Your Body Is Not Your Worth
I started working out and lifting weights when I was 12 years old. The thing is, not many kids start lifting weights when they are in 5th grade. Because of this, my strength and my body stood out amongst my peers.
I got a lot of attention and compliments from both guys and girls alike. Guys wanted to know how they could build muscle and get stronger, while girls seemed to be more attracted to me.
I liked the attention – at least at the time. And I loved the compliments. But as I would soon realize, the more you live for compliments, the more you end up dying from criticism. That experience during my developmental years laid the foundation for me believing that my body was my worth. This belief eventually created debilitating insecurity, crushing social anxiety, and a full-blown binge eating disorder.
At a young age, my new identity and conditional self-worth were continually being reinforced. The supposed “good” of this situation only lasted a few years. By the time I was 16, other guys my age had started strength training for school sports, and my body no longer stood out amongst my peers. I was no longer special, so the positive reinforcement I received from my body started to diminish. And since all of my identity was tied up in my body, when I was no longer special, I lost a large part of who I was as a person.
This only got worse as the years went on. I started using food and exercise as tools to like myself more and to be more liked by others. College came, and the obsessive focus on controlling my body created a binge eating disorder. This led to out-of-control weight gain, which led to nearly 20 more years of debilitating body image struggles, Diet Culture captivity, and diminished life experience.
You might not have had the same experience as I did growing up, but make no mistake, you’ve also been conditioned by society that your body is your worth.
For some people, they’ve always been in a bigger body, and the negative attention they received reinforced the idea that their body was their worth. For others, parents, peers, coworkers, strangers, and societal messages influenced the way they valued themselves and whether they attached their worth to their body. And that has led to a lifetime of food and body obsession, weight cycling, and suboptimal life experience.
Most people are either constantly being motivated by the hope that their worth, happiness, and confidence will improve once they’re in a smaller body, or they are living in fear of losing the body they have now – feeling like any weight gain will bring them a loss of self-worth and value in society.
My life started to improve once I detached my self-worth from my body and started to see the intrinsic value I had as a human being. I stopped thinking that my body was my value, and instead saw it as a vessel that added value to my life. It went from being an ornament to being an instrument. That’s when everything from my binge eating disorder, to my public speaking phobia, to my overall life experience took a turn for the better.
When your self-worth and confidence are no longer determined by your weight or body, it makes it easier to eat in a way that meets your body’s needs, as opposed to eating to control the way it looks (and how you feel about yourself). It makes it easier to honor your body’s hunger cues. It’s easier to do exercise you actually enjoy without worrying about what it will or won’t do to your body. It’s easier to be around people without concerning yourself with their judgements. It’s easier to see your uniqueness as an asset, instead of a series of flaws. And it’s easier to rediscover who you are as a person once your body is no longer defining you so strongly.
Breaking the self-worth / body bond will free you from having your life be controlled by the limiting beliefs of others – people who are as much victims of conditional self-worth as you are. So rise above this societal standard and start seeing the value you have beyond your body.
The True Meaning of Body Fat
I once asked one of our Mentorship groups what having body fat meant to them. And I got a lot of great answers.
It means I’m unattractive.
It means I don’t take care of myself.
It means I have no discipline.
It means I’m not smart.
And these answers are neither right nor wrong – they’re just the beliefs they’re currently subscribed to.
But here’s the thing… these disempowering beliefs have been conditioned into us. We’ve created layers and layers of meaning beyond what body fat actually is – stored calories.
Let’s consider something for a moment.
A pound of fat on your body is about 3500 calories worth of stored energy. It is nothing more and nothing less.
Fat is just fat. It doesn’t define you. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, ugly, or unworthy. And it doesn’t make you less than anyone else.
It is only excess calories that have been consumed and stored for use later.
Instead, we choose, or perhaps I should say – let, other more painful and unproductive meanings be attached to it.
We think other people will be able to see our internal struggles just by looking at us. We think that it’s protecting us from potential hurtful relationships. We think it’s what’s holding us back from living our full life experience.
And all of these things are in fact true simply because you’ve decided to let them be.
You don’t have to attach any more meaning to your body fat than is necessary. You can see it for what it is – stored energy. A big butt or thighs doesn’t mean you deserve any less out of life. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be loved by others, and especially not by you.
But it’s hard – I get it.
Some of us are afraid to lose it, and others are afraid to have it. But it’s still just body fat.
You don’t have to wait to burn 3500 calories to let go of the meaning you’ve attached to it. Meaning isn’t stored in your fat cells – it’s stored in your head.
Losing body fat doesn’t release meaning from your fat cells.
The emotional pain or comfort you feel from wearing your body fat is a function of your thoughts and perspectives – not stored calories.
You can shed these thoughts without losing a single pound. You can take back the power you’ve given to your body fat.
But don’t try to shed those thoughts by shedding weight. Thoughts don’t disappear simply because you do.
Take back the power and meaning you’ve given to your stored energy. Shift the focus of your self-worth from your fat back to your being. And start living your free and full life experience again.
Many years ago my wife and I were able to get away to Cancun without the kids. I typically struggle with my body image any time I go on these beach vacations. And this trip was no different.
I wasn’t at my leanest. I felt uncomfortable in my skin. I felt like people were watching me and judging me.
Walks to and from the ocean from our lounge chairs were uncomfortable. I was on display for all to see and judge. Ironically, I was judging myself more and harsher than anyone else was judging me.
One morning Deanna and I were sitting outside having breakfast and I finally realized one of the reasons why I struggled so much letting go of this idea that I needed to be in a smaller, leaner body.
I felt like being in a bigger body made me less relevant in the world. I felt less relevant to my family, my friends, and especially in my business. And of course, that’s one of the biggest consequences when you tie your self-worth to your body.
Interestingly, after talking through things for a while, I realized that my fears weren’t unwarranted. I WAS less relevant… to some people. However, I was also becoming more relevant to others.
I was less relevant to the people who matter less and more relevant to the people who mattered more.
In other words, I became less relevant to the people who also tied their self-worth to their bodies. When they’d see me they’d devalue me as a human being and the knowledge I shared.
This is a reflection of their own belief systems, and seeing me simply triggers those beliefs. It shines a spotlight on how they feel or might feel in a bigger body.
But to the right people – the people who see value in human beings independently of their physical appearance, I was becoming more relevant.
You get to chose the type of relevancy you want in life. But whichever one you choose, it will come with its own set of consequences.
For most of your life you’ve probably chosen to tie your self-worth to your body, and because of that, you’ve experienced all the emotional struggles and suboptimal life experiences that come along with that choice.
The choice may not have been done on purpose. You were probably like most people stuck as an unknowing victim of Diet Culture. But you experienced the consequences none the less.
However, you can choose to be relevant and valued and worthy right now. I don’t mean tomorrow or after you lose a few pounds. I mean right now as you sit there reading this book.
It is a choice. And it happens in an instant. Because self-worth and relevancy are a function of the mind – not the body.
And if you choose wisely, you will attract the people who see you, the person – not you, the body. Your relationships will get deeper and you will have a fuller life experience.
Your relevancy to the people you don’t want in your life will diminish, but it will grow with the people you truly want to be surrounded with. In fact, those other people won’t even matter to you anymore. Because when you start seeing your worth, you’ll stop seeing those who don’t.
How many times have you heard the message that you should lose weight so that you can be more confident?
This idea that weight loss leads to improved confidence is yet another reason we believe that our body is our worth.
And if I’m being honest, I used to believe that losing weight made people more confident too. In fact, I’d get annoyed anytime someone tried to tell me otherwise.
This was always something that didn’t sit right with me. Even well after I had ditched Diet Culture and was coaching people through the Ideal Body Formula, I still struggled with this idea that losing weight didn’t make you more confident.
After all, I had been leaner in my life many times. And each and every time my confidence improved.
And I know that you have probably lost 5, 10, or 20+ pounds in your life at one point and experienced an improved level of self-confidence and self-worth. So how can I sit here and tell you that losing weight doesn’t make you more confident?
Here’s the thing, it DOES make you more confident. But it’s not real confidence – it’s what we call conditional confidence.
Conditional confidence ties your confidence and self-worth to your body. It reinforces the idea that your body is your worth.
Why does this matter? Because most people spend their entire life playing in the Diet Culture sandbox, gaining and losing weight, and never stepping into their true confidence.
They go through waves of confidence that are 100% conditional on them losing weight. So when they aren’t in a smaller body, they value themselves less, and they lack self-confidence.
If you want to be more confident, then be more confident. Stop tying this confidence to some body or some thing.
Conditional confidence is fragile. It’s always a few pounds gained away from being taken away from you.
True confidence comes from within – from the self. It’s not created from external things or given to you by other people. That’s why it’s called self-confidence and not others-confidence.
What you’re after is unconditional confidence – confidence that operates independently of your body, circumstances, possessions, or other value-seeking things.
True unconditional confidence comes from unconditional acceptance of your self and your body. You need to start giving yourself permission to be confident right now instead of pretending like you have to earn it through body manipulation.
Unconditional confidence isn’t earned – it’s taken. Better yet, it’s found, as you’ve always had it. It’s just been wallpapered over by a lifetime of limiting beliefs. It’s the rejection of all these limiting beliefs you have of yourself, and the unconditional acceptance of who you are as a human being that brings that confidence back to the surface. It doesn’t come from changing your body – it comes from accepting your self. It’s not about what you see in the mirror – it’s about who you see looking back.
When you see someone who is truly confident, it’s because they own who they are and what they look like. This is a choice you make. Nothing about your outside world needs to change for you to be more confident. It’s only your inside world that needs connecting with.
It’s been years since I’ve posted a shirtless pic of myself on social media, and I don’t plan to ever go back.
Since I made the decision to stop, not only has my body image dramatically improved, but so has my business and the types of people I attract to it.
It wasn’t easy to stop. Any time I posted a shirtless pic the engagement on my posts were at times 10x more than when I didn’t.
Not only that, but people would suddenly start messaging me asking me about what programs I had available and inquiring about coaching.
The compliments and attention felt good, but they also blinded me to the consequences.
I was keeping myself stuck in a perpetual cycle of tying my body to my worth.
Post shirtless pic. Get lots of attention. Feel more worthy. Repeat.
Don’t post shirtless pic. Get less attention. Feel less worthy. Repeat. Or rather, go back to posting a shirtless pic.
And worse, those shirtless pics ended up repelling my ideal clients and attracting more of Diet Culture.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to body shame anyone. There’s nothing inherently wrong with showing your body or being proud of it. Or in my case, helping people see and believe that healing your relationships with food, body, exercise, and mind absolutely will result in you achieving your healthiest weight.
But there’s a time and a place and a purpose to do it. And I, like most people, were using it to validate ourselves, instead of to help others.
There’s a very important lesson you can learn from my experience…
So long as you try to feel more valuable by changing your body, you will continue to attract people who only value you for your body.
You attract the values you project.
If you think your body is your worth, then those are the people who will be attracted to you.
To me it’s better to be liked and valued unconditionally by 1000 people, than to have conditional admiration by millions. I’d rather be rejected at my new standard, than be accepted at my old one.
Giving up these self-serving shirtless pics has helped me to find value elsewhere and has made it 10x easier to eat and move my body in a way that makes me happy, instead of basing every decision on what it would do to my body (aka my worth).
And it has helped me to create a business and a community of like minded individuals who I have deeper connections with. Because what really truly adds value to yours and other people’s lives is you living as your authentic self, as that is what’s going to give people the courage to be themselves too.
When you ditch Diet Culture and the idea that your body is your worth, you aren’t giving up on yourself – you’re going all in on yourself. And you allow others to go all in on you (and themselves) too.
Diversifying Your Self-Worth
Most people have the majority of their self-worth tied up into their body. It’s really easy for this to happen. The beauty industry spends many billions of dollars a year helping you tie your worth to your body.
That makes it easy to pick a perfectly natural body feature and make a problem out of it. Greying hair? Let’s make that a problem. Wrinkles? Sure… that’s a problem. Cellulite? Why not make that a problem too.
And of course we have our weight. A perfectly normal body nowadays might not conform to societal beauty standards. So everyone spends their time, money, and energy chasing after an ideal they believe will give them more standing in society.
Our bodies aren’t the only thing we tie our worth to though. It just happens to be one of, if not, the biggest things. We also derive self-worth from our net-worth, our career, our achievements, our possessions, and our intelligence, to name a few.
But you’ll notice something with all of these “worth enhancers” – they are all externally derived. We seek out our self-worth in external things. And while it’s not necessarily wrong to derive some worth from these things, the problem is that you feel like you have to earn your worth. The assumption is that you don’t have value unless you make an effort, achieve something, and earn it.
This is social conditioning at its finest. Think about it. When a baby is born does it have value? Of course it does. All human beings have an inherent self-worth that is more valuable than all the other external things combined.
You came into this world a whole human being. And slowly but surely that wholeness has been stripped away from you.
A lifetime of experiences has created limiting beliefs that have cast doubt on ourselves, diminished our self-worth, and lead us to believe we have to earn the right to feel whole again.
What most of us don’t realize is all we’re really trying to do in life is get back to that state of wholeness where our true life experience begins.
So the solution isn’t really to pursue goals of excellence – it’s to let go of the baggage that is keeping us from living as our whole selves where unlimited potential exists.
Your job is to turn inwards and start diversifying your self-worth away from your body and external things, and reconnect with your inherent self-worth and values. This shift in derived self-worth is what’s going to enable you to see yourself as a whole and valuable human being so that not only will you start eating and moving your body from a place of self-love and acceptance, but you will start to experience your entire life differently.
Before, your self-worth looked like a pie chart. Your body made up the biggest slice, and then the other slices were mostly other externally derived things such as wealth, achievements, etc.
But going forward, your self-worth will be represented by a hub and spoke model. Picture a bike wheel with a center hub and a bunch of spokes coming out from it. In the center you have the most important part of your self-worth – your inherent self-worth. And then each spoke from that hub represents a value that’s important to you – a value that you choose to live through. These values might be things like honesty, kindness, integrity, authenticity, compassion, empathy, creativity, growth, humor, optimism, or respect.
These aren’t things you go out and get. They aren’t things that you achieve. They are what you be. They are your identity. And they are what will add value to your life.
The desirable outcomes that happen in your life are a byproduct of this self-worth model. They are natural side effects of identity. With the pie chart model of self-worth, people look to cultivate a certain identity by changing their external situation, and then by relying on the social conditioning of others to accept their new status.
Remember, self-worth is derived from self. The value you have as a human being comes from within. No amount of social conditioning can take that away.