Do you love the skin you’re in?

January is the traditional time for New Year resolutions, often focused on improving ourselves, especially our bodies. In the opening weeks of the year, we are bombarded with the latest fad diets, invitations to get back to the gym, to slim down after the festive indulgences, and basically judge the hell out of our imperfect bodies.

We are reminded through explicit and implicit messages that we are not okay just as we are and that we need to hurry up and sort ourselves out to make our bodies ‘better’. The sense of urgency, and unacceptability of our bodies, particularly fat-shaming in the media can be humiliating, demeaning, and downright discouraging.

If you, like me, have struggled with your weight for some, or much of your life, then you will recognize the relentless internal pressure to ‘fix’ yourself. Decades of self-deprecation, self-loathing, and self-criticism literally weigh heavy on one’s body and mind. This often leads to self-deprivation and a vicious cycle of yoyo dieting extremes from bingeing to starving oneself. All of this is fed by the diet industry.

Without compassion for oneself or one’s body, it is almost impossible to embark on the New Year without that negatively embedded programming to start another diet gnawing into your psyche. Without compassion, it is nigh on impossible to not buy into the messaging that we really need the latest ‘thing’ to improve ourselves and make us look more acceptable to the outside world. (And let’s be honest, to ourselves as well.)

Now, I am not here to tell anyone whether to begin a new healthy eating plan, a new fitness regime, or a new diet. That is one hundred percent your choice! What I am here to encourage is a new way of approaching your body and the way you relate to your body.

Since learning Mindful Self-Compassion in 2015, I have been developing a caring, compassionate relationship with myself. This has radically changed my life. After cultivating a compassionate approach to my mind and heart (as best I can in each moment), I noticed that I had begun treating my body kindly too. This was revolutionary for me and nothing short of a miracle.

Since I was a baby, I have experienced challenges with my health. From 9 months old, I spent years in and out of hospital, as medics tried to work out what was “wrong” with me. By the time I was 12, I had internalized the message that not only was my body ‘broken’ but so was I. This provided a feeding frenzy for my critical voice.

As you might imagine, after years of suffering, yucky medicines, and unpleasant procedures, I had very little time for my body. I hated her. She stopped me doing what I wanted, she stopped me feeling ‘normal’, she stopped me from feeling like I belonged, and she stopped me from having fun, she stopped me sleeping well and she stopped me from feeling good enough. She generated acute and chronic pain which felt like a punishment for being me. I felt like I didn’t fit in, I often couldn’t join in, and if I did, it often came with a painful consequence. Needless to say, when I discovered that I could tend to myself and my body with compassion, my life radically transformed.

I stopped blaming my body. I stopped shaming my body. I stopped hating my body. I stopped being mean to my body. I started being gentle with her inabilities and abnormalities. I started responding compassionately when she was in pain. I started listening to her needs. I started learning to speak kindly to her and began treating her with respect. I was more patient with her and her suffering. I stopped arguing with her limitations and started caring for the parts that hurt.

Did I still wish things were other than they were? For sure. Did I plead with my body to have a day off from the pain? I did. Did I wish I was fifty pounds lighter? Hell yes! However, over time, with practice, I was able to love her, cherish her, and tend to her human frailties. I began to forgive myself for the way I had responded to her. I started to understand why she might be holding extra weight and prolonged pain. I began listening to her, helping her to feel safe and learning what she needed. I began loving her, regardless of condition.

For many years, things were so bad, I often wished to leave my body. Now, I feel totally and utterly blessed to have chosen to stay, so that I can share this message of compassion and compassion for our bodies with the world. Compassion for the projected, impossible ideals from society onto our bodies; compassion for our learned judgments of our bodies, and compassion for the mental and emotional torment this generates. This is why I created Compassionate Body. A compassion-focused program to gently learn how to make friends with your body, regardless of condition, sustainably, for life.

So, if you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or just plain fed up with the idea of starting another year beating yourself up and bullying your body, trying to fit your body into the acceptable societal mold, then please know that Compassion can change everything. Compassion is available to ease your suffering and alleviate your mental, emotional, and even physical pain. Compassion is transformative. Compassion gently guides the way to caring, kind action, for yourself, your body, and others. Compassion leads to behavior changes that can literally change your life. Compassion warms you, supports you, inspires you, and encourages you to tend to yourself and your body with loving appreciation, patience, and thoughtfulness. Compassion helps you pay attention to your needs and helps you listen to the whispers of your body. Compassion eases the struggle and helps build foundations for an affectionate approach to yourself and your body. Compassion fosters devotion. Devotion for responding lovingly to yourself, for caring for your body, and for honoring life with appreciation and joy.

So why not choose a different ‘diet’ in 2024? A diet of releasing judgment and criticism. A new eating plan of nourishing your body with loving kindness and compassion. A fresh start, filling yourself up with warmth, understanding, and friendliness. And a complete overhaul of your old approach to your body: letting go of the idea that you and your body are separate. Learning to live in communion with your body. Listening deeply to the messages from your body and learning to befriend the skin you’re in.

I know it’s possible.

I am a living, breathing, and very grateful example of how compassion can genuinely change your relationship with your body, forever. My belief is that when you are compassionate and kind to your own body, this amplifies your ability to respond to other ‘bodies’ with kindness and compassion, no matter what their size, shape, color, age, sexual preference, ability, or perceived difference. Let us celebrate ourselves and our bodies by learning to bring compassion to our imperfections and gratitude to this extraordinary conduit for the exquisite expression of life offered.

Kathryn Lovewell is the founder of Kind Mind Academy and a certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher.  Her Compassionate Body Programme supports women struggling to make friends with their bodies. 

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