—By Emily Nolan, My Kind of Life—
I have lived. And I have loved. Well, learned to love.
It took me over 10 years to stop shaming my body and relax into the unique blessing that the Universe has bestowed upon me: A perfectly capable body. A body that’s able to choose love over self-doubt.
So that’s what I did. I chose love.
Learning to love myself, especially my size and my healthy, softer tummy wasn’t an overnight snap decision. It was, as Byron Katie puts it, “the work.” And really, I had no choice, because what I felt towards my body was pretty close to feeling like I’d hit bottom.
After my nonprofit Topless‘ recent launch of the #HealthyBellySelfie self-confidence project, I learned from the hundreds of powerful pictures on Instagram that so many inspiring women and men have been posting, we all feel the same contempt towards our bodies. In particular, the mid-section. Our tummies. Our life source, our digestion, our gut instinct, our emotional home.
There’s three important steps, really, to acing the whole self-love process. Here’s how I learned to love myself and taught others to do the same.
1. Radical Honesty
The first step to self-love is the most important; it’s radical honesty. It’s telling people how you feel about your body and experiences without holding back and without feeling shame. When you’re honest, something in your body and mind shifts, and starts working in your favor. It’s almost like leaping over a hurdle. It’s scary looking at it (and thinking you’re going to have to jump it), but once you get over the hurdle, you’re really happy the truth came out. You look back and wonder how you never jumped the hurdle earlier. “Why couldn’t I just confess my struggle earlier, and start this journey towards self-love with support even sooner?” Alas, you’ll never know what I mean until you actually employ radical honesty. So start here.
2. Self-love & Kindness
The second step to this process is self-love and kindness. Allow yourself to move slowly in your loving transition, making your new healthy habits stick instead of employing the crash and burn method. Oprah wasn’t built in a day. Start by biting your tongue when you want to say negative things about yourself and shift your words into positive affirmations–even if they don’t feel honest. Eventually, you’ll start to see yourself in all your goodness. You will. Of course, this takes years of practice and it will always be a project, but life is immediately so much easier and stress free without judgment and an open mind.
Accountability is the third step to loving yourself and making it a life-long habit. All of these steps are incredibly important, and personally, accountability can be the most difficult because it requires a lot of elbow grease. Stay in touch with a group of friends who are people you aspire to emulate in their self-loving, confident ways. Schedule routine phone calls with them and let them know how you’re doing. This is a great time to practice your radical honesty and self-loving words. I started My Kind of Life, partly to hold myself accountable in my new ways. Eating healthy, going to yoga, continuing to learn and keep an open mind. I even use social media to share my experiences, so my friends can keep up with my journey. I don’t obsess over food, diet, exercise, material items, but rather try to keep a very healthy balance. I can scroll through my Instagram photos and see, as if I’m going through a personal journal, where I was in my life at that moment, and make adjustments accordingly.
My husband is also a great source of accountability for me. He loves me, no matter the size of my body, but he also loves me healthy, too. So we hold each other accountable. We use mindful eating practices, lighting candles at dinner. We eat small portions, turn the TV off and have real conversation. We put our fork down between bites to take a breath before our next bite. We encourage each other to sweat every day, and we never press that the workout has to be an intense boot camp—just a self-loving exercise that feels good.
When I started choosing “feel good” over “look good,” the sun started to rise in my heart. I started loving my choices and feeling great because of them.
Check out our self-confident, self-loving friends over on Instagram under the #HeathyBellySelfie hashtag—and join us by meeting your radical honesty with a picture of your healthy core and a story about why your belly is healthy. This initiative is for #realpeoplerealbodies. Check out the article from Seventeen magazine on this initiative if you’re hesitating on posting your picture and story.
Photo by Matt Roy