9 Steps To Seriously (No, But Actually, Finally) Loving Your Body, No Matter What

When it comes to body positivity, we receive mixed messages. It can feel as though "acceptance" and "the desire to be healthy and well" are mutually exclusive. It can seem as though you can't accept your body while still wanting to change it. So we end up in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. We think that policing ourselves and saturating our minds with "thinspo," body-shaming idiocy will send us into a panic that will prompt action that will result in us changing our bodies to adhere to the standards of perfection we're taught to strive for. But this doesn't work. Ever. The first and most important step to changing yourself for the better (which hopefully, when it comes to your body, just means becoming stronger and healthier) is to simply accept the way you are. Build out from a place of love and you'll get more and more love, just like if you motivate yourself from a place of fear, you'll get more and more of that.

Body love feels impossible until it doesn't. It's foreign until it's familiar. It's new until it's normal. And the process of getting from there to here can be a slippery, uphill slope. So here, nine things you must know to learn to actually love your body, no matter what.

Realize that your perception of yourself and other people's perception of you can be radically different

This is usually the anxiety behind the fear that our bodies have changed and that we're less appealing or attractive than we were before. If there's anything we're most terrified of, it's the "she got so [unflattering word]." As though we lost our bodily street cred, our once-upheld worthiness. It's a sense of security, and if you take time to notice, the people you most desperately seek it from are, or represent, the people with whom you most felt real acceptance was withheld. (Also, generally speaking, you don't actually look the way you see yourself. No two people perceive the same thing in the same way. Relax. You'll absolutely drive yourself insane trying to sort out how you appear to other people.)

Teach yourself that you're worth more than what you look like — by proving it to yourself

We all "know" that we're more than what our body looks like, but we often don't believe it, mostly because there's nothing present in your life to convince you of it. So change that: Rewrite that truth for yourself. Go out and accomplish something that requires bearing your soul. Fall in love for all the right reasons for once. Make lists and focus as much as you can on the things you've attained that require your mind, and spirit, and awareness instead of your physical form. Show yourself that you matter more than your body. Don't just blindly believe it.

Consciously choose to genuinely love other people — and not judge anyone, even strangers — for their bodies

When you don't accept other people for how they are, you're secretly teaching yourself that you're unlovable for that very reason.

List the things you think you can only do once you look a certain way. And do them now.

Wear those short-shorts. And bright red lipstick. Go to the beach in a bikini and have the most amazing day ever. Show yourself that you don't have to look a certain way to enjoy your life.

Eliminate the body-negative media you consume each day. It's programming your subconscious mind.

You probably don't realize how many models' Instagrams you hate-follow or how many "friends" are guilting you via their perfectly Paleo food posts. There's nothing inherently wrong with either of these things, but something becomes wrong when you consume it as a means of inspiring yourself through self-hate. For example: "Oh, look, you don't look anything like that... do you see how disgusting you are? Good, it's impetus to change!" You should, if you're going to take cues from social media contacts at all, follow people who inspire you to live a better, happier, healthier life by making you feel empowered and positive — not by making you hate who you are today.

Talk about how you really feel about your body

As soon as something gets hidden in the shadows, it becomes a monster. Say what you fear, and doubt, and dislike out loud. I don't like my body and I want to like it, so I am taking the first step by admitting that I don't like how it looks or how I treat it or how I fear other people judge me for it. Say it out loud to yourself in your room at night. You'll see how much anxiety dissipates just from no longer feeling as though it must be kept secret.

Simply decide to accept your body as it is, each moment of each day, until it's habitual

Most change is the result of one thing and one thing only: The simple choice to do it. And you have to keep making that choice, for as long as it takes for your mind-set to shift and your brain to adjust and your spirit to adhere. This is how you build and re-create. Moment-by-moment choosing to think differently. Do something that proves a different truth true.

Learn that loving yourself does not mean you're giving up on being better in the future

So often people refuse to accept their bodies because they believe doing so means they don't want to ever be healthier, or more in shape, and it's actually the opposite way around. You must first be in a place of unconditional body love and acceptance to make any positive change. The roots and the foundation must be in place before any substantial growth can occur.

Do not let your body be the most important thing about you

And don't let your body be the thing in your life that gets the most time, energy, money spent on it. This, above all else, will be what changes you. If your body is the thing you focus most on, and is the thing you base your worthiness of love on, it will never be good enough. If it's the thing you spend the most money on — clothing it, tanning it, changing it, coloring it, etc. — the thing you spend the most time thinking about, or trying to change, then of course it's going to be the prime target for all of your self-loathing. All you're doing is trying to "fix" it. Try accepting it just as it is. Realize how quickly change is no longer a conscious choice you must make, but what naturally happens as a by-product of loving your body unconditionally.

Images: asitansuave/Flickr; Giphy (4)