January is self-love month. Self-love means different things to different people but it's based around having a great appreciation for yourself and doing things in your life to nurture this and encourage physical, emotional and spiritual growth.
I'm sure, if you're a social media user, that you frequently see social media channels flooded with self-love quotes, mantras and people telling you to "love yourself", but in reality, it often isn't that easy. Bring ostomy surgery into the equation for a lot of you reading this and, speaking from experience, this isn't often contributory towards self-love, at least in the first few weeks, months and even years of recovery.
Self-love can feel unattainable, especially if you've just gone through surgery and are having to adapt to your new pipework and abdominal bag! Sure, self-care ideas such as having a gentle walk or drinking hot chocolate from your favourite mug in your loungewear are great and can help nurture a better "feel-good" relationship with yourself, self-love may not even feel like a glimmer on the horizon for some of you, and that's okay.
If you feel alienated by the constant, and almost/sometimes definitely toxic positivity surrounding your relationship with yourself, we're here to tell you that you're not alone and introduce you to something different: body neutrality.
What is body neutrality?
To put it simply, body neutrality is accepting your body as it is.
There are many elements that can be focused on to help with this such as:
- Accepting difficult emotions instead of denying them
- Removing "positive" or "negative" self talk about your body
- Acknowledging your body, free of pressure to feel a certain way
- Removing judgement from how you're feeling
- Not trying to replace criticism with positive affirmations
- Self-worth not being centred around your appearance
Body neutrality - "the middle ground"
Body neutrality is often referred to as "the middle ground" or a "meet me halfway" approach with yourself.
The focus shifts from a negative self-talk, but instead of trying to reframe these negative thoughts into positive thoughts, it enables you to meet yourself in the middle. It can free up headspace for other things as a result of this such as daily tasks, hobbies or getting stuck into work.
"But self-love can be so transformative!"
Absolutely, it can be and is for a lot of people. For others, however, eg new ostomates, it can feel like a leap too big.
Trying to force self-love can actually harbour more negative feelings in these cases as it can lead you to feel as if you're being inauthentic and not true to yourself if you're trying to furiously feel a positive affirmation but you just aren't feeling it.
Helping you to see your power
People find body neutrality empowering, as it is giving you a choice on how to feel and is free of bias. For a lot of people, this can encourage them to take a step forward from somewhere they have felt unable to escape from previously.
Ways to develop body neutral thinking
Body neutral thinking isn't something that happens overnight, as is the case with most things when it comes to your relationship with yourself. It needs commitment, patience and to alleviate yourself of judgement on the days you may find it tough. However, for a lot of people, it is worth giving time and mindset to as it helps them consistently going forward.
One way to start to develop this way of thinking is to focus on what you're body is doing for you, instead of how it looks. When you sit down and think about it, there are so many miracles going on in the human body right now just to enable us to be alive, and that in itself is incredible, even if some parts of it are currently problematic or may be causing you pain.
This nicely links into showing your body compassion when you struggle. An example of this may be acknowledging you are fatigued and taking a rest for this. Another example may be drinking water when you are thirsty, or wearing more layers if you become cold easily.
We can also try to shift our inner narrative by starting to unravel our body beliefs. What have others taught you? It is important to then try to separate this from what you feel and to place how you feel as top priority.
Social media can be another biggie, if not used in a way to promote your relationship with yourself. Unfollowing triggering social media accounts or any that you notice have a negative impact on your emotions can be really beneficial. Instead, follow feel-good, inclusive accounts that really support the life you are trying to lead, the morals you hold and really tap in to helping you or providing you with motivation or a smile.
Wearing what you feel comfy in and clothes that are more suited to your tastes and likes can also help instead of focusing on your look entirely.
There is so much more to you than your body.
You will unveil your power again and you are in the driving seat.
Remember, everyone is different and whatever relationship you may have or develop with your body is suited to you and you only. Do what you feel is best for you and your health.
If you find self-love works for you, then that's great,, but if you find body neutrality is better for you, that's also great!
Any tips you may have for others who have just had ostomy surgery and are finding coming to terms with their bodily changes difficult? Please leave them in the comments.
Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy's, experience of living with a permanent ileostomy, Crohn's Disease and from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.
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