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Maintaining a healthy self-imagewhen you dont love your body.
Is it possible to love yourself when you don't like your body? Yep, you can. - photo by M. Elizabeth Wilson
Like most people, I have struggled with loving my body over the years. When I was young, I was too thin. After kids, I was too fat. As I grow older, my laugh lines have started to leak together, and the bags under my eyes look like Im packing for a long trip. My knees have arthritis, and I havent had a thigh-gap since the Dukes of Hazzard were on TV.

I wouldnt say I hate my body, but there are some things I would definitely change. There are even some things that make me feel self-conscious. These things influence my body-image or the way I feel about my body. But do I have to wait until I love my body to have a healthy self-image?

No! And neither do you. Here are a few things to remember that can help you feel great about yourself, no matter what.

You are more than your body. I had a conversation with a woman recently who has more physical troubles than anyone deserves. Tears streamed down her face as she shared how she felt about herselfweak, worthless, a failure. All because of her body.

I was able to tell her this simple truthshe is more than her body.

Within our body is our soul, everything that makes us, well, us. Our body is the shell that covers and protects us, but it doesnt define us; it isnt the totality of who we are. C.S. Lewis once said, You dont have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

We are so much more than what our physical eyes can see. You are so much more. You are strength, love, kindness and goodness. You are laughter and warmth, healing and inspiring. You help, hold, lift and laugh. You are beautiful, of great worth, and it has nothing to do with your body.

A smile replaced the tears of this sweet woman as she began to see how truly spectacular she is. She is on her first step from the bondage of misplaced self-value.

Stop saying Should. In our minds, we have a picture of how we should look or be like. There are a few problems with saying our bodies should look or be a certain way.

Often times the should is not realistic. We think we should look like the people on the magazine covers or look like we did in high school. We often dont take into account our age, circumstances, and, well, reality. We cant look like the people on magazine covers because we dont have an airbrush or photoshop in our closet. Were not supposed to look that way.

Having healthy goals for our bodies is good, but often these shoulds arent simply goals but can cloud the way we feel about our bodies.

Change what youre looking for. I dont think Ive ever woken up and thought, I wonder how many awful things I can pick out about my body today. Most people dont do that. But, it comes easily, almost reflexively, as we stand in front of the mirror. Our hair is too straight or too curly. Our eyes are crooked, our nose is too big. We are too short or tall, too thick or thin. By the end of a ten-second look over in the mirror, we can concoct a list of negatives as long as the line outside Walmart on Black Friday. If we base our feelings of self-worth on this list, it would be nearly impossible to see ourselves in a positive light.

But what if we changed what we are looking for? Rather than looking for what we dont like about our bodies, try looking for what you like about you. Look at the good you do. Look at the difference you make. Look at the gifts and talents you have, the joy you bring to others. That is beautiful. You are beautiful. And it has nothing to do with your body.

Take care of your body. When we realize our body doesnt define us and learn to change our focus to who we are and not what we look like, it is easier to love our bodies no matter what they look like. And when we love our body, its easier to take care of it. This may sound strange, but be your bodys friend. Treat your body with kindness. Give it what it needs. Good, healthy food. Ample sleep. Exercise. Flattering clothes.

As you take care of your body, it will take care of you. You will feel better about your health, your appearance and yourself.

Its whats on the inside that counts. When my husband and I were dating, he said, Youre pretty, but dont let it go to your head. Beauty fades. Bodies change. Its whats on the inside that counts. At first, I was offended. But over the years I have grown to love his comment. As my body has changed in size and appearance, his view of me hasnt. I have never felt fat or ugly around him because that simply isnt what matters. He sees me as beautiful because of what is inside.

What is inside of you? Beauty, would be my guess. No matter the size or condition of your body, your real beauty and worth come from what is inside. Its like your soul I mentioned earlier. If we make it a priority, our inside will only become more beautiful. Thats what counts.

A healthy self-image is key to our happiness and well-being. When we focus on what really matters and treat our bodies right, we can feel good about ourselves no matter what we look like.