There’s this thing that’s been happening with my complexion lately – and it’s aggravating as hell.
Almost daily, the skin across my cheeks gets red and splotchy, and my entire face feels like it’s been set on fire.
Suddenly, my once “normal” skin is sensitive, flushed, and angry.
And no matter what products I use (or don’t), what triggers I avoid, and what alternative solutions I experiment with – the redness remains.
In my fervent, months-long internet research, I discovered that rosacea is incurable. While at times, you can treat the symptoms, this inflammatory skin condition I’m dealing with is apparently chronic.
Which isn’t great news for someone who’s a self-proclaimed disaster at applying makeup (what’s contouring?) and a novice at skincare.
OK – let’s be real – rosacea isn’t great news for anyone living in our beauty-obsessed, “flaw” shaming, perfection-peddling society. In fact, 76% of people with the condition report lowered self-esteem and depleted confidence due to symptom flares.
Which is why I’m being intentional about doing the work to support my mental health and practice unconditional acceptance for the (fiery) skin I’m in. And to do that, I’ve been using the very same body image tools I share with clients.
Because whether we’re talking flushed faces, full figures, or fat folds, feeling good about ourselves has more to do with our minds than our mirrors.
Appearance is not the problem.
What’s problematic are the oppressive cultural standards we’re inundated with and the beliefs and assumptions we project on ourselves because of them.
What’s problematic are unrealistic (and often unreachable) social expectations of beauty and the feelings of shame and self-rejection they leave in their wake.
Accordingly, appearance is also not the solution to the problem.
Clear skin, visible abs, and weight loss aren’t the answers to improving body image and making peace with ourselves.
We can’t control, cover up, or conform our way into confidence.
And we can’t pummel ourselves into perfection.
Fighting for acceptance by over-extending our bodies, wallets, schedules, and energy doesn’t fix a damn thing. It only makes things worse.
Because nothing triggers metabolic dysregulation, reactionary eating, weight rebounding, fatigue, and rosacea flares quite like stress.
And nothing supports the very industries and ideals that benefit from our insecurities more than our patronage and participation.
Body Acceptance is a Practice
Thankfully, we don’t have to fight for acceptance, and we certainly don’t have to pay for it.
Body acceptance, approving of your body regardless of perceived inadequacy and imperfection, is an inside job.
It can’t be bought or earned.
It can only be practiced.
While it’s not simply a matter of snapping your fingers and changing your body perceptions, you can make small, daily decisions to challenge negative thoughts and experiment with body neutral, body supportive mindsets and behaviors instead.
So, today I’m sharing a few of my favorite acceptance-activating tips, the ones I use both personally and professionally to silence shame and improve body (or face) image.
Give them a read and then give them a try:
1. Curate a visual world that’s diverse, inclusive, and reflective of you.
Consider where you spend the most time viewing images of other people. Do you frequent social media apps, magazines, websites, television?
Now think about who you see in those spaces. What do they look like? Are you frequently consuming pictures of thin, clear-skinned, non-disabled, white women? Are you seeing filtered, edited images that align with archaic cultural beauty ideals and perpetuate unattainable standards of perfection?
Or are you regularly viewing a diverse range of bodies, weights, abilities, hair textures, complexions, and races?
Do you observe individuals who remind you of yourself? Do the images you take in on social media and television reflect your appearance and your interests?
If not, it’s time to make a change by creating visual spaces that feature a range of looks (not just the culturally acceptable ones) and ensuring also, that you fit in with what you see.
While I’d encourage you to do some seeking on your own, here are a few of my favorite Instagram accounts to get you started:
Disability Blogger Imani Barbarin
Acne Positivity Activist Sofia Grahn
Bopo Athlete Latoya Shauntay Snell
Congenital Amputee Angel Giuffria
Body Image and Self Love Advocate Stephanie Yeboah
Plus Size Professional Dancer Amanda Lacount
Model with Rare Skin Condition Jeyza
Disability Justice Educator Mia Mingus
Trans Activist and Writer Alok Vaid Menon
Fashion Influencer Anna Obrien
2. Wear clothes that fit your body and your style.
Much of the pain around getting dressed has more to do with our clothes than our bodies.
Boxy shirts or too-tight jeans have a way of making us feel like we need to be fixed. They’re a constant reminder that something’s not right.
And while common sense would tell us relief is as simple as changing our pants, diet culture tells us quite a different story. Instead, we’re convinced that it’s our bodies that must change and we’re regularly sold “solutions” to do just that.
But wearing clothes that allow you to feel and function comfortably can do wonders for body acceptance, no diets necessary.
It’s important to note here that not everyone has equal access to clothing options. Despite making up a majority of the population (both in the UK and US), people in larger bodies can seldom find clothes in brick and mortar stores. Instead, they’re relegated to specialty retailers or online shopping for most of their attire needs.
If you feel self-conscious shopping in person or simply want help finding fashionable clothes that fit, check out an online styling service like Dia & Co – because we all deserve to wear what we want.
3. Look at yourself more.
I know the inclination is to look away from all we find unlovely about ourselves. But that only perpetuates dissonance and dissatisfaction.
As often as you can, take the time to take yourself in. Observe the real you without filters, waist cinchers, Spanx, or makeup. Get familiar with your body and frequently expose yourself to your own unedited image.
Because the more you see of yourself, the less you’ll want to look like someone else, not necessarily because you’ll admire your reflection, but because you’ll normalize it.
In my work with clients, I often suggest exercises like selfie challenges or mirror work for just this purpose, and I’m offering the very same suggestion to you.
In the spirit of exposure therapy, observing your own body (and bodies like yours) with purpose and frequency has been known to improve body image over time. So flip your phone’s viewfinder or find the nearest reflective surface and check yourself out.
4. Investigate your critical beliefs and replace them with compassionate, curious thoughts instead.
Spend some time observing your thoughts, taking note of the body judgments and beliefs you regularly entertain. Make a list of them.
Then, flip the script by reframing and rewriting those harmful beliefs to support self-acceptance and body kindness. Consider more helpful or healing values you’d like to live your life by and create mantras or simple statements to express them.
For instance, if you’re feeling self-conscious of the cellulite on your arms and telling yourself that you can’t go sleeveless this summer – it’s time to challenge that thinking. Ask yourself how it feels (both physically and emotionally) to harbor those body judgements and limit your wardrobe options based on them.
Then, imagine what it would feel like to be neutral about your arms instead. What thoughts might you entertain if you weren’t so preoccupied with their fat distribution? Would you think about how much you love the warmth of sunlight on your shoulders? Or, how grateful you are to be able to hold your newborn niece? These arm-appreciating thoughts make great mantras.
“My shoulders are worthy of warmth and sunlight.”
“These arms were made for cuddling babies not pleasing the cellulite police.”
Repeat body-affirming thoughts as often as possible. Sprinkle positive post-it notes around your home, put loving reminders in your phone, and meditate on the words and values you’d like to prioritize.
Then, practice living them out. Filter your self-talk, words, and actions through the lens of compassion and regularly ask yourself what choices most align with your new body acceptance ambitions. (Hint: wear the damn tank top.)
5. Get embodied.
Stop bashing your body and start partnering with her instead. Or, as I like to remind my clients (and myself), “criticize less, connect more.”
Embodiment is the practice of bringing regular, intentional awareness to your body’s sensations and needs. It’s about being an active participant in your physical experiences rather than passively analyzing them in your head.
If you want to get more in tune with your body, try engaging in pleasurable experiences that utilize your senses of sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing. Practice listening and responding to your physical cues through intuitive eating and movement. Honor your unique needs for activity, rest, nourishment, and joy.
Experiment with choices that allow you to feel and function your best. And replace negative body interactions like pinching, poking, and critiquing with gentle, loving touch and neutral commentary.
The more time you spend enjoying life in your body, the less time you’ll have to be in your head about it. So go ahead and live a little – or a lot!
With Practice and Patience, Body Acceptance Gets Easier
Improving body image and cultivating an accepting relationship with yourself (physically, mentally, and emotionally) is a worthy pursuit.
Not only does it feel great and allow you to focus on the more important things in life, it also positively affects your relationships with food and movement and contributes to the prevention of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
So, do yourself a favor and implement these tools, just don’t expect them to work overnight.
Think of this body acceptance work like learning to ride a bike.
I’m willing to bet there was a time when pedaling on two wheels didn’t come naturally to you.
Before your introduction to bicycles, you were used to traveling on foot (and even those skills took time to develop). But, with practice, patience, and training wheels (support), you eventually got the hang of balancing on a bike seat and experienced the many benefits of riding vs. walking.
Eventually, an activity that once took intention and persistence became easy without the step-by-step tutorials and concentrated focus you initially relied upon.
Remember that when you’re fumbling your way through these body acceptance suggestions.
Of course they’ll feel awkward after a lifetime spent critiquing your body, viewing her as an enemy, and attempting to produce acceptance through products, diets, and exercise.
It’ll take time for compassionate mindsets and behaviors to feel natural.
So, relax. Commit to implementing these body acceptance tips (modifying them to suit your own needs and preferences) and trust that eventually, they’ll feel “just like riding a bike.”
Only, without the helmet hair and bruised pubic bone.
Originally posted at Seven Health, HERE.