In my therapy practice in Horsham, PA work with women who have asked google time after time "how do I improve my body image?"
The google searches will show tips to stop thoughts, change thoughts, offer affirmations, and ways to try to convince yourself that you love your body.
To fix, fix, fix.
Sure, these things may help you find edges of relief. But, there's something missing. A key component to body work that will bring true healing. Healing that departs from the typical narrative of how to improve your body image.
It's not fixing.
It's reconnecting with the body.
Being in it.
Staying in it.
Eventually discovering a sense of safety in it.
Treating your body like it's home.
Becoming more embodied every chance you get.
These things can feel epically uncomfortable. Radical, even, for many, if not most people.
This, of course, is for a number of reasons- traumas that happen to and with the body. Stigma about certain bodies. Our social conditioning to live from the neck up, disconnected. Even our brain's hardwired default of perseverating over the past and anticipating the future.
And, experiencing the body and its sensations can feel like the wild wild west. Unsure. Intense. Painful. Uncomfortable.
And when we're consumed with fixing, it just feels easier.
But fixing doesn't lead to healing.
Let's switch the term body image with the term embodiment for a minute.
To be embodied is to fully inhabit your body. To be awake and attuned to the pulses, the sensations, the FEELINGS, the intuition, that is alive within your body.
To be embodied is to care for the body subjectively, instead of objectively. To engage in self-care from a place of compassion, driven by your values that are attuned in mind and body, instead of the cultural values of fixing, working toward thinness and "health".
To be embodied is to live your life in your body. In the here and now. Compassionately connected, regardless of the image. And beginning to trust and believe in your body.
That it's not punitive. It's not gross. It simply is.
Repairing our relationship with our bodies, living in them, meeting their needs and trusting the messages they send us, is more than simply improving our body image.
This is radical repair work. Work and repair that allows us to make space to begin to feel some ease in our bodies.
And to live in a body with ease, makes the image not so important.
Embodiment doesn't ask that you change your thoughts, try to convince yourself something that you don't believe, or to change your body (weight loss will never be healing).
What it does is help you live your life.
Tara Brach says:
Everything that we most value in our life, love, creativity, wisdom, feeling fully vibrant, is only available if we're awake in our body. We have to be here for it.
I have a challenge for you.
The next time you say or think, "UGH! I'm having a really crappy body image day!" instead of trying to fix it, can you give yourself the opportunity and the space to consider, what is getting in the way of connecting to your body right now? How could you be even a little more embodied today?
It's a great place to start.