In this excerpt from The Self-Love Experiment, author Shannon Kaiser shares how to appreciate your body.
Excerpted and adapted with permission from The Self-Love Experiment (TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House) Copyright (c) 2017 by Shannon Kaiser.
Appreciating how we look is about leaning into the love that is already present within us and letting it shine through. It is so important to be aware of your thoughts and consciously choose love.
Our mind will run away with negative chatter when we don't become aware of its power. The more kindness you feel for yourself, the easier life will be.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
I discovered the power of self-kindness by actively choosing to perceive myself in a more loving manner. The Self-Love Experiment for me was never about losing weight. Of course at first I thought it was. But as I dove deeply into my Self-Love Experiment, I understood it was about so much more. It was truly about loving me for me, as I am in each moment. Leaning into love is about discovering the power of you.
Ask yourself if you've been holding back and not allowing yourself to be you. During my experiment, I sat down and did something I had never thought to do before: I thanked my body. I wrote a compassionate letter to the one part of me I had hated for so many years. This radically deepened my love for myself and helped me feel happier in my own skin. My letter went like this:
I can't believe I've never said this before. My dear body, it's been long overdue, but you need to hear this from me. You need to know that you are magnificent. You need to know that I love you.
You are incredibly beautiful. All of you--every expanded stretch of skin, every inch is a miracle. I finally see you for what you are. A beautiful manifestation of my profound humanness. You are part of me, and finally, I can see the truth: you are not the enemy. You never were.
For years, I would pinch you, cry out into the dark night, praying for a thinner body, a different frame, a smaller stomach. I hated myself because I despised you. I prayed for you to be different, thought my life would be better when you were "not you" but smaller, thinner, not so chubby, not thick or round. I wanted you to change. I needed you to change in order for me to have a confidence in myself. But the miracle came not in you changing but in the change in my heart. For the first time in my thirty-five years of life, I finally see you for you. The glorious aspect of being human that you are.
You, dear body, are a gift to this world. Why? Because there is no other body in this entire world exactly like you. You are one of a kind, and I celebrate you for all that you have endured.
It was much easier to focus on what was wrong with you than on what was wrong in my life: the relationships that weren't fulfilling, the job that sucked my soul, the low bank account, and the unmet expectations. I could avoid it all as long as I focused on my disdain for you. You made it easy to run from what I need most: self-love.
It was never you. You, my dear body, are a glorious part of me. In all that you do, you help me be me. Without you I wouldn't be here. You are my protector. My house. My temple. You have allowed me to do things I could have never achieved without you. I am thankful for you. You, dear body, hold my heart, the one that told me to listen to its intuitive guidance and leave my depression and corporate career behind so I could discover my passion as a writer. You held my heart, the one that cast a net out to reach for bigger dreams. You, dear body, have the hands to help me type my thoughts out into form.
I promise to love you as you are in each moment of our life. I will speak kindly to you and practice compassion. I will treat you with respect and trust your guidance. I promise to be your friend and love you the way you are.
Thank you for being you, all of you, as you are, because stretch marks, extra padding, chubby cheeks, and all, I embrace you, because without you, we wouldn't be here. I love you, dear body. You are and part of my experience of life.
I kept this letter close to my heart and reread it often when I needed encouragement and more compassion.
Can you write a letter to your deepest pain point? Take your own Self-Love Experiment to the next level by writing a personal, heartfelt letter to your insecurity and pain. Write to the thing you hate most about you, what it is you want to heal. Send this aspect of you more love through a compassionate letter to yourself.