Like most people, I have struggled with loving my body over the years. When I was young, I was too thin. After kids, I was too fat. As I grow older, my laugh lines have started to leak together, and the bags under my eyes look like I'm packing for a long trip. My knees have arthritis, and I haven't had a thigh-gap since the Dukes of Hazzard were on TV.

I wouldn't say I hate my body, but there are some things I would definitely change. There are even some things that make me feel self-conscious. These things influence my body-image or the way I feel about my body. But do I have to wait until I love my body to have a healthy self-image?

No! And neither do you. Here are a few things to remember that can help you feel great about yourself, no matter what.

You are more than your body

I had a conversation with a woman recently who has more physical troubles than anyone deserves. Tears streamed down her face as she shared how she felt about herself-weak, worthless, a failure. All because of her body.

I was able to tell her this simple truth - she is more than her body.

Within our body is our soul, everything that makes us, well, us. Our body is the shell that covers and protects us, but it doesn't define us; it isn't the totality of who we are. C.S. Lewis once said, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

We are so much more than what our physical eyes can see. You are so much more. You are strength, love, kindness and goodness. You are laughter and warmth, healing and inspiring. You help, hold, lift and laugh. You are beautiful, of great worth, and it has nothing to do with your body.

A smile replaced the tears of this sweet woman as she began to see how truly spectacular she is. She is on her first step from the bondage of misplaced self-value.

Stop saying "Should"

In our minds, we have a picture of how we "should" look or be like. There are a few problems with saying our bodies "should" look or be a certain way.

Often times the "should" is not realistic. We think we should look like the people on the magazine covers or look like we did in high school. We often don't take into account our age, circumstances, and, well, reality. We can't look like the people on magazine covers because we don't have an airbrush or photoshop in our closet. We're not supposed to look that way.

Having healthy goals for our bodies is good, but often these "shoulds" aren't simply goals but can cloud the way we feel about our bodies.

Change what you're looking for

I don't think I've ever woken up and thought, "I wonder how many awful things I can pick out about my body today." Most people don't do that. But, it comes easily, almost reflexively, as we stand in front of the mirror. Our hair is too straight or too curly. Our eyes are crooked, our nose is too big. We are too short or tall, too thick or thin. By the end of a 10-second look over in the mirror, we can concoct a list of negatives as long as the line outside Walmart on Black Friday. If we base our feelings of self-worth on this list, it would be nearly impossible to see ourselves in a positive light.

But what if we changed what we are looking for? Rather than looking for what we don't like about our bodies, try looking for what you like about you. Look at the good you do. Look at the difference you make. Look at the gifts and talents you have, the joy you bring to others. That is beautiful. You are beautiful. And it has nothing to do with your body.

Take care of your body

When we realize our body doesn't define us and learn to change our focus to who we are and not what we look like, it is easier to love our bodies no matter what they look like. And when we love our body, it's easier to take care of it. This may sound strange, but be your body's friend. Treat your body with kindness. Give it what it needs. Good, healthy food. Ample sleep. Exercise. Flattering clothes.

As you take care of your body, it will take care of you. You will feel better about your health, your appearance and yourself.

It's what's on the inside that counts

When my husband and I were dating, he said, "You're pretty, but don't let it go to your head. Beauty fades. Bodies change. It's what's on the inside that counts." At first, I was offended. But over the years I have grown to love his comment. As my body has changed in size and appearance, his view of me hasn't. I have never felt fat or ugly around him because that simply isn't what matters. He sees me as beautiful because of what is inside.

What is inside of you? Beauty, would be my guess. No matter the size or condition of your body, your real beauty and worth come from what is inside. It's like your soul I mentioned earlier. If we make it a priority, our inside will only become more beautiful. That's what counts.

A healthy self-image is key to our happiness and well-being. When we focus on what really matters and treat our bodies right, we can feel good about ourselves no matter what we look like.

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