It’s an obvious fact that most people begin an exercise regimen in order to change their physical appearance, and this is OK.
(I bet you’re shocked to hear that from me, right?)
The desire to improve some aspect of your physical body is not a bad thing.
In fact, wanting something to be visually “beautiful” is deeply rooted into our being. Take a look at old paintings and sculptures; most of the time the people depicted in these works of art represent what was visually beautiful during that time period. The quality of being aesthetically pleasing to the eye is something we strive for in many areas in our life. We like our home to look attractive and pleasing to the eye and we often feel at ease when we’re surrounded by the beauty of nature.
So the desire to physical change our body to be more aesthetically pleasing is not the problem.
The problem lies in the underlying emotional and mental investment we make into this physical change as well as the narrow definition of beauty we uphold as our personal standard.
Years ago when my obsession with exercise began, I was not only looking for a physical alteration, I was also desperately grasping for an emotional result.
I wanted to feel worthy and accepted. I wanted to feel important and valued. Therefore, according to our western culture, I thought I must change my body to be thin and toned.
The media sells us this idea that if we look a certain way we will be loved by all and life will be wonderful; that our feeling of greatness will eventually allow us to love ourselves and ultimately be we will find happiness and peace.
This is where the faulty thinking begins and this is where the desire to change our physical appearance can become dangerous.
Vanity alone is not a bad thing.
The real problem lies in this belief;
If I “fix” my “wrong” body parts so that I fit into society’s beauty standards, I will finally have the life I am longing to live. I will eradicate my feelings of inadequacy, shame and guilt, people will like me and I won’t feel invisible anymore.
Having “thin and toned” in my happiness equation was a surefire set up for disappointment because I gave external validation all the power. Putting all my emotional eggs into the external validation basket was a losing game.
What is external validation?
External validation is when a person needs or wants something outside of themselves to validate that they are worthy, smart enough, good enough and in this case, beautiful enough.
If you are someone who relies on external validation, phrases like:
“Oh my God! You look great! Have you lost weight?”
“Wow! I wish I looked like you.”
“You are so lucky to have a perfect body”
will not only determine how you feel about yourself on any given day, but if you fail to receive these validating compliments you feel like crap and think “there must be something wrong with me”.
It’s OK to like getting these types of compliments (believe me I love hearing these just as much as the next girl) BUT when they are the only things that validate your self worth, your emotional well will never be full and you will be living a powerless life.
So how do you stop relying on external validation?
Here is a list of 3 things you can start doing today to start filling up your own emotional well, take back your power and realize, you are enough:
Shut up and get dressed.
When deciding what to wear, don’t ask for anyone else’s opinion. Change your outfit as many times as you want but avoid asking others what they think about it. You have a brain in your head and you know what you like and what you don’t. Dress accordingly.
Be mindful of your “likes”.
With social media pretty much running the world, a whole new area of external validation has sprung up. If you post something on social media and you don’t get the number of “likes” or “favorites” you would have liked to get, be mindful of how you feel. Do you feel unimportant? Do you feel like no one likes you? Relying on “likes” to fill up your validation bucket is just another way to give away your personal power.
Do something extra generous and don’t tell anyone about it. I’m not talking about throwing some extra change into the take-a-penny dish at Starbucks, I‘m talking about really helping someone out. Do this thing and then don’t tell a soul. It’s harder than you think. We love being told how awesome we are for our actions, but most of the time this can just reinforce our need for external validation.
So the next time someone compliments you, politely thank them and remember that this compliment is just a little confirmation for something you already know to be true because you have told it to yourself already.