How to Become Alive in Your Own BodyBy Lauve Metcalfe, M.S., CWC
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, reflecting all you see, if only you'd reflect the one that lives inside of me."
Our society has conditioned us to buy into the quick fix, the magic pill, and the instantaneous diet that will allow us to hold on to the hope of youth and beauty forever. Media images constantly bombard us with what we "need" to make us look younger, thinner, fitter, sexier and more attractive than what is currently reflected in the mirror.
What is it that we really need?
I think what men and women really need is to applaud one’s personal effort to age authentically and naturally in a body faced with the real challenges and emotional struggles of everyday life! Am I anti-appearance enhancement? Not at all, but I don't think it's the answer we crave it to be. Much like the quest for the ultimate diet, when you put too much hope in external solutions without any internal focus, you come up empty, deflated, and generally feeling worse about yourself.
So, if you've begun to give up feeling good about yourself in your present stage of life, consider another option before selecting the next external fix. Start focusing on your own development and re-creation of your self from within. I think you'll find starting from a filled-up, nourished inner self will make the reflection on the outside that much more dazzling.
So, what's currently going on in your life? Are you out of balance in nurturing your physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual self? Commit to investing the time and energy to replenish any of these areas that may be depleted. Because, tired as this phrase may be, it's true: you can't look good on the outside unless you feel good on the inside.
I care about my appearance and image as much as any woman, but the need for external validation about my beauty, or my "perceived" beauty plays a lesser role in the equation. My take on beauty now, as a wellness and body image coach in my fifties, is that it is primarily an internal creation. It is, to a large extent, a combination of attitude, healthy eating, and physical action. I now realize these are aspects of my life that I can choose to be in control of.
Twenty years ago I was a much thinner version of me, a part-time model and fitness promoter trying desperately and unsuccessfully to keep my balance in a very competitive business. With each fashion shoot, I'd hear some version of the following, "You look great—good bone structure, great height, big eyes—but could you lose a few pounds? You know how the camera makes you look heavier." Fierce dieting succeeded in giving me the ectomorphic look the camera's eye sought, but the lack of nutrition and continued seeking of external approval drained me of my self-confidence and whittled away at my spirit. Ironically, when I was my most "perfect" for the camera was when I felt the most insecure about myself.
I found this stage of my life boxed in by "shoulds:" What I should look like, how much I should weigh, what color my hair should be, should I worry about another wrinkle or an added curve on my body? In reality, these pieces are a small part of the total package that makes up who I am.
Who am I? I am my energy, my compassion, my love of sunsets, hiking, and Siamese cats! When I concentrate on being alive and active in my body, my spirit soars! When I am alive in my body, it tells me when it needs to exercise, to move more, or to rest. It tells me when it is thirsty, hungry and full. It tells me whether I need to speed up or slow down. When I am alive in my body, I feel all my emotions. When I am alive in my body, my thoughts, feelings, and spirit are dancing out my life story. And you can do the same.
How does one escape our cultural body image traps? Start by focusing on becoming more alive in your body.
Value Your Self
Becoming alive in your body begins with accepting yourself as the unique, wonderful person that you already are. Valuing yourself can start with befriending yourself and being as kind and gentle with you as you are with your best friends. Let go of judgment and your critical eye and embrace all of the amazing strengths that you bring into life. Accept the stage of life that you're in right now and enjoy it.
Be Surrounded by Positive, Supportive People
Creating and nurturing a positive support system keeps your forward momentum going. Make a list of all the supportive friends in your life. This list could include family, friends, and co-workers. Do you have a plan in place for regularly sharing time with this special support group?
Create daily, weekly, and monthly opportunities for connecting on some level. Supportive people give you emotional stimulation, emotional support and emotional challenge to help you be your best. Also, be on the lookout for ways to open yourself up to meeting new friends. Seek out positive, "alive" people and welcome them into your circle.
Many of us—especially women—have trouble valuing the wonderful gifts we have to offer to others. Mentoring is a way for us to share energy and gifts, to teach rituals and traditions and to assist others in living more fulfilling lives. Reach out and give someone else the value of your experience and outlook on life—it could be a friend, a neighbor, or a younger person in your community. By becoming alive in your body, and being attentive to your inner needs, you create a solid foundation to grow into your most beautiful self—a self that radiates energy and enthusiasm for life that any mirror would reflect.
Want to develop a more positive image? Join Lauve's premium track on Happify, Feel Better About Your Body.
Lauve Metcalfe, M.S., CWC, FAWHP, is a licensed wellness coach, educator, and researcher. She loves guiding people towards a positive body image. Lauve lives, works and plays in Tucson, Arizona.
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