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More To Love teaches plus size women how to learn body-acceptance and end dieting for good. 

Self-Love Won’t Fix Your Body-Image Problem…At First

Rachel Estapa

Nothing irks me more than when a weight-loss blogger, author or “guru” gives the simple advice of “just love yourself” as a cure to body-image bummers.

For women who have strained relationships with their bodies, self-love becomes even more daunting because it doesn’t make sense to try and love something you feel (and have been taught) is undeserving of love.  It’s like saying “Just think happy thoughts!” without addressing the root of why you feel the way you do first.

People find my work through certain search terms and a frequent one is “How do I love myself?” Sure, it’s a beautiful question to ask – but the common way of going about trying to answer it leaves most frustrated, discouraged and confused.

Self-love is the place where many women get stuck when they want change how they feel about their body. The idea of “loving yourself” is so vast, overwhelming and there are so few  quality resources available that map-out exactly how to achieve it. But if I even had such a definitive map, it would come with a disclaimer because self-love is like a dress: It looks different on everyone.

In my own experience with answering “How do I love myself?” and in helping other women answer it too, I’ve realized an important discovery: Self-love doesn’t cure poor body-image. All self-love does is give you the space necessary to learn what you need to learn first, and along the way, your body naturally joins in.

When I tell my coaching clients this, they get mad at me. They get frustrated, sassy and pissed that here they are, spending money just to hear me say “You’ve gotta learn about love first; forget about the body right now...that'll come later, trust me!”

It makes sense to be pissed though – self-love is now proclaimed as THE WAY to a better body.  Essentially, you’ve just swapped out dieting for self-love as the magical pill to make your dream-life come true. 

I hope in reading this, you’re not thinking that I’m being negative and anti-self-love. I’m actually enamored with self-love and acceptance, but in a reverse way. I want this message to come as a relief and not as another pre-requisite to being happy.

My body-love came out of a deep, foundational practice of love that affects all areas of my life; not just the relationship to my figure.  You can’t compartmentalize love – it’s all or nothing.

When I look back on my own body-image history, the huge glaring marker that allowed me to overcome feeling bad about my body came years after I devoted my life to learning and practicing what it meant to love myself and others.

I practice self-love daily, but not in some overwhelming, time-consuming way. I make it fun, lively and natural to me. Making my morning espresso is an act of self-love as is cuddling with my husband too. This attitude flows to how I do my hair, what I choose to say to people, and how I view my stomach when it's popping over jeans. The pivotal awareness that set me on my way and still shapes my self-love adventure today began when I understood two things: my inner world creates my outer experience, and: how I do one thing is how I do everything.

The More To Love Class I’m launching in February is taken from a page right out of my own self-love/body-love book – each day, in some small way, taking loving actions really adds up. It’s exactly like saving money, except you’re enjoying the benefits in real-time, and the supply is endless. The More To Love Class will encourage you to practice small, simple ways to build your self-love and body-appreciation the enduring way. The only map I’m drawing is one to let people explore within and maybe find some surprises along the way.

Self-love takes the sting out of worry. Self-love gives you permission to mess up thousands of times, because you understand there is more value in learning than in perfecting. Self-love feels like trust in uncertainty, faith in peril, and hope in doubt. My self-love isn’t the source of my confidence, but the territory my traits and quirks are allowed to play in. My self-love gives up control over what I want to happen and pays attention to what is already occurring.  

To answer the question “How do I love myself?” I say this…..just find an answer for today.