Learn to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
The first time I met Donna Zazulak, publisher of WELLNESS, we spoke about the unusual name of my company, Holistic Body Love. To me, the concept of holistic body love means being in a healthy relationship with yourself in four important realms of life: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Let’s define these four areas:
Mental: This is our self-talk; what we say to ourselves about ourselves. Ideally, we want to engage in positive self-talk significantly more than negative self-talk.
Emotional: This is the way we feel about ourselves, and the ability to regulate our own emotions positively. The way we think about ourselves leads to how we feel about ourselves.
Physical: This involves our physical body, not in appearance, but rather, the health condition of our body (e.g., a strong immune system; organs that function well; a body that is well-nourished with nutrients, and has abundant energy to thrive).
Spiritual: This element can have multiple meanings. For some, it is an ability to tune into intuitive wisdom. For others, it may be a connection with a Higher Power. Essentially, it is the ability to see the bigger picture and connect with sacred aspects of life, so that life has fulfillment through deeper meaning and purpose.
“You can change the story of your life.”
Having balance in these four dimensions can help us to feel more present, grounded and empowered in who we are–as an individual, and in the various roles we take on.
Holistic body love means being kind to yourself, treating yourself with love and respect, and having healthy and flexible boundaries so you exclude things that do not serve you (Drama anyone? No thanks!). The concept also encompasses feeling gratitude for all that you have in your life, and feeling enough abundance with what you have now (rather than feeling deprived or believing that “the grass is always greener on the other side”). These are just some examples, and there are many more. Ultimately, it’s about being your own best friend.
I did not always have an amazing relationship with me. In fact, I was my own worst enemy and persecuted myself all the time because I was not “fit-looking” enough; did not have six-pack abs; my hips weren’t small enough; my arms were not defined enough; and because that little piece of flesh on my upper back behind my armpit was too fleshy and soft! I restricted myself from eating certain kinds of foods because I thought those foods would exacerbate my “problem areas.” So, I stayed away from sugar, opting instead for chemically-enhanced sweeteners (at least they are calorie free) and fat-free food products. This made me feel good, and feel (falsely) safe because I was eating perfectly. I would bring my food to social gatherings because I was anxious about eating anything outside of my diet. I would try on clothes for hours, because nothing fit right or gave me the look I wanted. I became so stressed out packing for vacation (Okay, I admit I still do but for different reasons now!) because I couldn’t decide what to wear–since I couldn’t predict how my body would look each day that I would be away from home. And, when I was alone, I binged. I ate, and ate, and ate all the foods I previously deprived myself of–peanut butter, cookies, bread and anything high in sugar and carbs. I would feel guilt and shame for binging, so I “erased” those feelings by over-exercising. It became a silent, vicious cycle.
This kind of relationship with myself went on for years. Even when I did achieve my then “ideal body” by competing in a bodybuilding competition, it didn’t bring me the happiness I was seeking for, because nothing inside me changed—mentally, emotionally or spiritually. My “capsule” only changed on the outside.
Then, I made a choice. I found the courage to go on a self-healing journey: through therapy; through my own professional training in a mindfulness-based method called Hakomi (in which I’m certified now); and through exploring Eastern practices such as yoga, acupuncture and naturopathy. I developed new practices to be kinder to myself—slowing down; being more present; learning how to shift out of limiting core beliefs and patterns; and living in a new way–to think, feel, and behave in my relationship with my new best friend, me!
Now, I try to serve me, so that I can serve the world from a deeper, loving, and authentic place. When I show love to me, the world benefits. I can give back ten-fold, because I’m happy right here in my mind, heart and body. I have stopped abandoning myself, and I have returned home to a peaceful and happy individual.
The difficulties I experienced in my relationship with myself were expressed in the areas of food and body. However, for others, these struggles may manifest in other areas, such as being in relationships that are unhealthy, or abusive. These associations may be with partners, business partners, family members or friends. These struggles with self could relate to feeling deprived; chronically stressed; tired; or anxious. It may mean feeling low self-worth, or having judgmental thoughts about others. Oftentimes, these issues are unconsciously deep-rooted.
You can change the story of your life by first being open to exploring your relationship with you. Start by reading an appealing self-help book, or talk to a therapist who can guide you. Invite curiosity, courage and hope into life!