Summer is here. This might be exciting for many as they venture from their couches and desks to run to the beach or a walk in the park, but for people with lupus, the hot rays of sunshine are more foe than friend. As we know, it’s important to wear sun protection like sun block and wide-brimmed hats, or stay under the shade. But sun sensitivity is not the only issue the summer brings up. Body image is another.
We are bombarded with countless ads of women and men in swimwear, for instance. Magazines love to share with us the secrets to getting that “perfect” beach body. I prefer a different set of instructions I’ve seen for beach goers; one that is more body positive: “How to have a beach body: 1) Have a body. 2) Go to the beach.” While beach going might not be an option for some people with lupus, what is an option is to embrace the body you have.
Learning to love your body is important for people with lupus because, from my experience and from research , unwelcome changes to a person’s body like weight gain due to prednisone use or hair loss, and scarring due to a flare, can cause a lot of emotional distress in people with lupus.
When I recently learned that July 3rd is National Compliment Your Mirror Day I immediately thought of what my support group members have shared about the emotional challenges when it comes to dealing with unwanted changes in the body. National Compliment Your Mirror Day might sound like a silly, random holiday whose authenticity and origins are questionable, but I don’t think any of that matters! What matters is that someone was wise enough to highlight the need for us to look in the mirror and pay compliments to the reflection we see.
Body acceptance does not mean that you do not have goals for your appearance. It does not mean that you put your health aside by eating unhealthy food or not doing light exercise when you feel well enough to do some. It means that at this point in time, you show your body love and accept your body as beautiful. It seems that obtaining a perfect body is an elusive feat since perfection is impossible. Even the most fit, modeleqsue people can list all their body’s flaws. So if the goal is hard to reach, that means you will spend a lot of time sending constant and negative messages to yourself. You wouldn’t talk to a friend like that would you?
Another phrase that I really like is, “Only talk to yourself the way that you would talk to your friends.” Good friends don’t insult each other or tear each other down; yet we think it’s okay to insult ourselves. Even if you are not feeling so great about your body, it’s better to remember yet another saying, “fake it ‘til you make it,” than to insult yourself. Being kind to yourself, even if it will take some convincing, is better than being mean. Eventually, the kindness will be more of the norm than the harshness, and hopefully this will minimize some of the distress you feel related to your personal appearance. Can you see yourself as beautiful even if it’s different than what you have been taught is beautiful? You can create your own definition of beauty by simply looking in the mirror.
Remember, confidence goes a long way! Have you ever seen someone who did not conform to society’s standards of beauty but you perceived as beautiful because you could tell she thought of herself as beautiful, and therefore helped you broaden your ideas of beauty? I have.
To celebrate Compliment Your Mirror Day , you don’t have to stand in front of your mirror and throw scripted affirmations at it that lack personal significance. Try looking at yourself, and instead of saying something self-critical, which likely comes easily, force yourself to find something you like about your appearance and pay yourself a compliment about that. You can be silly in the mirror too. Make silly faces. Dance. Be goofy! The laughter is an added bonus.
Personally, I think Compliment Your Mirror Day should be celebrated 365 days a year. Try it. See how long you can go.
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