I started dieting at the age of twelve.
I remember my extended family calling me chubby as early as age six. As I got older, I lost count of how many times I was told “You’d be beautiful if you lost some weight.” I never felt pretty, and I certainly didn’t feel sexy. I’m not even sure I knew what “sexy” meant.
Fast forward 30 some odd years. Now I think differently — I’m smart and sexy. What has changed most dramatically is how I view myself, and my relationship to myself. I am a strong woman who can balance muscles with soft curves. I have an open heart and a human tendency to make mistakes. I am not scared to be exactly who I am, perfect with all of my imperfections. I honor my body now and take care of it because I cherish myself. And to me, that is sexy.
Are you sexy? How do you see yourself? What defines you? Are you the person who is defined by what other people see? Do you see yourself as too fat? Too thin?
How you perceive yourself influences how you experience your life and how you handle uncertainty and adversity. If you perceive yourself as “broken” and/or imperfect, you are less likely to handle adversity or stress effectively or adaptively. If you think of yourself as unworthy, you’re more likely to internalize to negative emotions and thoughts, and perpetuate your negative story.
Are you unworthy to take up space? I think not. You too can learn to cherish yourself and know how sexy you are by starting to follow these three surprisingly sexy rules.
1. Take a moment to yourself before you look in the mirror.
This may sound crazy, but I recommend the following exercise: stand in front of the mirror naked, first with your eyes closed. (You can do this clothed, too, if you feel more comfortable.) Then take a “look” into your heart and imagine breathing in love. Visualize positive energy flowing through every cell of your being until it is overflowing out of your heart and out of every pore.
Then open your eyes and see the beauty in front of you. Appreciate everything your body does for you. Appreciate your curves. Appreciate the angles. Appreciate every part of you and every imperfection, seeing it all as exactly perfect.
2. Have fun with hypothetical statements … and then enact them.
I like to call this one the “If I loved myself” rule. Before you “reward” yourself with a doughnut or admonish yourself for doing something wrong, slow down. Instead consider this playacting exercise that begins with the following question: “If I loved myself, would I_______?”
Would you want to nurture and nourish your body with fuel or with chemicals? Would you want to lower your sense of self-worth with harsh words or lift yourself up with words of empowerment?
Say to yourself, “If I loved myself, and I do, I would nurture my body with loving words, nurturing food, plentiful rest, comforting people, and strengthening exercise.” Then make an effort, every day, to do just that.
3. Get out of your head already! Start dancing instead.
If you are like most people, you tend to get caught up in your thoughts, your insecurities or insatiable need to compare yourself to others. You end up hyper-focused on your body in terms of your thinking, but ironically detached from it. You think of yourself as separate from it, and often fall into poor self-care behaviors — either restricting yourself from food and overexercising or eating too much and choosing to be a couch potato.
So get out of your head and get in your body. Practice rules #1 and #2, then do something physical that enables you to really be in your body. Fine, it doesn’t have to be dancing. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to lift weight or salsa. Just get in your body, move it and feel it. Get to know how strong and it can be. The more connected you are with your body, the more connected you will be with who you are, rather than who you’re not.
Who you are is a culmination of your life experiences combined with your inherited genetic patterns along with your unique set of virtues and values. Your body is the incredible, beautiful vessel that holds all of that together for the world to be gifted by. You may be injured by some of your life experiences, but you are not broken. You are a whole, magnificent being. Cherish yourself.
In the end, how you choose to see yourself and your world is up to you. Personally, I choose to be sexy and I invite you to be sexy too.
This post originally appeared on MindBodyGreen, where Dr. Selhub contributes regularly.
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