In yesterday’s post, I talked about the importance of loving yourself. Once you start to treat yourself with respect and kindness by stating only loving words about yourself and setting healthy boundaries, you can start to have a different relationship with your body.
For women who have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault, it can feel like your body is the enemy. It doesn’t feel safe to be in your body. As such, we often ignore its actual existence. It can be difficult for some to even look at their body, let alone to touch their body. Some may have to get dressed in the dark and don’t let their partners see them naked.
Women who have experienced eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia, or constant yo-yo dieting and restricting, often are disconnected to their body’s hunger cues.
When I discuss below about loving your body, remember that it’s not only the external body, but the internal body as well. I ask you to tap into the sensations and emotions you feel in order to be present with your whole body’s experience.
Some of these exercises may feel challenging. That’s okay. Take your time. Do what feels good and comfortable for you. I am going to ask you to get out of your comfort zone, but I don’t want you to be re-traumatized in any way. As such, stay mindful of your experience and if you feel you are about to check out or dissociate, immediately stop the exercise and help bring yourself back to a state of regulation through deep breathing or by splashing cold water on your face.
The exercises below are to be done in a pure unconditional loving state toward yourself. If it is still difficult to feel love toward yourself, image the person you love the most in your life. Can you picture them? Now notice how that love feels in your body. What other emotions come up besides love? Do you feel joyful? What sensations do you feel in your body? Is your heart open? Do you feel at ease? Now tap into those emotions and sensations and channel them into yourself as you complete the exercises.
First, I want you to really look at yourself without criticism or judgment. If a critical thought comes up, say “Cancel, Clear, Delete.” Start by looking into a mirror and peering into your eyes. Sit down for this exercise, get comfortable, have the lights dim, and keep breathing. This may feel intense. Go beyond your eyes into a deeper state of experience with yourself. Thoughts, emotions, memories, or images may surface. Acknowledge them by stating “thought,” “emotion,” “memory,” or “image” and then go back to being present with looking into your eyes. It’s okay if you cry. This can be a very emotional experience to really see yourself. Do this for 5-10 minutes every day for a week or longer. Pay attention to any shifts in how you see yourself or any new insights about yourself.
The second week you are going to choose a part or parts of your body that feel safe; maybe your hands, arms, feet, or legs. Really take the time to look at these parts of your body. Do you notice any scars or characteristics you never noticed before? Look at all sides of the body part. Acknowledge your body’s existence. Tell the body part how grateful you are for it. What does this body part do for you? Do this for 5-10 minutes every day for a week or longer.
The third week you are going to get completely naked and lovingly without judgement or criticism look at yourself in the mirror. Look at all parts of you. Get a handheld mirror and look at your vagina. Only use kind words to describe your body. Send it love. Tell it how grateful you are for it and what it has done for you. Do this for 5-10 minutes every day for a week or longer.
The fourth week you are going to lovingly nurture your body through touch. Take a hot bath or shower and feel the water on your skin. Mindfully feel the soap in your hands and running over your body. Notice the sensations in and on your body. Notice if any thoughts or emotions come up and let them go. Keep breathing. This can be very difficult for some. Some women may rush through a shower and cleaning themselves because it is too triggering to touch their body. Slow this process down and really get in touch with how it feels and the sensations and pressure your skin is experiencing. After the shower or bath, you are going to send love to your body while you put lotion all over your body. Take your time. Some people just slap lotion on their body like they’re prepping a turkey. Do this every day for a week or longer.
After the month is up, notice how you feel toward your body now. Has anything shifted? Do you speak kinder to yourself? Do you treat your body with more love and respect? If you need to lengthen this process, do so. You can do each part for a month instead of a week. Again, the most important part to this is doing so lovingly without criticism or judgment and by staying mindful and present with the experience and not checking out or dissociating.
Find out more about feeling into emotions and sensations in the body and connecting with your body in the multi-award-winning book Embodied: How to Connect to Your Body, Ignite Your Intuition, and Harness Universal Energy for Healing.
If you require support due to unprocessed trauma, reach out to a counsellor in your city.
P.S. Check out tomorrow’s post on Pleasuring Yourself – An Act of Self-Love!