We Don't Come with Ala Carte Options

When most of us look at another person, we don’t assess each minute detail of their body, or even take note of each body part individually. Unless we’re obsessed with assessing those things in ourselves and are projecting. But more often than not, we see others as whole, physical human beings.

 Comments about my face, shoulders, ass, stomach, cellulite, and more all affect how I see myself in this photo. But it's really difficult to be in tune with a body when we're spending so much time berating it.

Comments about my face, shoulders, ass, stomach, cellulite, and more all affect how I see myself in this photo. But it's really difficult to be in tune with a body when we're spending so much time berating it.

Yet when we look at ourselves, we can judge each body part separately due to distinct definitions established by society. There’s a six-pack or flat stomach with a small waist, an ass that isn’t too small yet also doesn’t have any cellulite, arms that are “toned” but not too muscular, thick hair, flawless skin, not too short yet not too tall. The list goes on and on for women, even down our eyebrows. But who is actually born with all of these features combined? Uh, no one.

Ideal preferences for each of these will usually vary depending on our social environment, culture, and personal background, but the key item to note is that these are largely dictated by external influence. And they don’t take into account the fact that we’re whole beings who don’t come with ala carte options.

With all of these separate yet distinct definitions of what our bodies should be, it’s no wonder the quest for perfection never ends for many women. We “perfect” one body part and are then we’re onto the next. It’s an endless rabbit hole that results in complete discontentment. Not to mention everyone looking the same.

To start unraveling the incessant critique of our bodies, start with less time in front of the mirror.  Limit yourself to necessities (these will vary for each person, so be honest with yourself here), and you’ll likely notice yourself paying less attention to the minutiae of your body. After all, you can’t pick apart something you’re not keenly aware of. What good does standing in front of the mirror overanalyzing do anyways?  This may mean fewer selfies, which is also a great idea during this stage (and in general, IMO).

When learning to overcome my obsession, I limited my “mirror time” to makeup, doing my hair (which seldom happens these days), and doing a quick outfit check.  Any more time spent and my brain would start to pick my body apart.  After a few months of this practice, I was able to stand in front of the mirror and start to see my body for what it is: a body. And one that is ever-changing.

Being the human that I am, there are definitely still times when I stand in front of a mirror and notice these perceived imperfections. Which is natural and common, and we would be kidding ourselves if we thought that wouldn’t happen.  And I believe it can do more damage to assume we won't have those thoughts again.  In response, I do my best to catch myself in the moment, call myself out for this critical behavior (we would NEVER do this to anyone but ourselves), show myself compassion, and walk away.

I haven’t found self-love mantras to be helpful in these situations. Going from hating a body part to loving it is a bit of a stretch, though not entirely out of the question. But I can acknowledge these parts of my body, bring awareness to my petty inner critic (my ego), respond to myself with some understanding (criticizing myself for being critical doesn't solve anything), and choose to move on and to direct my energy and attention to more important matters.

The critical dissection of our bodies is a sneaky little distraction of what’s really calling for our attention. Give yourself fewer opportunities to over-analyze your body and show yourself the same courtesy you bestow upon others: the ability to be seen as whole.