So many of us have internalized the voices that say that bodies should look a certain way–any anything that’s beyond that certain way, whether it’s in size, ability, skin tone, hair type, or other characteristic–is bad.
That means when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we can immediately list our flaws. I know you know what I mean. You see your dark under-eye circles, the places where you feel your body’s contours aren’t what they should be, the part of your hair that’s not doing what you want it to. I mean, you can size yourself up and cut yourself down in about 30 seconds flat, am I right?
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The thing is, we apply that same judgmental eye to others
Whether you ever give voice to it or not. You see someone and size up their appearance. Of course you do, you can admit it!!!!!
Our collective culture has always prized certain body types and sizes over others. We reinforce it in the paintings, photos, television shows, movies and social media posts that we watch. They say representation matters, because when you see those same images of the same types of physical appearances over and over and over again you internalize that look as the best way to look. Meaning, you become a member of the body police–and you start looking for all the ways you and the other people you see don’t fit those idealized images.
You’re acting like an officer of the body police when you pick out all your flaws in 30 seconds, and when you do it to others, too. We can blame the media all we want, but Anna Wintour is not standing next to you telling you how your outfit is shlubby–you are doing it all on your own.
So just a vital way to promote body acceptance is to turn in your body police badge
And stop giving energy to picking out flaws on yourself and in other people.
It’s not easy to stop doing something you’ve been doing unconsciously for a long time. The first step is just to notice how often you do it.
Here i go, policing my appearance again.
And here comes my body police again, enter stage right!
So, I’m not even saying to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you love yourself, or really to tell yourself anything different. The first step in making any change is always awareness. Just try to witness yourself saying those critical things to yourself. Noticing how much you do it and how mean those things can be can really motivate you to find a new way of talking to yourself if you don’t rush through that step.
Of course, if you have an affirmation that works for you, go for it
I’ll tell myself, I’m still loveable! Or, I still matter! You know, I’m not giving energy to those negative thoughts by trying to push them down or cancelling them out. I’m saying, those things might be accurate, but they don’t change my inherent nature or worth.
Where I think you have more control is in what you say to other people, and I’m going to give you a guideline for taking off your body police badge when it comes to others, right after this break. Stay right here.
I’ve got a challenge for you and me and all people who give a shit about being a decent human. And that is:
We’ve got to stop commenting on other people’s bodies. Even when it seems like we’re paying a compliment.
My husband and I went to an outdoor music festival in Providence last week and we ran into someone we hadn’t seen in a while, and she told my husband, wow you’re looking really trim!
Listen I am not shaming this person she was paying a compliment. BUT it still reinforces this idea that people look better when they’re thin. And it kinda implies that last time they had seen each other he didn’t look so trim, you know? I get similar kinds of comments when I straight my curly hair. Someone always says, WOW it looks so GOOD you should do this more often! Which, again, they’re paying a compliment but they’re also enforcing this idea that anything outside of the straight haired thin ideal is not as good as it should be. Even these compliments can be hurtful.
Someone else’s body is just not our business.
If they ask, what do you think of my hair, by all means, say something truthful and kind! But otherwise, stick to making small talk about something either that person chose–like their necklace or hat–or something that’s universal to everyone, like the weather, or something that you both share, like a happening in your neighborhood. Don’t go vocalizing the proclamations of your internalized body police.
It may seem like no big deal. It may even seem like a nice thing to do! It’s just, people’s bodies or people’s bodies. They are personal. They are perfect as they are. And even benign little comments like, you’re looking so trim! Much less more pointed things like, wow, you look like you’ve been eating well, are just sneaky ways for the body police to make their presence known.
Stick to comments like, its’ so great to see you! Or, I’m so happy to see you! Or, what a pretty necklace where did you get it? Or, I love your style. Mm kay? And then, if you train yourself to stop commenting on other people’s appearances, you can also wean yourself off making them to yourself about yourself. At the very least, you can put down your inner body police’s megaphone.