We carry so many stories about ourselves in our bodies. On the days of confidence and bad-assery, we throw on hip-hugging jeans and strut out the door in our booties; on the days of smallness and body shame, we can barely make it out of our sweats and the expanse of our couch cushions. Somehow every day is different and, if you’re at all like us, you may have felt swept up in the emotional momentum of a day, a week, a month, or maybe even a year in a story about your body. You’re not alone in this experience; we are here with you. But you can alter this experience. Let us show you how.
Our brains love patterns and routines. Boy, do they. You likely have many different routines you repeat on a daily basis: your wake-up routine, your shower routine, your getting dressed routine, your make-up routine, your packing up routine, your getting-in-the-car routine…you get the idea. And those are just some of the routines you run through in order to get out of the house for the day. Imagine how many different patterns your brain falls into without even realizing it. Have you ever gotten into your car, buckled your seat belt, and wondered whether you locked the front door on your way out? All. The. Time. Your brain was following the pattern of “leaving the house” on autopilot without actively participating in completing the task you were up to. Some actions become so patterned in our brains—so routine—that we often don’t register that they are happening at all.
In the same vein, you likely have a “getting dressed” and “getting undressed” routine. Whether you have a mirror in that space or not, your dressing routine likely includes some kind of physical self-assessment before deciding what to put on (or take off of) your body. Everyone’s self-talk is different, but here are some of the things that come up for us: Do my thighs look and feel big today? Should I wear something high-waisted to hide my tummy and hips? Am I wearing something slightly feminine to balance out my biceps? Is it too feminine that it looks weird? Why is there still cellulite all over my backside? Will that ever go away?
This conversation SUCKS. We know it’s a conversation you only have with yourself in your head, but if we had a girlfriend who let us get away with talking about ourselves like this on a consistent basis—let alone every day—we would start to develop some distance in that relationship. That conversation is not the mark of a positive, motivated, or kind friend. That routine does not set you up to start or end your day with any kind of valuable reflection. So why would you let that live in your head?!
Easier said than done, right? But chances are you aren’t reading this piece because you’ve discovered an inroad to being body positive on a consistent or reliable basis. And you’re not alone. The routine of body shaming is wired deeply into our brains from years of advertising and external stimulus telling you what things “should” look like. So body positivity must come from within.
We must decide that there are better patterns and routines we can adopt to create harmony with these incredible vessels that carry us through life. We must decide that it is worth the work—whatever that work might look like—to interrupt old patterns of negativity and establish new routines that support and celebrate who we are. Once we can see and embrace who we are, that opens up a beautiful, honest conversation with ourselves about how we take care of our bodies and how valued they are.
So how do you get started? If pattern-interrupting our brains is so hard, will I be able to do it? Yes and yes. Here are a few ways that you can start identifying patterns of body negativity and shaming. Then, when you’re ready, begin replacing these patterns with self-reinforcing habits and routines that create the kind of conversation you want to have with yourself: You look freaking fantastic! Beyonce would be so lucky. Absolutely throw on those booty-hugging jeans and fitted top. No one rocks them like you do!
Identify Body Shaming Patterns and Routines
Place a piece of paper or post-it note on the mirrors in your house. No, seriously, do it. Especially in the places that reflect your neck-down. Cut off your supply of body negativity and go cold turkey on body bashing. You’ll see right away where you’re sabotaging your day, from the moment you get up to the decision of how you will present yourself to the universe for the rest of the day. Ready for one better? Have a pen handy and write down notes on these pieces of paper about what you love. If negative thoughts creep in, write that down, too…then crumple it up and throw it away. The act of acknowledging and discarding negative self-talk can be a therapeutic entry point to “clearing the clutter” in your mind and creating space for positive thoughts and actions.
Set a timer during your morning routine. How much time do you give yourself to wake up, get ready, and get out the door? Observe for two weeks how much time you allow yourself to prepare for your day. Are you giving yourself adequate time to mentally arrive into your day? To feed yourself a healthy meal? Do you hold space for stretching or movement to wake up your physical body? Do you scurry through your morning, or give yourself enough time to complete your routines at your own pace? Mornings are so important; how are you spending yours?
Notice the stories you attach to your clothes. “This is the dress I wear when I don’t want anyone to notice me.” “These are my fat jeans.” “I wear these leggings when I’m too lazy to get dressed.” These may not be the exact statements in your head, but if you take the opportunity to pause and consider the conversation you’re having, these statements likely aren’t far from the truth. What you are doing here is shaming your body for the way that it is. Your brain is taking an interaction between your body and an generically-made piece of clothing and inventing a story to connect the two. Remember: our brains aren’t in the habit of developing body positive stories just yet, so letting your brain run wild with stories about your clothes and your body likely doesn’t result in a positive experience. Start noticing the stories or feelings that come up when you put on different clothes. Have a bag or a bin ready for the clothes that bring up negative or “meh” feelings so you can acknowledge the sensations they cause and decide to discard them. Everyone is looking for an excuse to KonMari* their belongings these days; here is your body positive inroad to clearing the emotional clutter in your closet.
Establish Body Positive Habits
Keep the post-it notes! Don’t worry; we aren’t sponsored by 3M. But we are big fans of writing yourself love notes that you can see and experience on the days where you need to call in positive vibes. Pick out sticky notes or comment cards and tape that excite you and leave yourself notes all around the border of your mirror.** Make sure you leave space to see your beautiful self; simply frame yourself with love notes from you, to you, that remind you of the kinds of conversations that are worth having in your head about yourself.
Give yourself the gift of the morning. Specifically, give yourself more time, simply because you are worth it. Don’t chase your day from the moment you get up.*** This may mean going to bed a little earlier so you can wake up 30 minutes or an hour in advance of your current wake-up time. Trade in rushing through your morning routines half-asleep for a morning practice that allows you the time and space to connect to your breath and your physical body before you leave the house. We love stretching first thing in the morning, as well as gentle yoga or meditation, and mindless tasks like emptying the dishwasher or boiling water. Keep a water bottle by your side and hydrate so your body knows it’s time to get up for the day. By the time you’re done waking up your limbs, your stomach, head, and heart will be on the same page.
Choose clothes that kick ass. Let’s be clear: one of us is a yoga teacher and we LOVE our leggings. But those are not clothes we go out and conquer the world in! Those pants are specifically made for a sweaty, movement-based practice where we honor our bodies and need a solid range of motion. So go conquer Crow Pose in your yoga pants, but nothing more. As part of your new, subdued getting ready routine, put on clothes that reflect the energy you want to call in for the day. Going to the office to work on a big, impending project? Put on a fun scarf or pair of shoes to channel the playful side of your task-master. Running a bunch of errands around the neighborhood? Grab your favorite jacket or hat and zip around in concrete jungle in style. What you wear matters to you. Let that be enough.
This post is open for comment and we invite you to share with us what works (and what doesn’t) on your new path to body peace and positivity. When you’re ready to anchor in your body love and start building community around the movement, join us for an upcoming AIn’t No Body Like This Body event. We are ready and waiting to connect with you, sister.
“I wanted to gift my present and future self with an exciting creative experience and photographic evidence of how badass I can be outside of my comfort zone...It’s not about a pose or an angle, but an energy.”
CREDITS + GRATITUDE
*Thank you Marie Kondo for inventing the KonMari method and sharing your gift through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I cannot imagine a world where you did not share your gift and passion. I am grateful to you for clarifying my vision to see the things that spark joy in my life.
**Thank you to the dressing rooms at American Eagle and Aerie stores for inspiring us to leave love notes where we see ourselves most clearly.
***Thank you to Hal Elrod and David Osborn for writing Miracle Morning Millionaires. Not only does your study of habit apply to financial wealth, it also applies to self-valuation and creating habits that support a sense of self-worth. I honor you for making the shift in routine a community-backed effort.