Nope, not that C word.
Get your mind out of the gutter.
I’m talking about the word that so many women don’t give to themselves enough, the word that is so important for taking care of yourself.
I can’t even count the amount of times that I hear women refer to themselves with strong, negative language such as hate, ugly, fat, wobbly, and the list goes on and on. And it tends to get even worse right around and after the holidays, as we’re faced with the prospect of a new year and old goals that may not have been met.
For those who are struggling to lose weight or who are just unhappy with how they look or feel, the seemingly endless temptations between Thanksgiving and New Years can seem like torture, like constant reminders that they still have a long way to go.
Then add in the pressure of resolutions, declarations of change, and pressures put on us by ourselves and society, and we’ve got a perfect storm of body insecurity. The key here is not to simply stop making goals or seclude ourselves from popular culture, but instead to treat our bodies and our minds with compassion. To realize all of the wonderful and difficult things we do each day, to acknowledge all of the hard work we’ve put in to get where we are, even if it’s not where we want to be.
Compassion for our jiggly arms, soft stomach, and cellulite thighs. Compassion for our seemingly inability to work out as many days each week as we plan to. Compassion for our wandering, competitive minds who compare us to every other woman we see in the gym, in the store, on the train.
These things are reality. Most of us will never be super model thin or fitness model lean. We will not have perfect arms or legs or butts or thighs. We will have arms that hold our babies, legs that carry us through life, and abs that have been formed through years of laughter. We accomplish beautiful things every single day, yet the hateful language continues despite these successes.
Show your body some compassion and acceptance for what it does, not hatred for what it doesn’t do or for what it doesn’t have. Are you hating your post baby body? Cut yourself a little bit of slack and think about what your body has done for you. You grew a human, and then put your body through trauma to get that human out, no matter how smoothly the birth went. Trauma needs time to heal, and more than time, it needs compassion and care.
Beating your exhausted body up with workouts every day isn’t the answer; a traumatized body will not be beaten back into submission, trust me. You’ll just end up injured and even more frustrated than before.
And this goes for returning from an injury or picking back up after life stresses.
Acknowledge what your body has been through, get in some healthy, restorative movement as often as possible, and build gradually. Fitness after a life change or stressful time isn’t about getting back to “normal” as quickly as possible, it’s about nurturing yourself to allow for gradual, healthy change.
On the other hand, some people just feel like they’ve been doing everything right for so long and are just not seeing the results they want. Why bother with the hard stuff if you still hate what you see in the mirror? Because results take time, the process is slow, and there is so much value in acknowledging the process as you go along. It can be hard to remember when you’re in the thick of it, but major change does not happen all at once. It is created through a series of tiny, minuscule steps and victories along the way.
Showing yourself compassion and recognizing these baby steps is the key to not driving yourself absolutely insane when results seem so far away. I often recommend that people set a reflection time once per week to stop and think about these small steps and accomplishments. Write them down where you can reference them each week. And over time, you’ll start to see those building blocks add up to bigger successes.
Ignoring these small steps in lieu of wanting bigger results is akin to wanting fresh baked cookies but getting angry when you realize that you have to follow a recipe first, step by step. You can’t get the end product without all of the small steps in between, and the small steps are what matter in the long run. Speed through that recipe and forget the baking Sosa or salt, and you’ll end up with some pretty unformed and bland cookies just because you couldn’t take the time to complete the small, necessary steps to getting quality cookies. Now you’ve wasted your time and you have nothing to show for it.
Ok ok, enough about cookies, but do you see my point?
It doesn’t matter if you lose 20 lb if you beat yourself up constantly to get there. That end game will leave you tired, frustrated, and wondering why you don’t feel better even though you reached a goal. If you start out from a place of hate, how do you expect that to turn into happiness and acceptance just because the scale reads a certain number? Hating your body every time you look in the mirror does not just go away once the scale hits the number that you want. If that’s how you’ve conditioned your brain to think, it will continue, and the goals met will never be enough– it’s a vicious cycle. Practicing your compassion, acknowledging the small successes along the way, and recognizing positive things about yourself will help you to appreciate yourself, even if goals are not quite met or change over time.
We are not numbers on a scale, we are not the size of our jeans or the presence (or not) of fat; we are so much more than that. But the beautiful things that we are are often overshadowed by the things that we’re not, especially when it comes to size and shape. Show yourself compassion. Recognize and celebrate the small steps, the challenges that you face every day, and the magnificent ways that you navigate through this crazy thing called life. Because it’s not easy, none of this is, and that’s why the little things deserve celebrating, and you deserve compassion from the person who is least likely to give it to you: yourself.