Body Image Distress

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.

Here’s a PDF of the exercise.

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.