A few weeks ago I wrote about buying new pants, which is something I did for the first time in years. Part of the reason I buy pants so infrequently is because I generally stay the same size, so I don’t have much of a need for new items once I find something I like. However, the other part of the reason is the fact that I actually hate shopping for pants. The whole process of searching for a specific item is frustrating enough, and then add that to standing in a room of full-length mirrors, trying on pair after pair of pants that don’t fit leaves me feeling pretty crummy. That is, until I find the right ones, and then I rejoice.
But regardless, my body image took a hit from the negative experience of my pants-searching process. I also naturally gain a few pounds every winter (thank you, hibernation instincts) and although I’ve come a long way in terms of my body image and self-acceptance, I will admit that I don’t love when my body changes. So I’ve been feeling a little frustrated with the mirror these days.
As I know many of you can relate, being in a place of poor body image is an extremely vulnerable place to be. And depending on how we respond to ourselves in those moments, the outcome could be either bettering or worsening of our relationship with our reflections. My goal is generally to strive for the former, choosing to respond in ways that will ultimately help me better accept my physical self. So, I wanted to share an exercise for me that has been very healing when my body seems to be beyond my control (such as the past few weeks/months), and it’s this: forgiving my body for not being perfect.
Struggling with body image is just part of life for many of us, and trying to trick ourselves out of our insecurities or shaming ourselves for having them just makes them worse. But I’ve found through trial and error that responding kindly to my body when I’m having a hard time sets me on the trajectory for self-care. When I continue with that self-care, my body image issues have resolved and I’ve avoided the damaging side effects that result from acting on my criticisms. So instead of going on a diet, restricting my carbs, or forcing myself to over-exercise, I give myself permission to be a little bigger for right now. I wear stretchier pants and flowier tops, and forgive my thighs for the way they seem to rub together more than usual. And I let my body be a body, which means I let it flux.
Change is hard, and I won’t lie and say that I’d be happy and totally okay if my pant size went up four sizes over night. But in real life, that doesn’t ever happen. What DOES happen is the slight, minimal, hardly noticeable change with the seasons; and even though it’s hard to gain a few pounds in the winter as I always do, choosing grace makes a world of difference.
Ultimately, there are two ways I can respond to my insecurities. I can resist them, which makes me feel frustrated, embarrassed, anxious, and stand-off-ish towards others because I don’t feel worthy. Or, I can forgive my body for not living up to the world’s standards (and forgive my heart for valuing them), choose self-care towards myself, and then be set free to extend that grace towards others.
What I truly desire is the ability to choose grace — because the world needs women who can see past their own reflections and live for bigger purposes than trying to achieve a smaller pant size.