mourning, and a constant connection to social media. When alone we can feel more of a connection to the earth, to love and to our inner core. The silence gives us space to organize thoughts and acknowledge emotions. In silence, we slow our speed.
Answer the following questions in your journal.
- What can I do by myself that feels good?
- How can I make time in my schedule for myself?
- What stops me from wanting to be alone?
Spend time alone and journal how you feel.
- What thoughts appear when I’m alone?
- How do I feel physically?
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