By Joan Ridsdel
Have you ever agonized over your size? Or told yourself you’ll buy new clothes when you’ve lost weight? What about convincing yourself that you’ll get that beautiful scarf, pair of shoes, or gorgeous new coat when you feel good about yourself, when you feel worthy?
Stories have the power to connect us with parts of ourselves that we may not necessarily want to acknowledge, revisit, or even share.
The story I’m about to share with you is mine — a vulnerable and defining moment that touched my heart and made me stronger.
With the beautiful warm red sweater wrapped around my body like a cozy blanket, I approached the full-length mirror in the clothing store, feeling the familiar anxiety rumble through my body, hearing the voice of a little gremlin whisper “Please, let this look good on me — it feels so good.”
Stepping in front of the mirror, my eyes focused on the beautiful sweater and then moved up and down my body, slowly and deliberately, noticing every detail with a harsh, critical look.
I’d entered the store on a mission to find something to wear that would hide my larger body, something to make me feel attractive or, at the very least, to look “acceptable.”
And here I stood. Again. Trying desperately to quiet the negative, self-deprecating thoughts and feelings of shame and vulnerability. Fighting with that gremlin voice that judged my size, weight, and worth.
The sales attendant approached, sweeping her eyes up and down, approving of the gorgeous red sweater and the vision that greeted her. She smiled. “So, what do you think?”
“I’m not sure.” I responded. “What do you think?” Pulling out my code word for fat, “Does this make me look bulky?” It was all that mattered — that I not LOOK Fat.
The sales attendant responded in a firm, but comforting tone.
“Turn around. Look in the mirror. You’re a beautiful woman. That sweater looks great on you. The color suits you, the fit is right for you.
But what’s important is that you feel good in it. And, even more important, that you feel comfortable in your own body.”
My story doesn’t end there. As I left the store, I kept repeating her words, desperately wanting to “feel comfortable in my body.” With a tired sadness, I came to the realization that even when I was slim, in a much smaller body, and no matter what new piece of clothing I was evaluating, I stood in front of that mirror with a critical eye and felt uncertainty, vulnerability, and ultimately — fat.
And the gremlins still whispered… “you’re not good enough.”
Do you dread buying new clothes? What do your gremlins whisper to you?
No matter how hard you try to get small enough or how many diets you start and stop, you never feel small enough, good enough, beautiful enough. We strive to fit into a culture that tells us every day in so many ways that our size and how we look determines our status in this world.
The sales attendant gave me an incredible gift that day. She looked into my eyes, saw my aching soul, and told me that it didn’t matter what she thought about how the sweater looked on me… what mattered was how I felt in my own skin.
I gathered my parcel that day and as I turned around and left the store, tears of gratitude fell down my cheeks. And now, every time I wrap the red sweater around me, I remember the invaluable lesson I was given and how I felt with her wise words and her infinite compassion.
So, I ask you… from one woman who’s longed to feel worthy and whole and valued and complete — not because of how I look, but because of who I am — to another:
What would it be like for you to break the cycle of self-doubt?
How would it feel to be rid of those nasty gremlins and whispering voices for your next shopping spree? Maybe even once and for all? What if you believed you were beautiful, worthy, invaluable, and could trust yourself and your body? At every size?
The journey to accepting and loving your body is complex and different for everyone. But there is a simple key to success in this case: self-compassion.
The word compassion literally means “to suffer with” and implies that we’re all in this together. If we can feel compassion for someone else, why is it so difficult to feel it for ourselves?
The first step in becoming self-compassionate is to pause for just a moment to recognize and feel our own feelings. It’s in that space that we can turn around; judgment and criticism can be replaced with self-compassion and a softening of our hearts.
Perfectionism and the belief that we aren’t “good enough” can be acknowledged and then promptly dismissed and replaced or reframed with positive beliefs and self-talk.
Instead of judging our bodies and ourselves, we can finally, as Kristin Neff says in Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself: “…soothe our agitated minds with self-compassion… notice what’s right as well as what’s wrong, so that we can orient ourselves toward that which gives us joy.”
Now, pause for just a moment and contemplate this question: What would your body say to you if it could talk? Let’s find out!
In your journal:
- Write a letter to your body. Begin with “Dear Body,”
This is your chance to tell your body what you’ve been feeling and thinking — even if it’s anger, sadness, disappointment, shame. Remember the flip side: what about love, care and compassion?
Tell your body what you need, what you want, and what you hope for.
- Now, write a letter to yourself from your body. Begin with “Dear ______ (add your name),”
What does your body need to tell you? Let the pen flow as you imagine that your body can actually communicate feelings, experiences, and what it needs.
Warning! This is a powerful exercise. Emotions and thoughts that have been buried for some time may surface and offer you a fantastic opportunity to help you love and accept you and your body.
I recommend sharing with a partner — a friend or close relative, a coach or therapist — who you trust.
Don’t wait another moment to begin loving your body. Turning this around is worth it!
Joan Ridsdel is an Erickson Certified Professional Coach, Registered Social Worker, and the founder and creator of W.I.S.E.R Woman Coaching and Personal Development. (W.I.S.E.R = Wisdom, Intuition, Self-compassion, Energy, Resilience.)
Specializing in private and small-group coaching, Joan partners with women to help them stop dieting, create a healthy relationship with food, and become deliciously comfortable in their bodies. Through her coaching program, Join the Journey, Joan guides women to make WISER choices to become experts in their own self-care that leads to creating the life they crave.