If you’ve read my post “Insight From a 5 Year Old” you know that like many women, I have had some struggles with my body image. So much so, that at one point, I wrote in giant letters
SARAH, STOP BEING SO FAT
across my bedroom mirror.
I was convinced that if I changed the way my body looked, I would start to believe in myself (maybe love myself?!) and feel worthy of my job, my relationships and really, my life.
If I changed the way my body looked, I would FINALLY be happy.
I avoided mirrors, pictures, any physical evidence that would prove what my mind was telling me was true. I pulled back from relationships, convinced that people wouldn’t want me around because of the way I looked. When I did go out, it took hours to get ready, as I tried on every outfit in my closet, unsatisfied that my clothes didn’t hide enough.
At the time, I didn’t realize it, but loathing my appearance was holding me back from living. I was so deep into the feelings of discontentment and shame, that I couldn’t find my way out of my head, and into life that was moving along with or without me.
At the time, if asked what triggered the way I felt about my body image, I would have likely said something like, “Nothing. I always dislike my weight, my legs, stretch marks and curly frizzy hair....etc.”
Maybe you feel the same way.
But, dig a little deeper.
When I was at work, a job that I loved, I wasn’t constantly thinking about my weight, or my appearance.
When I was having coffee and meaningful conversation with a colleague or friend, I wasn’t deep in the throes of body shame.
So what was it that took me to that place; the place where my body image took over my brainspace?
Start eavesdropping on yourself.
The first step to discovering this was asking myself a few questions.
What am I feeling?
No, fat is not a feeling, although I tried to make it one more times than I care to admit!
What is the emotion that is being triggered in this moment? Shame, sadness, fear, vulnerability?
What just happened that made me feel this way?
I took a moment to take an objective view of the event/situation leading to the emotion that I had just identified.
What am I saying to myself?
Often times the hardest step. What was I telling myself in the moment? Putting the stories that my mind created into a narrative helped me see that I would never dream of speaking to anyone else in my life this way. It helped me attune to the default that my mind went to in tough moments.
How am I reacting to this experience?
Were my actions moving me toward, or away from living a life that was meaningful?
Now, you give it a shot.
As you start your personal journey to stop allowing your negative emotions take control of your self-concept and body image, I encourage you to take a step back from your subjective experience. Objectively open the lens of how you experience your day-to-day to consider that your body is not the actual problem.
The road to self-discovery and body acceptance isn’t easy, but it’s worth it in the long run. With time, commitment and practice, I know that you can begin to shift the way you experience your body.
Use it for the next few days to really get curious about the way your mind is working. This exercise is a jumpstart to help you become attuned to the many facets of your personal experiences and how they relate to your body image and self-talk.
Let me know how you do and if you need any support along the way.