Thursday, April 21, 2011

Love Yourself—Love Your Body

Our perfection-obsessed culture encourages us to view our bodies as a collection of parts and then to continually identify and reject “imperfections” in those parts. If you’re like many people, you have a body part—or maybe several—that you’ve been giving yourself negative messages about for years.

Jessica, who runs marathons in addition to raising two children and managing her own business, focuses daily on the appearance of her stomach, which remains soft and round no matter how many miles she runs or sit-ups she does. Jason checks his bald spot in the mirror almost every time he uses the restroom. Steven has worried since puberty about the size of his penis.

Self-criticism has direct effects on our intimate relationships. Although Jessica is extremely fit, her almost obsessive thoughts about her stomach keep her from being fully comfortable when she’s naked. This makes sex with her husband much less enjoyable than it could be. “He tells me I’m beautiful,” she says, “but when we’re making love, I’m constantly distracted because I’m thinking about my stomach.” Jason began going bald in his early twenties and has never been comfortable when women touch his hair. Steven, consumed with the belief that he can’t satisfy a woman through intercourse, admits, “I have never found myself lost in the experience of making love. I am always too busy worrying that I won’t satisfy her.”

When the world around us holds up flat stomachs, full heads of hair, and large penises as models of perfection, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to those ideals day after day and coming up short every time. But even if we were able to “fix” the things we’re convinced are our worst features—if Jessica endures liposuction, for example, or Jason goes through the pain and expense of hair implants—we wouldn’t suddenly feel whole. That’s because by the time we’re young adults, the habit of scanning our bodies for features that don’t measure up is deeply ingrained.

The truth is, our bodies are nothing short of miraculous. For all they are and everything they do for us, they deserve our compassion, admiration, and even reverence. Yet making critical remarks about our bodies often passes for casual conversation: “These jeans make me look fat.” “Trash those pictures before someone sees them. I look so old!” Even if we never criticize our bodies out loud, many of us do so daily in our heads: “I hate that double chin!” “Why did I have to get the curly hair?”

Any way in which you reject yourself prevents you from being able to fully connect with another human being. When you carry a belief that any part of you is unacceptable, you simply can’t be completely present with someone else or, for that matter, even with yourself. Even if you don’t belittle your body or put yourself down for not changing it in ways you would like, the more you can raise your appreciation for the body you have right now, the more available you will be for the soulmate experience.

~Excerpted from "Chapter 2: Loving Your Body" in the new book The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships

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