With so much emphasis on women’s bodies in our culture, and with all the media images imposing a narrow standard for beauty, it might seem impossible to have and maintain a positive body image. The following four blogs in MyBodyImage discuss how to cultivate a positive body image using My Body Journal as a tool to help locate your thoughts around your body. These blogs build upon each other and discuss how to develop a positive body image with discussion and tools centered around the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA’s) definition of a “positive body image:”
Let's try to think about our own body shape and size. This will take some focus because we often are not aware of most of our own deeply held thoughts about our bodies. Your task in addressing a negative body image is to become familiar with unhelpful thoughts about your body that you are thinking deep down, so you can confront them. When they are left unattended, brewing below the surface of your mind, your thoughts can develop unmanaged as the years roll on.
We all know physical appearance is just a part of who you are. Clearly too much emphasis has been placed on appearance in today’s world. So, if appearance says little about your value as a person, what does say something about your character and value as a person to you? How do you define yourself? Is it in terms of being a loving mom? A kind friend? A competent athlete? Capable at your job? It is probably a combination of some of these things that make up how you define your whole person, your character and value.
Many women spend the healthy years we have being alive distracted from living because we feel shame about our bodies. Many women engage in a tremendous amount of self-judgment and self-punishment around food and weight. Even Oprah, one of the most successful women on the planet, probably goes to bed feeling guilty because of what she ate that day. Time spent being disappointed in yourself can be a remarkable time-sink in a person’s life. Research shows that the average women spends 31 years of her life dieting. How much time have you spent in past decades telling yourself that your body was flawed? Look at pictures of yourself from those olden days; do you now realize how wonderful you actually looked? From an objective vantage point, you can appreciate the smile on your younger face and look in your younger eyes, and not hone in on just how thin (or not) your legs looked.
The ultimate goal in having a positive body image is to feel comfortable in our skin. Part of the paradigm shift we hope to achieve is accepting our bodies unconditionally. In my blog Grandmothering Yourself I spoke of loving yourself unconditionally as your grandmother would have done. But, there is a further step to feeling comfortable in your skin, you actually have to believe your body is not flawed. How is that to be done, if 80% of us feel that there is something wrong with our bodies, that we are flawed from a standard? (Discussed in Flawed from What?) How can we do that if most of us believe deep down that we are only lovable or acceptable at a certain weight we either maintain by living in food prison or that we hope to get to someday when that diet actually works?