In light of intention-setting and post-holiday recovery — as many of us are coming out of weeks of foods, beverages, and lifestyle habits that may be a bit more indulgent or irregular than we are used to — may I offer us all a reminder to appreciate and honor ourselves just as we are.
What happened cannot be changed (e.g. one too many glasses of vino or servings of cookies) and what’s in the future is unknown. It is not worth allowing the judgement of our previous actions or the prediction of an outcome determine how we feel (or will feel) about ourselves and our bodies. It is imperative that we learn not only to be present, but to be present with ourselves and what is, just as we are.
Today’s culture has no problem telling us how to take care of ourselves, but not always in ways that are in fact healthy and sustainable. We’re constantly being bombarded with glossy magazine covers of airbrushed skin and six-packs. Not only is this impractical to obtain and maintain, it is also an unrealistic ideal based solely on the ego and physical appearance, making us feel like once we get healthier we will look “better” and that we will be happier once we get “fit.”
The bigger picture — something we all inevitably come to realize after trial and error — is that self-love and body positivity comes from within. Ayurvedic practitioner Dr. Pratima Raichur says, “To me, beauty is not defined by any particular feature or form, but rather the health and wellness of the mind, body, and spirit.”
With the new year comes the inevitable desire to make positive changes, which is often linked to improving our appearance and life as a whole. I think many of us — especially women and especially in modern-day culture — have fallen victim to the hamster wheel of self-improvement, whether it is losing weight or gaining muscle or preventing wrinkles and so on. This is often accompanied by strict regimens like avoiding or deeming evil certain foods and lifestyle habits, which is all well and good until it becomes an obsessive means of resolving our issues. And if we are constantly battling with ourselves by resisting temptations, how will we ever actually achieve the happiness that we expect our self-improvement goals to deliver?
Ayurvedic Doctor Vaidya Mishra, teacher of my friend and mentor Divya Alter, advises, “In order to stay on top of any and all your New Year’s resolutions, don’t fight it. If you want to change something, bring in something new and better to replace it … How do you stay on top of this? How do you maintain equanimity? To keep your core energies at their optimal, heed food and sleep, and then you can’t make any errors in your actions.” It’s as simple as that — take good care and you will remain clear about not only what works best for you, but also what to do to sustain it.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, there we are. There is no escaping ourselves. If we want to feel positively about our body, we must do our best to notice when our negative or destructive actions and habits arise. We must learn to practice thinking, acting, and being in ways that best serve the collective goal of simply being happy, content, and at peace.
Taking care of our bodies and minds so that we can effectively care for one another and feel happy in our physical abode does not necessarily mean we must look and act like the healthiest plant-based machine on the planet. It would, however, behoove us all to cultivate a balanced lifestyle that allows us the freedom to make personalized choices which will nourish us inside and out (e.g. practicing yoga and dance parties, greens and cookies, water and warm cacao or wine, journaling and going to the movies, “succeeding” and “failing”).
Here are a few insights to consider based on my studies and personal experience when working with your own resolutions, intentions, and overall body positivity year-round:
- Remember your worth regardless of how you look or feel. No matter how many pieces of pie you consumed over the holidays or what you enjoy eating in 2019, you are still the same person and you deserve to live a life that brings you joy. If pie makes you happy then please enjoy it, being mindful of if and when you rely on it to solve your problems.
- Focus on the inner workings more than the exterior image. How do you ultimately want to feel from the inside (e.g. light, happy, clear) unlinked to how you wish to look on the outside?
- Remember that how you feel will wind up informing how you look and vice versa, and that feeling content over a period of time is not necessarily the result of losing weight or getting in shape.
- Shift your attention to what is working for you — what you love about how you look and how you are in this exact moment — versus what you wish you could change.
- Give yourself a compliment. Think of how good it feels when someone, whether you know them or not, offers you unsolicited kind words — whether it is on your appearance or your heart. It is incredibly rejuvenating, and sometimes it’s all we need to remind us of the greatness each and every one of us embodies no matter what we weigh or what size pants we are currently wearing.
- Be your own best friend instead of your harshest critic. Pay attention to what is working and be proud of that, and also give yourself permission to relieve what or who isn’t working for your best interest. Do as a best friend would do: celebrate triumphs and being supportive when it feels challenging to appreciate yourself as you are.
Ram Dass says, “When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees … Some of them are bent, and some of them are straight …. And you look at the tree and you allow it … You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that … That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
We must be good to ourselves to know how to be good to others. We must make decisions that are best for us in a conscious, balanced way, allowing ourselves to make mistakes and also thrive and learn along the way, remembering that all of this is unlinked to how we look in a bathing suit.
Our body is the container for the contents of what lies within — this is the stuff that makes for a healthy life. It is the heart, not the number on the scale or the image in the mirror, that guides our physical bodies to living a life the fulfills us and to the people who light us up.
What can you do today to show yourself you love yourself unconditionally? Maybe it’s committing to your New Year’s intention or editing it to better suit your desires, or perhaps letting go of your resolutions and making a general commitment to take good care of yourself inside and out — learning as you go along the way.