I’m not unique in having struggled with comparing myself with bodies I see online. Even as a thin person I have struggled with not only my own critiques of my body, but public criticism as well. Discovering and fostering my own physical strength has helped me immensely in viewing my body more positively because I don’t judge it on its appearance but rather allow myself to enjoy and be thankful for what it can do. When you think about, even the simple act of breathing is such an exquisite process our body does automatically for us. Viewing my body as an instrument rather than an ornament was essential to me working towards loving this shell I reside in, but one of the most important things I can say about self-acceptance or self-love is that it isn’t a place to arrive at, it is a continuing process.
As much as I have grown, I have to keep working at self-love every day. Fitness for example, began as an act of self-care for me, and more specifically a replacement for more dangerous behaviors I had previously indulged in like the abuse of alcohol. At that time, it was exactly what I needed, and I dove in head first; but like my previous dangerous behaviors it began to consume me. I struggled with not only being consumed in the behavior of exercise or obsession with what I ate, but also again with what others thought of my body. Instead of just trying to be thin, now I wanted to have muscle. But again, like when I was just thin, to some people I was “too much” and others would say I wasn’t enough.
There was also of course as always, and endless supply of bodies to compare myself with online. And both negative and positive feedback to encourage by obsessive behavior. For me personally, overcoming my initial battles with alcohol and drugs taught me a lot about how to deal with my extremist tendencies in fitness. And one of the first things I learned was you have to be careful who you surround yourself both physically (in real life) or virtually (online). To this day I am constantly re-evaluating and re-shaping who I follow or friend online to ensure I’m protecting myself from sources that influence me towards negative self-talk or minimizing myself to just a body when I’m so much more.
In addition to that, I challenge my own motives often asking myself why I’m doing certain things, or why I feel like I should or shouldn’t do certain things. Yoga, for example was something I began when my heart just wasn’t in weightlifting anymore, but it soon became a competition with myself, and then everyone else I could compare myself to online! I had to really take a step back and realize I wasn’t practicing in a way that was healthy for my mind or body and that is the entire point of yoga. And that’s what I mean when I say self-love is truly a journey. Success in self-love, care, or acceptance isn’t something you achieve, it’s something you practice, and it requires some introspection and long-term dedication, but it is so worth it. The rewards will not just benefit you because when you are best cared for, you can best care for others as well.