So my blog article today builds on my last blog article Challenging Bad Body Image from July 15, 2010 - click on the July button to the right to read Part 1. This is an excerpt from my upcoming book on recovery from eating disorders, which I will hopefully finish writing soon - I'm on chapter 12 (of 12!).
As I asked last time, anyone know a publisher? Editor? Agent?
Challenging Your Bad Body Image - Part 2
Okay so how do we Challenge Body Hatred? When we say, “I hate my body” we need to dispute that sentence from many angles. First let’s look at the word ‘hate’ - it's quite a powerful word. Think of every possible thing in the whole wide world that deserves the word hate: violence, war, rape, racism, child abuse, cancer, terrorism, world hunger, global warming, slavery, genocide, pollution, torture, drive by shootings…– these are big things in the world! I’m sure you can think of several more things that deserve the word ‘hate.’ Notice what happens when you consider these things. Now consider where does the size and shape of your body fit on this list? Most people realize, it doesn’t!
So let’s eliminate the word ‘hate’ when we describe our bodies and save it for things that deserve it. Think of ‘hate’ and ‘love’ as two ends of a continuum. (You know how much I enjoy continuums). What words would you put in between? We need to find a softer, gentler word or phrase – dislike, not so crazy about, not my favorite, lukewarm about, half-hearted about. How about, “I am critical of my body.” That feels more accurate. And we are going to challenge even that in several ways…
Next let’s look at some things that are not said, but rather implied when you state, “I am critical of my body.” Let’s challenge the word “I.” As you know, we have many Parts. When you say “I” you imply that all of you, all of your Parts are critical of your body. But it feels very different to say, “Some of my Parts are critical of my body.” It leaves the possibility open that there are other Parts who are not critical of your body – there may even be the possibility that there are Parts who like your body, enjoy your body, and maybe even find your body beautiful! (Am I pushing it too far here?)
So we’ve changed the sentence to “A Part of me is critical of my body.” Now let’s look at ‘my body’ – this implies 100% of my body, 100% of the time. I know there are times when what you look like is important: your wedding day, going on a job interview or a first date. When I gave an important speech to a group of psychotherapists, it was important to me to look polished and professional. But if you think about it, these are the minority of our life. There are so many more times when what you look like is irrelevant or unimportant, like in the example with Gabriela (Amy's Note: See Part 1). It’s not that in those moments you adore your body, it’s more of an absence of criticism or judgment. Sitting alone on a porch swing, reading an engrossing novel, walking the dog early in the morning, hanging out with a really good friend, or talking to your therapist – how important is it what you look like? Not very. There are many times when we are with people who know everything about us and yet, can still see beauty within and without. Who we are on the inside is what is important to them. Pay attention and notice all the times when what you look like is irrelevant or unimportant. Seek out these moments!
This changes the sentence to “Sometimes, a Part of me is critical of my body.” This implies that there are times when the Part is not critical of your body. (Although you may find that the minute you notice the Part is not critical of your body, the critical Part starts up again. Oh well! Just enjoy the brief reprieve and know that the more you practice this the longer the reprieve will be.)
The last step will be to challenge ‘100% of my body.’ Let’s look at your entire body – yes, there are parts of your body that you are not crazy about or dislike. Some of these parts are pretty universal. Most of us think our feet are ugly – if you think about what feet have to do they can get pretty beat up and unsightly. The majority of female clients find it difficult to like the very parts of their bodies that make them female: hips, thighs, rear. We’ll talk more about these parts later in the chapter.
But there are also parts of your body that you are neutral about – how do you feel about your elbows, your earlobes, your forehead, your wrists? And if push comes to shove, I’m sure there are parts of your body you like: your eyes, your lips, your teeth, your nails, your baby toes.
So this changes our sentence yet again to: “Sometimes, a Part of me is critical of some of my body.” Now let’s substitute a mantra you can practice telling yourself. Here are some suggestions, “Every body has beauty.” “My appearance is a small part of who I am.” “I look acceptable (or fine, or OK – pick a word that fits for you).” “I don’t have to look perfect to be lovable.” And then there’s the old standby, “I do not look like I feel. I do not look like I think I look.”
Look for Part 3 of this topic soon!
I'd love to hear your comments, suggestions, questions, reactions.... Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org