How you look is the least interesting thing about you
Body image is certainly not a new issue. If we look back through history, we see endless examples of ‘beauty’ and the impact of being- or not-being considered beautiful. Today, the issue is perpetuated by social media and an unattainable homogeneity of the concept of beauty. We are taught that one size fits all, that we’re all striving for the same goal. Many become either obsessed with eating and fitness and achieving an extremely high level of daily maintenance; or get a low self-esteem that’s inhibitive of social confidence, self-belief and creativity. We become side-tracked with something that’s not top priority. Our outward appearance has far outgrown its purpose. Its position of hierarchy in our priorities as a society is overblown and untrustworthy.
Putting it clearly: how you look is the least interesting thing about you.
Who you are is made up of all the experiences you had as you learned all that you know about the world. Who you are is your unique taste in music, art, the sayings you use, your sense of humour and morality and skills in things you’ve learned to enjoy. Do you think you learned to prefer one writer from another because of your eye colour? Or did you gain your skills in singing from counting calories? All the things that make you ‘You’ have very little to do with how your hair grows or which area of your legs carries a greater proportion of your body fat. They have to do with your complex individual life experience. It’s remarkable and awesome that you are the only one who will have your life experience, your taste and skills. And for that simple reason alone: how you look is the least interesting thing about you.
So what about staying healthy and looking after your precious body? It’s a balance. Your body is a wonderful machine, the most complex and beautiful you will ever own. And it’s incredibly important that you treat it as such. Eating healthily, drinking plenty of water, exercising sensibly, stretching and sleeping. We know it so well. But it’s about balance. Here are my tips for keeping a healthy relationship with your body.
– Pay attention to something other than your body
It’s important to bring to focus all the things that are really important to you, especially when you start feeling negative about your body. It can cloud your creativity and productivity and stop you from being your true self. I recommend using an app like Balanced to help you track where you’re up to and what you should be focusing on.
– Care about what you eat, but don’t obsess over it
Eating is a human delight. We’re very lucky to have access to such a vast and spectacular array of fresh fruit and vegetables these days, as well as endless dried pulses and grains, canned beans and veggies and frozen goodies too. A well-thought out Vegan diet is scientifically proven as the one that will make you the healthiest, while also having drastic environmental benefits. I recommend loosely planning your meals to make sure you’re being mindful of the nutrients you need, then being creative with ingredients and searching the internet to find new inspiration. Set proper meal times and avoid snacking too much by having a set, substantial morning or afternoon snack break.
– Choose to be active and do it mindfully
Exercise in a balanced and fun way – mixing styles that challenge cardio, strength, flexibility and agility. It can come in many forms – walking or cycling to work, taking the stairs or doing a bedtime stretching routine. Sometimes you don’t want to do a ‘workout’ or set a schedule – that’s when you can slip in extra activity to your day. You can choose to be active, without obsessing over workouts and calorie burn. Apparently all we need is 30 minutes a day. Fitness Blender and Lesley Fightmaster have some great free videos you can use at home.
– Notice your beauty
This is a wonderful exercise that was inspired by a tip in Emily Nagoski’s brilliant book Come As You Are. Look in the mirror every morning, as close to naked as you can comfortably be. Notice three things that you think are positive about your body. Do it every day. Maybe you’ll hear your inner critic complaining about your body for a few weeks – that’s ok. Soon they will become quieter and quieter until you can see truthfully that you’re very beautiful and perfect. And then you can get on with the more important things in your day.
Let’s say it one more time together: how you look is the least interesting thing about you.