“Body acceptance is okay for everyone else…just not for me.” – Everyone who has ever struggled with negative body image.
Picture this. You are walking down the street and notice a voluptuous woman walking towards you. She is wearing a beautiful, form-fitting dress, full of colour, showing parts of her body that you would never consider showing in public. She is walking with confidence and force and you instantly feel her energy and presence as she passes you by with a smile. You wish to yourself you could “get away” with wearing something like that or wish you could show your arms or mid-section like she did. Sadly, you shrug off this desire to “allow” yourself the freedom from body-shame and self-disgust because, although that is great for her, it’s not okay for you.
Why is it that every single client that I have met who is working through their disordered eating, negative body image, or exercise abuse believes it is fabulously okay for everyone else to wear form-fitting clothes that show off arms, legs, and bellies, but not okay for them? It’s like we are the creators of our own prison and without the desire to escape from it. We are comfortable in our own discomfort and self-loathing while others are able to break free and live authentically in the world. How does one person escape the negative self-talk and bad body beliefs while another is pinned down by them?
Sadly, I don’t have a definitive answer for this, but I do have a few ideas. Perhaps it is coming to that final realization that no new diet or lifestyle plan is going to give you what you are looking for. Perhaps it is the fatigue that comes with age and wisdom; becoming more comfortable in your skin and not giving a shit what others think anymore. Research tells us that extrinsic related goals like losing weight or getting Botox do not result in greater happiness with oneself…only the desire to lose more or change more. We do know, however, that a shift in perspective about one’s self can lead to a greater sense of contentment and happiness in life. But how do you shift perspective?
If you haven’t seen, “I Feel Pretty” with Amy Schumer, I strongly suggest you get on that. I don’t care what you think about her, put your judgements aside and take a look. Schumer plays a character that is introduced to us as one that struggles with negative body image and sense of self. After experiencing a head injury (which may have you rethink participating in spin class again) she is left with a shift in perspective about her physical appearance. To the world, she is exactly the same, but to her she is drop dead gorgeous. The shift in perspective is enough to influence how she presents herself to the world. She eats what she wants, wears what she wants, sees herself as a positive being in the world.
Perspective shifting takes time, but it can start out with a few simple statements that you can repeat to yourself over and over and over again. Write them down on post-it notes and stick them everywhere. You don’t even have to believe these statements, just repeat them. Identify the times of your day when your negative self-talk is loudest and have those positive statements ready. If it is during your morning routine (as you get showered and dressed) stick ’em up on your mirror. If it is driving to work, stick ’em up on your dashboard. Repeating is eventually believing (and I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass, I practice this myself every morning).
If this isn’t your style, shift your perspective from inside your own head to a focus on someone else; doing good in the world. Serving others can take our minds off our own miserable way of thinking and help see things from a community or global perspective. Gratitude for what we have can come from stepping outside our own lives and see ourselves as a part of something bigger. It may sound superficial (and maybe it is) but it is a start; a jumping off point. Being content with your body is difficult when we live in a society that never lets up on the pro-anorexic messages but more and more people are letting themselves out of their cages and stepping into the sun.
Are you ready yet?