Body hate is a nasty consequence of rising popularity of a fitness lifestyle. As much as fitness is about changing our body in positive ways via exercise and diet, it rarely involves exercising our mind to treat our body right. Even the whole idea of going to the gym often begins with a thought that there is something wrong with our body.
We compare ourselves to others on social media and get mad at our own reflection. We are focusing on our flaws much more than we tend to celebrate the things we like about ourselves. That detachment from our body, as if it weren’t a part of us, makes it so easy to resent it.
Body hate is detrimental, because it leads to destruction. Some people try to eliminate the source of the problem by diving into a rigid diet and exercise regime only to find themselves exhausted and unable to maintain such regime soon. Others avoid the problem, suppressing the body hate and pretending it does not exist until it erupts. Finally, there are some people who give in and do even more of what causes self-hate.
Suppressing, avoiding, or exacerbating, we all are dealing with our body hate in many unhealthy ways. To start making peace with our body requires these seven mindset characteristics that can be trained.
1. Minimized comparison mindset:
My friend once told me how she compares herself to a Brazilian fitness model on Instagram. She thinks that the model’s body type is attractive to the kind of males my friend finds desirable. In other words, she tries to satisfy the imaginary tastes of an imaginary perfect male character!
As one of the basic decision-making mechanisms, comparison is natural for our brain. When it comes to our body, however, we mostly engage in unfavorable comparison. Moreover, a snapshot in the moment, comparison often omits the differences in time and resources that other person invested in getting a “better body”.
While impossible to eliminate comparison altogether, minimizing the exposure to comparison triggers, like social media, can certainly help. Also, intentionally practicing a positive comparison, by verbalizing what your body is better at, can help rewiring your brain to think differently.
2. Owner’s mindset:
Your body is yours. This obvious statement is often under-appreciated. But think of the times you deemed something being better just because it belonged to you. Your childhood blanket, no matter how old, was the best because it was yours. Your toys had more superpowers because they were yours. Even your puppy that just pooped on the floor and tore a corner of the sofa is still the most amazing creature in the world. And any other cutest puppy on Instagram will not replace your own. So why is your body different?
Get into a habit of giving a positive praise to your body. Instead of focusing on the success of the outcome, appreciate the hard work you body does in the process. Instead of punishing the wrong things, reinforce the right right ones.
3. Guardian mindset:
We tend to value something that is scarce, came to us at a price, or was entrusted to us to protect. Our body is scarce: we only have 28,000 days in our life with almost a third spent asleep. Our body comes to us at price: from clothes to medical bills, our body is one of the most significant investments we make. Finally, no one can take better care of your body than you. You are pretty much all that your body has. Be a good guardian of its value!
To cultivate a guardian mindset, it helps to constantly realize the importance of what you are protecting. Spoil yourself sometimes! Whether it is a spa visit, an expensive fitness club membership, or good skincare products – you are putting money into your self. You better not mess it up!
4. Partner mindset:
The strength of any partnership is tested in an adversity. Rich or poor, in good health or in sickness, new husband and wife promise to stay with each other. In marriages, where trust, communication and empathy are the priorities, partners know that the positive things outweigh the inevitable negative ones. With your body it is the same: no matter how mad you get at your body sometimes, realize that it does more good for you than bad. On the other hand, how good of a partner are you to your body? Do you always treat it right?
As strange as it might seem at first, write a thorough congratulatory list of the times your body got it right. “I have a great nose. My nails grow fast. I do not have stretch marks. My delts are quite responsive to exercise.” Come back to this list every time you feel resentful to your body to remind how lucky you actually are.
5. Yoga mindset:
Yogis place a special emphasis on the awareness. Silencing a restless monkey brain and adding mindfulness to everyday life leads to more intentional actions. Being present and living for today makes valuing the moment far more important than worrying about the past and the future. Yoga mind is observatory and not judgmental: you are exactly where you need to be right now. By observing your body and understanding it in space and time, you get in tune with what it signals and what it needs. Observation without judgment leaves no place for hate.
To cultivate a yoga mindset, enhance the actions that make it easier to observe your body: eliminate distractions, get out of breath, take contrasting showers, and meditate.
6. Experimenter mindset:
Imagine you are a lab scientist who designs experiments to check a hypothesis. You conduct an experiment, measure the results, tweak the experiment settings, and do it again. In experimentation, there is no hate of the outcome because the expected result is an educated guess. Finding the logical connections, understanding the triggers and factors affecting the result prevail over emotional judgments.
Become a mad scientist about your own body! Test that blood type based diet! Figure what exercises give you better results. Are you more productive training in the gym in the morning or in the evening? Is running or cycling a better cardio for you? Find out!
Start making a list of your own life hacks that work for your body. Journal and document. Instead of sticking to just one thing that others prescribe, try multiple things to learn what works for you.
7. Philosopher mindset:
The more we focus on how our body looks, the more we are convinced that it defines the quality of our lives. Whereas having a healthy and resilient body certainly helps living a better life, it is only one aspect of who we are among many. None of the body features, appealing or otherwise, determine how much love we deserve and what we can achieve. Your partner might have liked your round glutes, but it is not the reason he will stick around.
Do this exercise: ask your close friends, people you trust, about your strengths and weaknesses. Now count how many of these strengths and weaknesses actually involve your physical appearance? Yes, we might recall from time to time that “the girl the a club had an amazing body”. But the moment we start choosing friends, spouses, business partners by how their body looks, is the time we are in a big trouble.
Body confidence does not exist in isolation. It is when we are surrounded by people, what our body looks like, we think, helps others place us in categories. What does a successful, determined, and goal oriented person look like in your imagination? Don’t we automatically attach physical body characteristics to the qualities that are completely independent from looks? When the category that we think our body places us does not match the category where we want to be in, we get upset.
Instead, however, we could try to understand why the personal characteristics we want to communicate about ourselves mean a need for a certain physical body. Minimizing comparison of ourselves to people we see on social media helps break that connection in our mind. Separating you, as an individual, from your body, as a physical object, reduces body hate, but only when the detachment is built from the perspective of your body’s owner, guardian, and partner. Bringing more awareness, understanding the logic of you body helps you stop making negative judgments about the subjective things. And, finally, understanding that your body is only one aspect of who you are, what you bring to a room as a person makes it much more important to focus on.