by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
It’s almost summer. You may not have reached all your pre-season goals. And your swimsuit still may be a little too tight. Despite it all, you can be your most amazing self …
This time of year seems to trigger a sense of urgency. We strive to accomplish fitness goals prior to beach and pool days. We toil at work to have that one vacation we’ve been anticipating all year. Schedules fluctuate. Soon, kids will be free from school, appearing everywhere from sidewalks to frozen yogurt stands, and maybe in your house.
Repeat the mantra: You have enough. You do enough. You are enough.
It’s easy to succumb to feelings of inadequacy in these circumstances. We may never be prepared to take off a week from work, don a bikini, and splash in the water with children (our own or others). Rather than pinch inches in frustration as we enter what is supposed to be a casual time of year, redirect your expectations. Accept yourself, just as you are now. All else will be good.
Perhaps your fitness goals were a little too high. You didn’t lose those last 10 pounds. Your shorts came out of storage two sizes too small. Or, it could be the same negative self-talk you’ve been having for years: My hair is too thin/thick. My nose is too small/big. My body is too thin/heavy. Flaws are exaggerated and true beauty is camouflaged by them.
Call it enlightenment. Call it wisdom, maturity, or realizing one’s own mortality. There must come a time when we recognize it is not all about standard good-looks. Search through photos of everyday people, living ordinary lives. They are not supermodels. Yet, the camera manages to capture beauty. The smile’s genuineness overrides a crooked tooth. A twinkle in the eyes distracts from the circles underneath. Laugh lines blur wrinkles. Windblown hair overshadows the grays. Beautiful people, caught in the act of living.
See yourself as the amazing person you are. Acknowledge your body for all its does to transport you through this life. It is a structure largely based on who we are and how we treat it. Respect it, flaws and best features. You have both. Be nourished by that which you find positive about yourself. Give back to the body that continuously functions for you, even during setbacks. A heartbeat, however faint, is a lifeline. Focus on good aspects of your physical and emotional being. Perhaps you have toned arms or a mega-watt smile. Maybe you are generous and kind.
Self-content is defined as being satisfied with oneself; complacent. Embrace the former; disregard the latter. Instead, accept yourself as you are in this moment. But! Don’t get complacent. Continue to strive toward a better body, with a more loving soul, a stronger existence. These goals should not interfere with your self-image today. Rather, contentment should accelerate the journey toward goals as you recognize your worthiness to become your best.
The majority of Americans, especially women, are unhappy with their reflection in the mirror. Counteract this phenomenon by simply accepting yourself. Disengage from preconceived ideas and criticisms. Start now to befriend your image. An interesting theory is proven repeatedly. One person can be stunningly attractive and still appear distasteful. Another person with average features may radiate with beauty. Many factors beyond physical traits affect appearance: everything from self-confidence to personality to perception (and the occasional bad hair day). Accept yourself and watch your people-ratings soar.
When we de-emphasize physical perfection and sought-after body shapes, we can focus on the true power that resides in each of our bodies. It does not rely on a certain size or look. Rather, it generates from all that encompasses our being. The body’s unique ability to execute a task according to our own style, as per all that lives within us.
We are more than bones, muscles, organs, and vessels. To think otherwise equates humans to machines, cranking out according to expectations. Take in the whole person you are this moment and embrace it. Honor it during your workout, when doing chores, while at work, and when sleeping. More important, honor it when you miss a workout, have a nagging cold or sports injury, or when you’re too tired to laugh or too busy to get your hair styled.
Be the Person You Want to Be
It all sounds very simple. Self-love, be yourself, love life. However, self-love can be a real challenge. Our self-image is formed from birth based on a variety of factors, from how we were raised to where we find ourselves during our days. We cultivate thoughts and approach life accordingly.
Experts indicate the catalyst to improving self-image is to be present. Only after being truly aware inside this structure we inhabit can we learn self-acceptance. Through this process, we turn looking and criticizing into experiencing. We can get in touch with how we react to life and counter negatives through awareness. You cannot form a solution without knowing the problem. You cannot improve yourself without discovering who is underneath. Observation can provide powerful motivation to change.
Meditative thought is an ideal start on the journey to self-improvement. Despite typical associations, one doesn’t need to sit properly on a bare floor, quietly surrounded by candles and burning incense, to practice the art of visualization. Meditation can, and should, be done throughout your hectic day. It is the perfect response to the negative banter those with low self-esteem often struggle– or those who realize their dream body won’t be ready for July (and maybe not even August).
Use meditation as a workout tool. While strengthening your body through fitness, improve your self-confidence by acknowledging exactly what you’re accomplishing. Concentrate on helping your body grow, strengthen, and heal. Find fulfillment in this. Recognize you may not be a superstar or even the knock-out in the cubicle next-door. That is okay.
As you progress through your workout, give self-acceptance an opportunity to emerge. Focus on your positives as they are in the moment. For one minute, let go of the long-term goals. (Shh– don’t tell the personal trainers.) Instead, make the goal to surface from your workout more complete and self-tolerant.
Although yoga and Pilates are known for mind-body focus, any exercise can become a method to get in touch with yourself. By learning how we operate and respond to the world, we learn how to adjust. We learn how to be realistic in expectations of self and others. Those with over-zealous expectations set themselves up for disappointment. Constantly picking oneself up from letdowns is disheartening and beats away at self-image. For today, for this moment, be real. See where it leads.
This objective approach is accurate. It reveals our wants, and the strengths and weaknesses that will affect achievement. Proceed with this enlightenment.
Studies prove people who score high on measures of authenticity feel more secure and have a stronger sense of self-worth. Perhaps you haven’t met all your pre-summer goals because of a simple matter of prioritizing. Realize our time consists of constant decision-making. You reached this particular moment, in this state, by choice. In other words: Could it be you haven’t accomplished those goals yet because they were not authentic? You may not have sun-kissed hair highlights or lifeguard biceps because you put efforts elsewhere in your life. Hold self-scoffing until you determine the cause for falling-short. Assess.
Be aware of your values, and prioritize accordingly. This way, when lamenting over the lingering 10 pounds or the pile of work, you can accept responsibility for your actions. You aren’t a victim of fate, but a player making plays and scoring as per actions. New phrases: ” I didn’t lose the weight I hoped, but I made it pretty far. And those ice cream sundaes with the kids were worth it.” “I never got a manicure like that woman typing away at the keyboard. My hands look tired, but their work has been good.” Not all beautiful outcomes are reflected on the bathroom scale or mirror. You are enough.
Maybe you are ready for summer. Are you gauging preparedness by your own desires and values? Do you honestly own your decisions? Or, were they the result of what others wanted or decided was best? It is easy to gravitate toward that which society, and our own loved ones, find favorable. Come to terms with who you are and what makes you happy. Then, go for your goals. If you take a little extra time to accomplish them, accept it. Own it. The decision to be sidetracked from your wants was yours, not the result of never knowing them in the first place. Even better, it was not the result of knowing your desires and ignoring them.
Historic English writer Samuel Johnson puts it best, “Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.” Whether through meditative thought in the silence of your heart or meditative action on the Exercise Floor, pause to understand your core values. Discover what makes you happy. Aspire to achieve it. And really aspire to love yourself, regardless. We are all works in progress.
How to Be Your Truest Self and Love Your Life,” by Marjorie Ingall at www.self.com.
Self-acceptance (introductory photo): http://www.flickr.com/photos/29647084@N06/4253862060/
Radiate beauty: http://www.flickr.com/photos/supersonicphotos/5314150750/
I am beautiful: http://www.flickr.com/photos/touchinglight/5580191592/
Working hands: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16119903@N07/4969297411/