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bod·y sham·ing

How To Be Happy With Yourself (And Stop Caring So Much What Other People Think)

Words can hurt (the ones we tell ourselves), and that's OK. But they don't have to paralyze you. One of the loftiest goals of many women is to learn how to stop caring so much about what people think of us. But even for the most successful among us, it can be challenging. Negative self-talk can really hurt sometimes!

When working with women of all ages (from teens to retirement), a common thread that is raised is that of self-esteem, especially when it comes to body negativity and body image issues. When this topic of self-esteem is brought up, I tell them, “Your parents only knew and did what they thought was best. It might not have been the best for you, and that’s what we have to figure out."

Women’s bodies have always been a heated topic of conversation — and even when not explicitly discussed, there is still a large pressure for women to look a certain way in order to gain approval, whether in the workforce, dating scene, or among peers. And if you don't fit the mold, you might experience body shaming or self-inflicted body negativity.

So, how do we get our power and influence back to take hold of our own lives? It is, after all, the best way to learn to be happy with yourself.

"Just stop caring about what other people think," is a great piece of pop culture advice to help keep us focused on the trajectory of our lives.

If only it were that simple!

The truth is, it is okay to be in pain about the statements others make to us.

But we have options when presented with a painful situation: We can avoid it, or we can absorb it, to an extent. The pattern of society is to avoid pain. Society tells us that to be happy, we have to consume and buy products to fulfill our happiness, or perhaps to take another drink or any other unhealthy choice that keeps others' words from hurting so badly. The inner communication in that message is, "Buy things, and you won't feel pain."

But that won't work. Not in the long-run.

The key that I have found to really not caring about others' opinions of where I am in life is twofold:

1. I take their comments from their vantage points - Nine times out of ten, the person making a judgment about my life knows nothing about it; and it is, therefore, coming from their own insecurities.

2. I know myself - Through many hours of learning about myself in therapy, taking self-development courses, and working in a professional industry where I see all shapes and sizes, I have learned to love the human body in such a different way that most. I have learned about who I am and what I need. I go back to the people I care about who support me in my life.

3. Focus on your body's health and not looks - Be aware of what is healthy for your body. Only you and your physician can have this conversation. According to most medical professionals that I have interfaced with, and just from observation, there does not appear to be a “one size fits all” approach to what this means. Different medical professionals might even give out varying medical advice, according to their own specialty and background.

4. Break the cycle of body negativity - After the first step above comes awareness of how you would like to approach being a parent to yourself. This may seem like a ridiculous notion, but once you realize that you are in the driver’s seat in terms of how you wish to cultivate your own journey once you are an adult, this comes with a lot of freedom and room from which to grow awareness. You can grow awareness through meditation techniques, taking time away from the busy world to listen to your own thoughts and get to know where you stand on issues, or taking a yoga class to be in the present moment.

5. Show your beautiful body some LOVE - Once you have identified the specific areas about your body you are happy with, take some time each day to show your body some love. Our thoughts are like physics: In the discipline of science, a body set in motion will remain in motion. If we have negative thoughts about ourselves, it will likely cycle into guilt and shame for having those negative thoughts.

6. Keep your momentum going - earn to catch ourselves in a positive moment so that we can take note, reward ourselves, and therefore guide ourselves to an increase in positive affirmations to continue the love.

We can argue (as we do, currently, in our society) about gender inequalities, or being the "perfect size" but regardless of how one identifies, as long as you have those around you who love and support you, and do not judge you, it will be easier to manage other people's opinions.

RESOURCE: No Body Shame is a global movement founded by Whitney Way Thore in 2014 to help people of every variety live their lives fully, passionately, and free of shame. Do you have a body? Great. No BS is for you. Whether you are old or young, black or white, fat or thin, gay or straight, cisgender or transgender, able-bodied or not –– and literally anything in between, No Body Shame is here to support you. www.nobodyshame.com

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