The 5 Steps I Took to Love My Body With Scoliosis
“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise Hay
I had my scoliosis surgery in April of 1994. My high school debutante ball was in September of that same year.
Being a typical 14-year-old girl, nothing was going to stop me from taking part. To say I was determined would be an understatement.
This deadline gave me five months to recover from my surgery, do my rehab, get back to school, find a partner and learn the dance moves.
I accepted the challenge, and with massive amounts of determination, I made it to my debutante ball. Looking back though, it wasn’t easy.
As a teenage girl, the biggest part of the debutante ball is the dress. It’s all about the dress! And being the mid-90s, the blingier the better.
Mum and I went to the local boutique where everyone bought their debutante dresses. As I began trying on the gowns, I remember being so self-conscious of my raw red scar and my frail lean frame.
I yearned for my back to look like all the other teenage girls, with their peachy clear skin, free from the long cut that adorned mine.
So I chose the only dress I could find that had a long line of pearls sewn right down the length of my spine. I hated my scar and I would have gone to any length to hide it.
This was the beginning of the love-hate relationship I had with my body. It took me far too many years to learn to accept my body for what it is, scars and all.
I don’t want you to struggle for as long as I did.
Below are the five steps I used and you can use, to stop body shaming once and for all.
Let me get deep for a moment. Have you ever stopped to think about how precious your life actually is? How much of a miracle it is that you are here, on this Earth, right at this moment?
It is your birthright to feel loved, happy and accepted.
This acceptance has to start within yourself. You have to find a way to shift your mindset from one of hate and self-loathing to one of acceptance and self-love.
Stop beating up on yourself. You are so special, unique and so adored by the universe.
Your scoliosis is not a curse. It is simply a part of who you are. We are all faced with challenges in life and ours happens to be scoliosis.
Try to start observing your emotions and catch those thoughts of body shaming as soon as they enter your mind.
Create an affirmation or mantra for yourself and use it every time you start to feel the negative self-talk rise up within you. Here are some that I have used in the past:
“I love and accept myself just the way I am.”
“I love every cell of my body.”
“I am comfortable in my own skin.”
“I am happy, healthy and beautiful.”
Affirmations are even more powerful when you say them out loud in front of a mirror.
Look yourself in the eye and tell yourself what you need to hear. That you love you for who you are. That you accept and appreciate yourself.
Notice what feelings come up. It is completely normal to have strong negative emotions bark back at you. Your mind is hardwired with the old negative beliefs that no longer serve you. Try not to get frustrated, but rather observe the emotions without judgement and let them go.
Be gentle with yourself, rather than critical. Affirmations are just one of many techniques that can help to break down the old beliefs and re-wire your mind with a positive body image.
3. Stop Comparing
There is no perfect in this world. Unfortunately, in this day and age, images of so-called perfection are plastered all over social media and at times are hard to ignore.
Growing up as a teenager in the 90s, I didn’t have social media images to compare myself with. I can, however, remember the hours I spent yearning to be like the “normal girls” at school.
This was such a misinterpretation. Looking back, I realize that so many of my peers were experiencing similar feelings of body shaming, only on a different level and for different reasons.
Remind yourself that what you are seeing on social media is not reality. So often the images are filtered and you just cannot compare yourself.
You’ll find the seemingly “beautiful people” on your Instagram page can often be the most scarred and flawed.
Shift your focus off other people and onto nurturing yourself. That should be your number one priority.
4. Practice Appreciation
“If you would stop analyzing everything and just look for things to appreciate, you would live happily ever after.” – Abraham Hicks
Grab out your journal or a blank piece of paper and begin to write a list of all the parts of you that you appreciate.
It can be something as simple as your beautifully manicured fingernails or as deep as your ability to breathe fresh air into your lungs.
The purpose of this exercise is to change your mindset and put things into perspective.
Yes, you have scoliosis, and yes, at times it seems like a really sucky path to have to walk down. But, there is always something to be grateful for.
Think about how amazing your body actually is. The way your heart pumps and circulates the blood throughout your body.
Your ability to see, hear, taste, touch and smell. The way the cells in your body rejuvenate themselves without you having to intervene.
Your partner, family, friends, the mere fact that the sun rises and sets every day without us having to do a thing.
We can get so caught up focusing on the day to day things in life, that we forget to appreciate the miracles we experience every day.
Feeling appreciation like this will have an enormous effect on your mental state.
It is guaranteed to shift your focus from the negative self-talk and onto what really matters to you in this lifetime.
You might like to do what I have done in the past, and try to write one thing each day in your diary. Or add it to a notes app on your phone.
5. Nurture Yourself
Take the time to practice self-love. Think about all the special and unique qualities that make you who you are.
At times, we get so caught up giving to others that we forget to give to ourselves.
Say no once in a while to any invitations that you don’t feel like accepting.
How often have you found yourself in a social situation, and in your head your thinking how much you’d rather be at home curled up on the couch? It’s OK to say no!
Follow your intuition, tune into it and do what feels right.
Carve out time in your week to devote purely to yourself. Even one hour a week will make a huge difference. Here are some ideas:
Treat yourself to a massage.
Go for a walk on the beach.
Sit and read a magazine without being interrupted.
Take a Yoga or Pilates class.
I hope you find these steps effective. Fast forward to now and I have really learnt to accept my body for what it is.
Sure, I still have days where I feel frustrated that my ribs protrude, or annoyed that my body has scars.
I do, however, feel like scoliosis has taught me to be stronger. Rather than beat up on myself, I try to appreciate what I have been given. Without my rods and my scars, I wouldn’t be here.
As cliche as it may sound, we really only get one shot at this lifetime, and I feel like it is far to short for me to waste my energy beating up on myself about things I cannot change.
How has your scoliosis effected your body image? I would love to hear in the comments below.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer
This story originally appeared on Beyond Scoliosis.