BY COURTNEY COBBS. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEUN IVORY.
Like most folks socialized as girls and women I sometimes received messaging that my body was “dirty,” unsafe (“Since you look like that men are going to say/do things,” shameful (“Don’t dance like that!”) or somehow not enough. Sometimes I told myself these things, “If you looked like her you’d receive a lot more attention/be happier/have more success.” In my late teens and early 20s I started following plus-size/fat fashion bloggers and was inspired by their confidence. It also gave me a reality check. At the time I was only a size 12 and if these women who were twice my clothing size could love their bodies I felt I had no excuse not to love mine.
Our bodies are not separate from our mind, emotions, and soul. Your body hears and takes on every thought you think. Your body feels every emotion you feel (or choose not to feel). Your soul speaks to you through your body. Cultivating a better relationship with your body supports you on every level.
Here are a few ways you can begin to cultivate a better relationship with your body.
1. Embrace where you are. Operate from your strengths/from a positive mindset. Begin to keep a running tab (I encourage a written one) of things about your body you appreciate. You can start simple: I appreciate that my thighs support my body.
I appreciate that my hips make themselves noticed.
I appreciate my full lips.
2. Don’t take your negative thoughts too seriously. When it comes to negative thoughts about your body know that you can decide whether or not you want to believe those thoughts. You can become the witness of your thoughts. Additionally, you can still engage in body-loving/affirming practices even if you don’t have the most positive thoughts about your body. If you have the thought, “I don’t deserve to take care of my body” you can still engage in the life supporting actions even though your mind may be telling you otherwise. Oftentimes it is engaging in life-supportive actions assist with changing our thoughts. Lastly, when it comes to other people’s opinions know that you don’t have to respond or internalize them.
3. Examine your relationship to food. Do you see food as the enemy, a treat, a punishment, a source of nourishment, a source of comfort, etc? There is no right or wrong. It’s most important to examine how these perceptions shape our feelings and relationship to our body. If you feel certain thoughts or mindsets are causing you more stress, take some time to cultivate a healthier and more self-compassionate viewpoint. Do you believe you were “wrong” to eat a large pizza? Do you believe it’s “right” to only eat veggie bowls? How do you FEEL physically, mentally, and emotionally when you eat certain foods?
4. Do things your body enjoys! Say yes to pleasure! This means paying attention to what your body loves. As you begin to feel good IN your body you will have even more appreciation for it. You and your body are one! Think about it. Those days you wear that certain outfit, listen to that certain song before heading out into the world, attend a wellness workshop, have a bodywork session, or masturbate you move about in the world in a different way. I feel more tuned in, connection, sensuous, and alive when I take time to do things my body enjoys. Sometimes it’s dancing, giving myself a foot massage, taking a walk, going on a bike ride or lying in bed and consciously appreciating my bed environment.
5. Accept compliments with grace. When someone compliments you simply say “Thank you.” There’s no need to debate or negate. Yes we are more than these physical vessels but our bodies are worthy of praise too.
6. Become inspired by someone else’s journey. Instagram has lots of body positivity figures. Going through the hashtag #bodypositivity can assist you in finding someone you resonate with.
There are even a few books and e-courses on the subject. Maybe you’ll feel inspired to document your journey and assist others in their journey.
At the end of the day sometimes the simplest thing I can tell myself is that I have much bigger things to ponder than whether or not someone else likes my body or if my stomach has grown. In 2017 I went on two nude rainforest retreats and visited a local nudist camp multiple times. My love for my body grew yet I also learned not to place such a high importance on it. I have a body. You have a body. The Creator/ My Higher Self/ the universe/ God, etc. made me look the way I do for a reason and I can either use my creative life-force energy hating my body or embracing it.
The Creator/Your Higher Self/ the universe/ God, etc. put you in a certain physical vessel for a reason and you can spend your creative life-force energy hating your body or embracing it. Your choice.
Courtney Cobbs is a Reiki Master Teacher who lives in Chicago. She loves contributing to Black Girl in Om to connect with other women of color who are interested in holistic self-care/self love practices. You can connect with Courtney on her Instagram: purplefemme11 and her blog: Violet Heart Wellness.