The Importance of Learning to Love Your Body

December 9, 2015 6:36 pm

 

How often do you find your self sending negative thoughts in the direction of your body? Perhaps getting frustrated that it has gained a little weight, or annoyed with its seemingly endless list of symptoms or unremitting fatigue?

Many of us treat our body in a way that is far from loving. Perhaps pushing it to the limit and only stopping to rest when we are forced to (such is the case with so many of us ME/CFS warriors).

For me personally, learning to show my body love and compassion has been an ongoing challenge. After all, it is my body, with its low energy and uncomfortable symptoms that stops me living the life my heart yearns for. As a result of that, my body has had to cope with a lot of frustration and not so nice thoughts being thrown its way over the years.

It is natural to feel anger and frustration towards a body that doesn’t work in the way we would like, and it’s important that feelings of anger are expressed and acknowledged. Suppressing any feelings that need to arise is never a good thing. But what can be a useful, is making a conscious effort to be mindful of these feelings as they arise and understand them a little better, rather than getting stuck in them.

The more I learn, the more I realise the importance of self love and self compassion, especially when it comes to healing, but also for general happiness and wellbeing.

That means learning to love yourself as a whole…body included.

When I first became seriously unwell 16 years ago, I was training to be a dancer. I was used to my body feeling strong and being the vessel than enabled me to access the wonderful freedom and expression that comes through dance. My future as a professional dancer was taken away the instant I became unwell. Almost overnight, rather than my body being something that helped me connect to my heart and spirit, it became my invisible prison.

During the many years that have followed my diagnoses, I’ve often found myself in somewhat of a battle with my body. Blaming it for taking my dreams away from me and restricting my life in a way I would never have chosen for myself. I have deemed my body entirely responsible for me having missed out on so much, including friends wedding days and numerous individual milestones most people have reached by their early thirties.

My body has also been the very thing that’s caused me intense pain and suffering. Crushing fatigue and physical symptoms have, more often than not, been part of my everyday reality over the last couple of decades.

Add to the above equation, that due to being unable to do any sort of exercise apart from a gentle walk or some restorative yoga, as well as a newly discovered hormonal imbalance coupled with adrenal insufficiency, my previously slim body is now a bit squishier than I would like, is it any wonder I have struggled to love my body?

What I am really coming to realise, is that when it comes to healing, self acceptance and self love are two things that are actually fundamental. If we are in resistance to our body’s current state, pushing symptoms away and directing anger towards our body (and essentially ourselves) how can we expect healing to occur?

Healing comes from a place of peace, love and openness. We need to find a way to tap in to that if we want to lead a healthy, happy, life.

 


 

Something that I have found helpful as I have worked on developing compassion for myself and my body, is acknowledging that my body is actually doing it’s best.

I know each of our situations are very different, but for many of us who have become unwell in some way, we can often see triggers or contributing factors to our ill health. It may be a succession of stressful events, infection or continuously pushing too hard that has lead you to where you are right now. Symptoms are the body’s way of communicating, and as humans, we often ignore these signals from our body for as long as we possibly can. Our body is always trying to help us and protect us, to alert us that something isn’t quite right, or that it’s not getting the right mix of things it needs to function. Our body deserves to be listened to and nurtured. It is a part of us!

Working as a team with your body, is so much more effective when it comes to healing, than being in the thick of a battle with it – your body sending out symptoms and begging you to listen, you essentially telling it to shush and getting cross with it. A divide growing between essentially, what is actually one. Your body is a part of you!

 

Something to also be mindful of, is that when we feel discomfort in the body, our instinct is to want to escape and push the experience away. We may do this by trying to keep busy and push ourselves physically, or we may try to escape through food, scrolling our Facebook newsfeed, or something else.

 

A practise that can connect you back to your body, is allowing daily time for stillness.

When you catch yourself disconnecting from you body or feeling stuck in resistance, take a moment to sit.

Breathe.

Feel into whatever emotion or sensation is there and allow it. Perhaps ask your body what it needs from you, or gently enquire as to what is underneath the emotion you are feeling. You may find it helpful to write down whatever comes up or it may be enough to simply focus on just ‘being’ in your body. Connecting to your breath. Allowing whatever is there to come up, and be. See if you can visualise sending your body some love. Play around with this and see what works for you.

If you are new to this kind of thing this might feel really difficult to begin with, but gently persevere as I know that it has really helped me to begin to connect back to my body. This connection is so fundamental when it comes to healing.

Treat yourself, and your body, as you would a friend.

If you had a friend who was feeling poorly, or struggling in some way, would you push them, or get angry with them for being so? Or would you encourage them to be gentle with themselves and be kind to themselves? Just a small shift in perspective such as this can work wonders when we are beginning the journey of self compassion.

I’d love to hear your own experiences around self love and compassion. Maybe you are on your own healing journey or perhaps this post has resonated for some other reason. If so, i’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below…

If you would like to explore the topic of self compassion a little more, a great book to read is ‘The Mindful Path to Self Compassion’ by Christopher Germer. It’s a book that has helped me so much on my own journey to treating myself more kindly. I chat about it and some of my other favourite health and wellbeing books over here…

 

Love, Emma

 

 

4 Comments

  • Teresa says:

    Ok… I have had the same disappointment over the physical shutting down of my body. The same grief over the loss of connecting so deeply to expressing myself physically. I lost the ability to pursue my love of horses as it was too physical. There are so many incredible ways to connect to life in a physical way and when that shuts down, the loss is deep. So…. anger and frustration come up sometimes as well as a bit of pity here and there. I’m learning more and more though not to blame my body. I’m learning more and more to just accept that my body is doing its best.

    And….. here’s a really cool thing. A healing body is a miracle. The things your body does to get well are so incredible so when I look at it that way and picture what’s going on under the surface, I’m inspired by my body and I love it.

    As to how I view my body, I literally had this epiphany today before reading your blog post. The other day, I sent someone a half naked picture of myself. I realize this might seem innocuous or even silly. I had no intention for it to really make an impact on me. If fact, mostly I was just cringing that I would do such a thing but after I did, something in me shifted. I felt liberated. I sent out my image (a rather vulnerable one) and it was as if I made a statement of acceptance about myself. I don’t care if anyone else approves of my body because I already do. I’m not perfect (I’m still 25 lbs overweight) but I accept myself. I don’t judge my body. Anyone else who might judge it would be doing so because of what they were reflecting which has absolutely nothing to do with me. And I finally understood this idea as a real truth! I’ve believed it should be true for a long time but today I KNEW it was true. So oddly enough, this lesson happened to me after I was brave enough to send naked pictures to someone when I felt less than confident. And my shift has nothing to do with the response on the other side.

    Anyway, once again, you and I are linked by the cosmos. 🙂

    This was a fantastic post! I loved the part about staying in tune with your body. Taking time to slow down and check in. I’m going to incorporate more of that!

    XXX

  • Emma - Consciously Healthy says:

    Ahh Teresa I always love your replies. We really are on parallel paths (although unfortunately no naked photo activity going on this side of the pond at the moment…hehe)

    Loved reading your experience and your thoughts. Isn’t it just amazing all these insights that come up as we progress with all of this?

    I know we both have had similar experiences and similar feelings around frustration and our body’s letting us down. I had no idea about your horse riding stuff though, it’s heartbreaking when a passion like that is taken from us isn’t it. Let’s hope that as we heal (which we will) we can dance and horse ride again in some way shape or form.

    What struck me, as I wrote this blog post. Is that as much as our body’s and current restrictions have taken us away from things that bring us joy/self expression etc (such as dance and horse riding) The experience of illness is forcing us to face part of ourselves we have previously not even been aware of. Our body’s slowing us down, and stopping us, are actually connecting us deeply to our hearts and true self…just as our passion for dance/horse riding did 🙂

    In relation to the body image thing. Good for you!!! So many of us spend so long seeking approval or feeling inadequate for not being ‘perfect’. I can totally see why your naked picture was liberating!

    Like you, I am also carrying a few extra lbs and I’m trying to use it as a lesson to love myself exactly as I am right now. Not easy! And still a work in progress. Nice to know I’m not alone with that one.

    Huge hugs

    Emma x

  • Simon says:

    Great article Emma with some really useful tips.. It is so easy to get lost in distraction, rather than identifying, acknowledging and taking care of the underlying emotions that drive this behaviour. Most of us would comfort a child who was feeling upset, frustrated etc, but we often don’t do it for ourselves.

    ‘Healing comes from a place of peace, love and openness. We need to find a way to tap in to that if we want to lead a healthy, happy, life.’ Spot on!

  • Emma ~ Consciously Healthy says:

    Hi Simon

    Thanks so much for your comment. Totally agree with the child example, I often thing that as adults we need to try and tune into this (inner child work essentially!) when learning how to speak to ourselves more kindly.

    Much love to you

    Emma

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