A little humour is always needed when it comes to this topic… cos quite frankly, there are times when we all take ourselves way too seriously for our own good!!
Looking good and feeling good is something we all strive for in our health and wellbeing… if we’re going to work hard at it, we want results and we want to enjoy them. We want the aesthetic to show the world how hard we’ve worked. But our perception is so often warped.
Obviously, our ‘true’ health and mental health are more important, but we’re only human and we judge ourselves by what we see in the mirror, how we look in photos and worse – how we stack up against others.
This can be so destructive if we’re not careful and cause us a great deal of damage – obsession is a dangerous beast and comparison to others is the mother of all evils.
I’m going to be really honest here. When I found out I needed brain surgery – two of my biggest concerns were around my physical appearance.
The first came around losing my hair and the huge scar on my head – how would I feel in public?
The second was a fear around not being able to exercise and train as normal and losing my muscle tone – would I lose my confidence and how would I feel about my changed body?
These consumed a lot of my headspace leading up to the operation. As I’ve mentioned before – one of the reasons for this (I believe), is that the mind finds it insurmountable to focus on the most serious outcomes – they’re just too big, so we find less overwhelming issues to focus on.
The irony is, that in those 20 minutes outside the operating theatre, waiting to go in for the surgery, I couldn’t have cared less about either!! The realisation that surviving was the only thing that mattered now was all encompassing. My frame of reference for ‘health and wellbeing’ was completely different – it had now become basic, honest, real and simple.
That memory really helped me in my recovery. I won’t lie and pretend I was unaffected by my appearance in the mirror – I was. There were days I looked and cried. There were days I felt my confidence was so low, that I contemplated staying at home. But what that new frame of reference had taught me was self-worth and pride. I acknowledged my fears – but then I had a serious bloody word to them and threw them out the window! I remembered what health really meant to me now and went back to my visualisation – this was only a moment in time and I looked forward. This is one time when ‘being present’ is not what you need – and you do need to focus on seeing yourself in the future. Through those tears, I remembered to feel incredibly proud of what my body had achieved, what it had endured and how brilliantly it had fought for me. I gave my body the credit it was due. I’d won a gold medal in my eyes and I needed to not let the mirror play games with me.
I think we can use this in our daily life around our ‘physical’ appearance and start appreciating our bodies for what they bring us.
Our bodies are awesome – when they are healthy, they can do such amazing things and allow us so much scope for challenge. We need to stop seeing and judging them for just how they look aesthetically. We should make the most of the one we have, nurture it the way we want to and then reward it with some serious kudos!
We need to not judge others either – this is a big one.
I find it incredible how complete strangers find it acceptable to comment on mine or anyone else’s body or physical appearance.
I’ve had the extremes. I’ve had complete strangers in the workplace comment on my ‘weird fashion choices’ for wearing head scarves every day after my surgery. Of course, they had no idea what I’d just been through but felt it was OK to comment – astounding really and very hurtful.
On the other extreme – I’ve had complete strangers comment on how muscular my arms are and how ‘scary’ this looks. Extraordinary that a complete stranger feels justified in commenting on how my body looks. That can make me look in the mirror and really question myself. But then I think back to this body of mine and what it’s done for me – its been awesome. It deserves to be celebrated not critiqued.
It’s all good tho – I then flex my supposedly ‘scary’ biceps and politely tell them to bugger off or suffer the consequences!!!! 😂👊🏼 💪”Strongest small person in the world”, as my daughter describes me!!
To achieve our health and wellbeing goals, we need to respect our body and channel our mind the right way.
If we are taking on a new challenge and new goals , then appreciate the changes your body will make, but go easy on the expectation. I’ve found that once results start to happen, we can become even more critical than we were before. We just push higher and higher- at that can come at a mental health cost. Some of this drive and determination is good for us – but it’s a fine line to where it becomes harmful and sometimes counterproductive. Acknowledge successes along the way – we all need reassurance and affirmation frequently …. having a long-term ‘end goal’ and not allowing ourselves credit along the way makes us very unhappy. It makes us lose focus rather than hold onto it. The ‘not ever enough’ mentality is one I really object to.
Social media and the ‘before and after’ transformation photos we see can be fantastic as motivation some days – and then plain disastrous the next. They are not always what they seem (the un-photoshopped ‘before’ and the heavily photoshopped ‘after’ ) but we instantly compare our own journey to theirs, as look at the time it took them and feel miserable because we haven’t seen the same results so quickly.
And then we compare a picture on social media with what we see in front of us – in our bedroom mirror. This really is destructive. We stand there and judge every square inch with the kind of attention to detail reserved for nuclear physics !! (ps. don’t really know what nuclear physics is – but that sounded intense!!)
I guarantee, if you give your body some credit for the work your putting into making it fit, healthy and strong – then what you see when you look in the mirror will be a much more positive picture. When you walk, run, cycle, jump, lift weights, swim, do yoga, pilates, or dance … you’ll have a confidence about you that will drive you forward and put a huge spring in your step and a massive smile on your face.
Be seriously proud – and tell the mirror so!!!