I've developed a lot of "coping strategies" over the past few years in an attempt to handle my anxiety about the way I look. Some things worked, and other things didn't. Some things stuck, such as mindfulness, mediation, exercise, and acknowledging my negative thoughts as normal and allowing them to pass without judgment. Other things get the boot really quickly, such as negative self-talk, or destructive behaviour. I'm also not the kind of person who wants Post-It notes stuck all over the house with positive affirmations, although I think it's a great idea (how can you hate yourself when you're surrounded by positive words about yourself?).
Despite the fact that various coping strategies together makes for the best approach, I knew that if I wanted to truly break the cycle of hate I had for my body, I had to try something different, something that would work for ME. Like my very own personalized mental health plan.
I am a lover of knowledge - if I could sit in a library all day and just learn new things, that's exactly where you'd find me. I love to learn about almost anything, but I find particular joy in learning about things I can relate to. Science is perhaps my favourite category of interest, because it is such a diverse category that seeps into literally every aspect of our lives (although we sometimes don't realize it). I figured that if I could translate my love of knowledge and science into a love for myself, I would be a sure winner. So how could I do this - how could I make myself love myself through knowledge?
Simply by coming to know myself. One of the most inspirational people of all time once said, "The way to find out about our place in the universe is by examining the universe and by examining ourselves - without preconceptions, with as unbiased a mind as we can muster" - Carl Sagan.
First of all, learning anything is a beautiful experience, because it is a core need for our psychological well-being. It can help us build self-confidence, and self-efficacy. As humans, we have a natural desire to learn, to grow - psychologists call this "mastery". When we learn something new, it also sparks our creativity, which can help us find and make real-life connections that are valuable. Evidence suggests that adult learning seems to have its most positive impact on self-esteem and self-efficacy when the learning meets the needs of the learner, and when the learner is at a stage in their life when they are ready and receptive to benefit from it.
When I am learning something new, something that I can relate to, something I find utterly entrancing and exciting, I get into this "zone". I become so absorbed in what I am learning, I step outside of myself completely because I am so intensely focused on absorbing this fascinating information. Afterward, I feel such a deep sense of satisfaction from having learned something new - and the "high" can last days, weeks, months or years.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that I've learned, at least for myself, that I cannot hate my body when I am so busy appreciating it just for being IT; when I revere it, when I am in awe of its power, strength and sheer evolutionary beauty, I truly cannot bring myself to utter any thought or word that would spit in the face of such a beautiful process. I cannot get angry for looking a certain way, when I realize how very little it matters in the grand scheme of things.
How can I worry about the number on the scale, when I know that I am just one person on a planet of billions of people, floating in a galaxy of some 100 billion other planets?
How can I put so much focus on the way my hair looks and the way my hips are, if I might only have 29,000 days to live?
How can I feel insignificant and alone, when I know I am intricately connected to every other thing in the universe, atomically?
The more I learn about the human body; the earth; the galaxy; the atom; the universe; evolution; psychology; anatomy - the more I appreciate my life; the earth; other beings; my body; myself. I cannot separate my knowledge from my conscious thinking, and I know that if I overflow my head with knowledge that will make me challenge these negative thoughts about myself, that I will succeed.
Maybe this way of thinking isn't for you. Maybe you don't have a thirst for knowledge, a love and appreciation of knowledge, like I do. Maybe you're not that interested in self-love. Or maybe you're just doubting that this will work. Maybe it won't. But maybe it will. How will you know unless you truly try?
Go to a used book store. Pick up a book on biology or anatomy. Pick up a book on the cosmos or evolution. Watch Cosmos (the original with Carl Sagan, and the new one with Neil DeGrasse Tyson). Whatever tickles your fancy - and then apply what you've learned to your life, because I guarantee you, it's applicable.
In case you feel lost, or need some guidance, I want to share a few amazing facts that have helped me put my life into perspective, and have helped quell my anxious thoughts about my worth as a person, my value as a body, and my strength as a mind:
We’ve found over a thousand planets outside our solar system just in the last 20 years. In the Milky Way alone there are estimated to be 500 million potential habitable planets. If these numbers are applied to all the galaxies in the universe there could be a staggering variety of planets capable of supporting life. Of course, we have no evidence life exists elsewhere, but this doesn't mean there isn't. Doesn't the vastness of the universe leave you in sheer awe?
Human bones are, ounce for ounce,stronger than steel. This doesn’t mean your bones can’t break of course, as they are much less dense than steel. Human bone is as strong as granite, relative to supporting resistance. A matchbox-size chunk of bone can support 18,000 lbs? Compared to concrete, human bone is four times greater in support strength. You were made to be strong, to endure immense pressure and weight!
Your body produces enough heat in only thirty minutes to boil a half-gallon of water. Your body is the epitome of a study on the laws of thermodynamics. Isn't that remarkable?
Your heartbeat changes andmimics the music you listen to. Similarly, the music you listen to can change your perception of the world around you - choose music that reflects the way you want to feel sometimes, too, not just the way you feel.
The diameter of the observable universe is estimated to be 93 billion light years. But the size of the entire universe is thought to be so gigantic that scientists are unable to put a number on it. Humans can't even wrap their heads around such a large figure!
Every day, your heart creates enoughenergy to drive a truck for 20 miles. Think of all the power behind that pumping heart, working hard to keep you alive.
In a lifetime, your brain's long-term memory can hold as many as1 quadrillion (1 million billion!) separate bits of information. Think of all the amazing information and memories you can store with this remarkable tool!
Women burn fat more slowly than men, by a rate of about 50 calories a day. Women, because of their reproductive role, generally require a higher basic body fat proportion than men, and as a result their bodies don’t get rid of excess fat at the same rate as men. Don't be hard on yourself if you've got a little extra fat - you were made that way!
We are all made of stardust. Almost every element found on Earth was created in the burning core of a star; all the stuff that makes up life on Earth, therefore our bodies are made from stardust. In the words of Carl Sagan, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” This one always makes me feel so connected to everything, and feeling connected is powerful.
Your brain works continuously and never rests, even when you're asleep. Aside from producing REM dreams, your brain works overtime to replenish its ability to function normally during your daytime waking hours. This is why it's so important to exercise proper self-care habits, including regular, quality sleep!
Venus is home to one of the most inhospitable environments imaginable, with constant electronic storms, high CO2 readings, and it’s shrouded by clouds of sulfuric acid. I think this is just darn neat, and we should be thankful we aren't on Venus!
There are more than 600 individual skeletal muscles; if all 600+ muscles contracted and pulled in the same direction, you could lift over twenty tons of resistance. Like, how badass do you feel right now, knowing you have all of that potential strength inside of you?!?
The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades. While you certainly shouldn’t test the fortitude of your stomach by eating a razor blade or any other inedible object for that matter, the acids that digest the food you eat are pretty freakin' awesome. What a remarkable function.
Scientists have counted over 500 different liver functions. The liver is one of the body’s hardest working, largest and busiest organs. The liver is the only visceral organ that possesses the remarkable capacity to regenerate. The liver can regenerate after either surgical removal or after chemical injury. It is known that as little as 25% of the original liver mass can regenerate back to its full size. YOUR LIVER BASICALLY HAS SUPERPOWERS, YOU ARE MAGNIFICENT!
You could remove a large part of your internal organs and still survive. The human body may appear fragile but it can endureso much that it is possible to survive even with the removal of the stomach, the spleen, 75% of the liver, 80% of the intestines, one kidney, one lung, and virtually every organ from the pelvic and groin area. Obviously your quality of life wouldn't be too great, but just think of how resilient and amazing your vessel truly is to endure such things and still persist.
I think that the exciting thing about this, is that the possibilities for ways this could help you are almost endless - whether you decide that nutrition is something you want to learn more about, or if you decide that you prefer to keep a more general scope about life itself, and everything in between. Foster your inherent curiosity, and turn your "weakness" into strength.
Truly revel in the designoid human body, and everything that surrounds it. Whether for a moment, or for a lifetime, you'll have changed how you view yourself.
Guest Blog By:
I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!