"If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred" -- Walt Whitman
A lot of us might not understand this quote or even agree with it but I think I do. Another quote that came to my mind was this one.
"Someone's opinion of you does not have to become your reality" -- Les Brown
I realize, however, that these two quotes are easier said than done. A lot of us walk around in an altered state of reality regarding our bodies. We see things that are not there. We see things that are there and we wish were not. We think of ourselves not as created but as as mistake of sorts. Body image is an issue that transcends age, race, religion, gender, and even culture. All of us have a body and all of us have an image of ourselves. Now, the question is...is your body image positive and accurate or negative and skewed?
Today I am not even addressing the obvious problems that can come with a bad body image like eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa but just the everyday person who absolutely hates or feels unsatisfied with what is in the mirror. Eating disorders are a completely different topic and something I am willing to go more into later in the life of this blog. Today, it is simply the topic of loving your body and being ok with the skin you are in. I know we all hear these cliche statements like "Feeling good in your own skin" and "appreciating your inner beauty" but what does that mean?
From my opinion, having a healthy and accurate body image is having a real perception of your body size and shape and either accepting those facets or choosing healthy habits to make appropriate changes. This also encompasses knowing that who you are is absolutely perfect the way it is and changing the outside makes no difference in who you actually are. All of that is a really wordy way of saying
- Be at a healthy weight
- Eat balanced meals and appropriate calories for your body's needs
- Exercise your body to it's advantage not to its detriment
- Be happy with yourself when you are doing all you can to be physically healthy
- Accept what is and begin to appreciate it.
Now, I also know that not all body image issues are a direct result of a number on a scale. Although being overweight is one of the obvious aspects that can create a poor body image, there are people who scrutize the size of their nose, the shape of their body, the bone structure of their face, the size of their breasts, the texture of their hair, and even the color of their skin. We all can pick several of these people out in our lives or maybe you can resonate yourself. What is different about those people than those that get up in the morning, get dressed, look in the mirror, give themselves a nod of approval and walk out the door without obsessive thoughts about their body? I would say the following things make a difference;
- Previous critical statements from others about your body
- A serious illness or disability caused by the body systems that makes you feel that your body has "turned on you."
- Comparing your body to others around you and not recognizing your differences as something that makes you unique and not "ugly or flawed" in some way.
***I want to be clear that the next section is certainly an oversimplification of an issue that can be very serious. There are different levels of negative body image. There are those that simply walk around not really liking themselves on one end of the spectrum and there is of course the other end where people are getting very expensive and unnecessary surgeries as well as starving themselves and abusing their body systems. These tips are more geared toward the less severe end of the spectrum**
Here are some tips to begin to develop a healthier body image and start on accepting who you are and what you bring to the world physically.
- Admit that you can not read other's minds: Mind reading is a very crucial part of a negative body image. Most people who ruminate about what they look like believe the world around them is judging them. They are constantly thinking things like "The lady at the bank today was staring at my nose. I know she thought it was huge. I hate my nose!" The truth of the matter is, we do not know what others around us are thinking and if we were to be honest, they are probably just like us. They are probably just thinking about themselves too. Another area that people often lose so much in life this way is when being intimate with their partner. Against what you might believe, your partner is probably not thinking about the cellulite on your thighs but actually enjoys the way your body looks and feels when you are intimate. Sometimes all it takes to find out is to ask them what they think of you. Often it is sad how much our partner's love us and accept us far more than we love and accept ourselves.
- Let go of "black and white" or "all or nothing" thinking: It is generally pretty dangerous to believe anything is all or nothing but especially so in this area. Often times when people perceive themselves to have a flaw (i.e. a flat chest) they often completely ignore the beauty that they posess like maybe they have a great smile or beautiful set of eyes. Sometimes it is helpful to shift thinking just to focus on the things you really do appreciate about yourself. For me, I appreciate that I have great green eyes and a lot of people compliment them. That is always nice for me and when I really want to critique my perceived flaws, I try to remember that God and my mama gave me pretty green eyes!
- Focus on the things that REALLY matter: We all bring goals, passions, and dreams to the table. When we struggle with a negative body image it is sometimes helpful to focus on those things that are really important to us. Suppose I have a friend who really loves to write poetry. They find themselves really happy and satisfied when they are writing. This person also has a hard time with one of their perceived body flaws. It would be a great shift of focus if they used their passion for writing to process their feelings about their body. We all come with a unique set of skills, passions, and talents. Why not allow that to flow from you as opposed to stifling it with our hatred of what is temporal and changing constantly. Those passions, dreams, and unique qualities of your person, do not change!
Again, I know this is oversimplifying something that CAN be serious, however, I believe that if you implement some of these strategies and begin to investigate if you are guilty of "mind reading", "all or nothing thinking", or "focusing on the less important aspects of life" you could work on those areas and see an increase in your more accurate and positive body image.
Below is a link for a video that came to my mind when I thought about how we feel about ourselves. This song is by TLC and is called "unpretty." For me, music always speaks what I can not seem to find words for. "Unpretty--TLC"
If you have any feedback, feel free to leave comments or write me personally. I leave you with a quote...
"You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it is your soul's own doing. -- Marie Stopes