The trick I used to stop myself fretting about beauty standards

As a woman who’s struggled with body image for a large part of my life, I’m painfully familiar with the exhausting cycle of self-loathing and acceptance of myself. I’d look in the mirror, obsessively zoning in on the parts of my body that I was ashamed of. I’d step on the scale, step off the scale, and step on again to see if the number had changed. I’d try on an outfit. I’d quickly take it off, throw it on the floor and grab another outfit. I hated how I looked in everything. So I’d vow to eat fewer carbs, exercise more,be bikini ready by summer, and/orcount my macros. I’d convince myself that I wouldn’t be happy until I’d lost ten pounds. Until I lost my underarm flab. Until I could see my abs. Until something else.

Not all days were like this, but there were definitely more bad than good. Until the morning I started to show some compassion. I was in a rush, so I pulled my favorite maxi skirt out of my closet and stepped into it. I was glad that my reliable feel-good outfit was clean and not (too) wrinkled.

And then I made my first mistake. I looked in the mirror. No, I didn’t have a weird ketchup stain, and my skirt wasn’t tucked into my underwear (been there, done that, so awkward). But when I saw the reflection of my body in my favorite skirt, I felt a little betrayed. My hips looked weird and my stomach stuck out a little further than it normally does in that skirt.

But this morning something shifted. Instead of going through the laundry list of ways that I’d failed to “fix” my body so it looked better in that skirt, I changed my mindset. I blamed the silly skirt, instead.

I looked at it, and I said out loud (because it’s totally normal to talk to your clothes, amiright?), “Man, I’m sorry you’re having a rough day, skirt, but you are not cutting it. Don’t take this personally, but you’re just not doing me any favors here. I’m going to have to put you back until you’re ready to play nice.”

I learned a really important lesson that day. Being compassionate is important. So let’s show some compassion towards our jeans that may have accidentally ended up in the dryer. That’s probably why they’re just a little bit tight today. Poor little guys. Or towards our favorite top that usually makes our stomach look so good. Maybe it’s just having a tough morning and needs a little support. We’ve been there, too. Let’s just go ahead and put them back in the closet and let them have a moment. And in all seriousness, let’s show some compassion towards ourselves.

Because it really is NOT us. We are not the problem. We are gorgeous beings with beautiful legs and hips and stomachs and underarms. And we need to stop comparing ourselves to made-up measures of beauty. If something that you put on doesn’t make you feel beautiful, take it off. And then remember that it’s the clothes that were the problem all along, and not you. Let’s remember to love ourselves and our bodies. And let’s always remember to love one another.

Emily Rhode lives in Durham, NC with her husband and her neurotic rescue, Tilly. She can be found blogging at

[Image via iStock]

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