Love Your Body Like Marilyn Monroe: 5 body rituals to make you feel great

When I thought about writing this blog I wondered how I could write about the issues of body image and self-esteem facing our society and do it justice. How could I even start to communicate what I wanted to say about this?

The truth is, I struggle to look in the mirror and love my body every single day. I’d be lying to you if I said I showered myself with compliments on a regular basis.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty good at the whole self-love thing, and I’m a passionate advocate of women loving their bodies as they are. I have a healthy level of narcissism when it comes to my own self-esteem, I’m 98% there. … AND yet I have to acknowledge it’s challenging to stand in front of that mirror loving every inch of myself unconditionally.

Why is it challenging? 

I know I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to countless women (and men too) over the years who’ve shared their experiences with me. One women’s magazine surveyed over 300 women of different shapes and sizes and found on average women have 13 negative body thoughts per day, more concerning is that a number of women reported having between 35-100 hateful thoughts about their bodies each day. 6
Shocking right?

What is body image?

The thing is, body image is a subjective concept. It’s based on our own self observations and the reactions that others have (or that we perceive others to have) about our physical appearance. When we have a positive body image or when we feel our image is in line with our “ideal” concept of what our body should be, we feel satisfaction.


On the other hand a negative body image comes from feeling dis-satisfied with how our body looks or when we feel we don’t measure up to the “ideal”.  Women who experience body dissatisfaction have been shown to have a negative mood; they may experience depression and have lower levels of self-esteem. 


When we feel dissatisfied with our body image it’s often a precursor of a negative self-worth AKA lack of body love. This feeling has the ability to develop into body shame, disordered eating and more seriously an eating disorder. 1-3

So how did it get like this?

In short it started with images and illustrations from the 1930’s that depicted women with curves. The 40’s & 50’s went on to emphasise the bust and booty and Mattel created the Barbie doll with almost unachievable and disproportionate body parts. All the while the media body bias started to emerge and in 1966 we had the world’s first supermodel Twiggy. She was a sharp contrast to Marilyn Monroe, and over time we learnt that thin was the new ideal body image.

And whilst women come in all shapes and sizes the overarching truth is, often only one type of body is portrayed as being “ideal”.

Today how we form an opinion of an ideal body image happens at an early age. Through a variety of channels including television, magazines, the internet & movies, the media influences and affects the development of what women think the ideal body image should be. By the age of 17 women have experienced an overwhelming 250,000 beauty and body orientated advertisement and continue to be exposed to an average of between 400-600 beauty idealisms per day. 


It’s no wonder it can be challenging to love the body we were given when we feel like we don’t measure up to the myriad of retouched beauty ideals we're exposed to.

What do we do about it?

I’ve worked with women across a broad spectrum, women who have told me they don’t feel comfortable in their bodies to women experiencing or recovering from eating disorders. What impacts me the most is when I hear women telling me what they don’t like about themselves?
What about you, could you tell me what’s perfect about your body?
Most people feel challenged just from this question…I bet if I asked you to name one thing you wish you could change about your body you could do so easily? 

I wish I could be the voice of rebellion (I’d channel Marilyn) for every time a woman looked in the mirror and had a negative thought about their body. I would speak from that higher place of knowing, I’d say back:

‘You’re beautiful just as you are…. Can you feel what I said? {PAUSE } Really, can you breathe it in??

Place your hands on the part of your body that needs to hear this. BREATHE IT IN, HOLD ONTO IT, TRY AND ACCEPT IT.

I can tell you this because I’ve seen what happens to women who stop loving their bodies. I know the pain of believing you’re not good enough and I’ve felt the ache of loneliness that comes from not having a community of others to celebrate and embrace your body just as it is.

I’ve held the sadness of when a woman becomes disconnected from her body. I know the place where instead of nurturing, caring and embracing our bodies we turn aside, ignore and reject the sacredness of our own home, the beautiful temple that is our body. I’ve listened as women have struggled with themselves and punished themselves for not being more. I’ve experienced the end results of disordered eating

So let me tell you … You’re beautiful. Please don’t say otherwise.’

I challenge you to start a practice of loving your body.

This post isn’t about telling you to accept where you are if you genuinely know you’re not living life to your happiest and healthiest. It’s not telling you it’s wrong to be thin…It is about bringing in a sense of reality and using our voice to shift the current culture. Every single body is beautiful. Our heritage and genetics determine a lot of our body structure and type and while working towards the best version of you is admirable, let’s stop along the way to remind ourselves, where we are, in each moment. Let’s drop the whole idea of a perfect body and Practice appreciating the body we have.

 

Here are my 5 best body loving rituals to get you started

It’s all in the neuroscience. Neuroscience shows us that what we focus on shapes us. Negative thoughts about your body become reinforced over time and the neural pathways that keep this practice in place get stronger, eventually your thoughts become an automatic habit. The good news is that neural pathways can also be rewired. For every negative thought say something you DO like about your body.

If that feels like too much start with something you have done for your body that makes it feel good. Eventually you’ll start focusing more on the things you love about your body and less on the things you don’t.


Exercise  Do it for the endorphin's. Exercise makes us feel good. It’s not about losing weight, it’s about looking after our bodies and challenging them. There is a huge amount of research that shows us exercise is one of the best pick me ups we can get and also makes us feel good about our current body shape.


Practice Gratitude Our bodies are amazing machines. They get us through so much; they hold us up – literally! They take us through the best and worst times of our lives and do it all without complaint. As part of my gratitude practice I make a special note to tell my body how grateful I am for being able to walk, go to yoga and do what I can do (even if I feel like I should be more flexible/fitter/better). I have so much gratitude to be able to do the things others may not be able to do.


Ask someone What do you like about me? Self-esteem is a physical and mental thing. I love getting my clients to speak to their friends and family and ask them what they truly and really love about them. The answers are often surprising. You can do this exercise with your family or a close girlfriend (Choose someone supportive). Ask them, what is it you like about me and what do you think my best physical feature is? Don’t forget to reciprocate & share the love. Not only does this create some warm fuzzies, it deepens your relationships and connections.


Do something good for your body. What’s something great you can do for your body? Whether it’s a massage, a facial or simply taking the time to get to that physio treatment you’ve been neglecting. Find ways to regularly do something your body will enjoy. As mentioned earlier we forget how much our bodies do for us, so let’s ensure we take care of them.

hope you have enjoyed this post and remember that if you feel as though negative body image is affecting you, reach out and speak to someone in more depth about it.

HI, I’m Natajsa Wagner. I’m a Clinical Psychotherapist in private practice in Brisbane. I’m on a mission to spread the word that THERAPY IS THE NEW BLACK. Because our mental health is just as crucial to your well being as your physical health. I work with my clients on different aspects of their life that they feel stuck or challenged in. I hold the space for women to connect back into themselves, to the innate wisdom within to illuminate the unconscious “stuff” that needs to be processed in order to heal & transform their lives so they can live with genuine happiness, authenticity, creativity & spontaneity.  

Feel free to get in touch or leave any comments.

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