I talk with women day in and day out who tell me that they are uncomfortable in their skin.
As they tell me about their lives and their struggles, it’s so interesting and ironic to note how they are doing everything they can to avoid the discomfort of living in their skin by numbing with food.
But it’s only adding to the discomfort. Not actually taking it away. It’s causing weight gain, which adds to the physical discomfort, and all of our thoughts about our size and what our body looks like add emotional suffering to the physical discomfort.
An exercise to inhabit your body
The word “inhabit” means to live in or fill a space. Do you ever think about what it’s like to live in your body? Now, I know some of you are like, “Yes, I think about it every minute of every day and it’s horrible.” But I want you to take a minute to try to be in your body without language.
I want you to try a little exercise. Close your eyes and think about the physical sensation of your body. It’s probably easy for you to put on your judgment lenses and describe your body with all of the loaded words like fat and overweight and rolls and big and disgusting and gross and cellulite and jiggly, all those things.
But if you didn’t have the meaning behind the words, how would it feel to be you?
Without using any judgment words, only observing, I want you to think about how your feet feel, how your thighs actually feel, how your arms feel, how your stomach feels, how your bottom feels. How your body feels is the reality of right now.
As Byron Katie so brilliantly and simply put it, “When we argue with reality, we only lose 100% of the time.”
See your body without judgment
When we see our bodies through the lens of judgment, we deny reality. We increase our physical discomfort with the emotional pain of believing things should be different than what they are.
When we choose to take off those lenses and see our bodies as they are right now, we will change the way that we feel.
When we choose to think, “I have legs,” instead of, “I hate my fat legs,” we will feel a different emotion. When we accept our stomach and our chin for what they are, not what we wish they could be, we stop causing ourselves so much pain.
The reality of my body is that I have air in my lungs. I have blood in my veins. I have eyes that can see. I have ears that can hear. I have a heart that beats. I can walk, run, hug, bend, clean, read, sing. I can feel the sunlight on my skin and the wind in my hair. I’m 5’3, I’m hazel-eyed, and so much more.
“But if I accept my body as it is, I won’t be motivated to change it.”
One big misconception I think we have around this topic is the idea that if we live in our bodies without denying the reality of them, that we will not be motivated to change them. That if we just accept our bodies, we will stay where we are.
But if your reason for changing your body is so that you can escape it… you can see how well this is working for most of us, right? We think, “My body is overweight and unacceptable and I can’t stand being in it,” and then we feel disappointment or disgust.
And when we are feeling disappointment and disgust, we typically try to escape these uncomfortable feelings by eating things and taking actions that punish our bodies instead of nurturing them, and we feel terrible and we gain more weight, and in turn feel more uncomfortable in our skin.
Exercise as punishment
Often, one of the punishing actions we take is to exercise. Now, don’t get me wrong. I value exercise. I do it myself. But for most of us, it’s not out of love. It’s a punishment to make up for some mistake we made or for who we are.
I recently had a revelation when it comes to exercise. I learned to walk. Just go on a walk for pleasure.
This is a revelation because I used to think walking was a waste. I thought if I was going to get my workout clothes on and make time to do anything, it had to be running. I had to be burning calories and focused on weight loss. Because my brain spent decades focused solely on weight loss.
Running was just a means to an end. Not an activity I did for pleasure. It definitely felt more like a punishment than pleasure, which is how most of my weight loss efforts were. Extreme, unforgiving, painful, miserable, and definitely not from a place of love and care for myself.
It’s really no wonder I never found lasting success with any of my previous methods. Because who can sustain self-inflicted misery for a lifetime in an effort to find acceptance? It really doesn’t make much sense if you think about it.
Who we are is not defined by how our bodies look
Who we are is not just defined by how our bodies look and feel and do. To inhabit means to live in and to fill a space. So what fills the space of you? Who are you? Usually, we answer that question by describing our roles or what we do.
I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m a CEO, I’m a singer, I’m a reader, and so much more.
I want you to think about how you would describe yourself with adjectives only. I want you to challenge yourself to focus not on just what you aren’t, but what you are.
So make yourself an “I Am” list.
I am loving, I am quiet, I am bold, I am strong, I am doubting, I am careful, I am wise, I am full of wonder, I am hesitant, I am thoughtful, I am open, I am learning, I am growing, I am human, and so much more.
When we choose to love ourselves and our bodies, when we can see and feel them for what they are instead of only what they are not, and start making different decisions about how we take care of them, that is fully inhabiting ourselves. That is how we find comfort in our skin.