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How Self-Compassion Can Change the Way You Feel About Your Body

Self-compassion is about taking an accepting perspective toward your body. It is something that people have written about for a long time. If you've done a mindfulness yoga or meditation, you might have heard about self-compassion. If not, keep reading and learn more about self-compassion and how it can help you love your body. 

What is self-compassion?

That term can confuse people, because when we say accept, you might think, "Oh, but there are still things I want to change about my body!" And that's OK. By "accepting," what we mean is that you can accept that you have imperfections, that you have flaws, and you can still respect your body. You can still treat it with integrity and gentleness. 

It's normal to sometimes feel disappointed in your body, to feel like it's not doing what you want it to do or looking the way you want it to look.

A part of self-compassion is feeling a connection with other humans and knowing that everywhere, everyone has bodies and everyone's bodies have flaws, and everyone has struggled with their bodies and accepting that.

This is just part of the human experience, it's normal to sometimes feel disappointed in your body, to feel like it's not doing what you want it to do or looking the way you want it to look. You can say, "This is OK, this is part of life to feel this way," and not get too upset about it.

Self-compassion vs self-esteem

Self-compassion can be something to focus on instead of self-esteem. Self-esteem is tricky, because it often relies on other people. You have good self-esteem if people like you and respect and treat you well. 

Self-compassion is different because you can have it no matter what other people are doing. No matter what they say, you can say, "I'm going to treat myself with compassion and I'm going to treat myself as a worthy human being, as somebody who deserves love no matter what." Even when you mess up, even when you fail, you still deserve love. 

We call that "unconditional regard," meaning there are no conditions on it. You're worthy of love no matter how imperfect you are. And you know that we are all imperfect. So that attitude of gentleness can really help you see your body in a different way. It can also help you see other people's bodies that way. 

We don't take care of the things we hate. We take care of the things we love. So if you want to care for your body, you can't do it with shame. You have to do it with love and kindness.

How to start feeling compassion?

For some women who struggle to like their own body, one of the best practices they can do is to try feeling compassion toward other people's bodies, to treat them with kindness. You might find that you get better at practicing that kindness. You can then turn it in on yourself.

It's something that doesn't always come easy, especially if the voice in your head about your body has been negative for many years. It might be really hard to turn it around and start feeling compassion, but that's why it helps to take the perspective of somebody else who loves you. 

When I hear women say things like, "Oh, my body is disgusting, I hate it!", I say "Would you ever say that to someone who you love about their body?", and they say, "No, of course, not." And then I say, "Don't say it to your own either." 

Think about how you would talk to your body if you loved your body. The more you can say those things, the healthier the relationship you can have with your body. The more your body will give you in return as well because you'll be treating it with such kindness. 

A lot of times in our culture women think that hating their bodies is the way to turn their body into what they want, that if they just feel enough shame or enough hatred about their body, that maybe they'll finally lose weight.

But the reminder people need to hear is that we don't take care of the things we hate. We take care of the things we love. So if you want to care for your body, you can't do it with shame. You have to do it with love and kindness.

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