It’s sad but true that so many people can relate to feeling down about the size, shape, or appearance of their body. If focusing on everything “wrong” with your body gets in the way of you feeling positive about it, then this video’s for you! Keep watching to learn how you can come to really love your body in an honest and sustainable way!
Hi everyone, I’m Laura Brown from Heart & Oak Therapy, supporting better, brighter lives.
We’re therapists who do regular videos on mental wellness, and give practical ideas and tips to make your life happier and more fulfilling – so hit the subscribe button to keep in the loop!
In my therapy practice, I’m really passionate about working with people who struggle with their relationship to their body and food. If that’s something you can relate to, I want to stress that you are anything but alone in that!
In fact, it’s super common for people of all genders to deal with some form of body image issues. That could look like feeling disconnected from your body in some way, feeling disheartened by the size, shape, or appearance of your body, feeling like certain body parts or regions of your body are bigger or smaller than they are – and that they’re therefore inadequate, or that your body will never look the way you wish it did.
These are all really complex issues in and of themselves, and we’ll definitely look at them more closely in future videos. But in this video I want to address the common belief that you can “should” your way into loving your body. In other words, I’m going to be talking about the discouraging practice of straining to convince yourself that you should just love your body, despite all the things in this world that make that way easier said than done.
To star this off, I want to make one thing clear: This is not an abstract, clinical issue for me. These are issues that are near and dear to my heart because I’ve lived them too. Because I have enough personal material to make a full feature documentary on my own journey through body image and food issues, I’m going to focus more on that in our next video – because otherwise this one would be way too long!
So let’s talk about some practical ways you can cultivate more genuine love and sustainable appreciation for your body.
1. Assess what it means to you to be disconnected from your body and/or to struggle to have your ideal body type.
The first thing I’d like to invite you to do is ask yourself a very important question: What does it mean to you to struggle to have your ideal body type? In other words, why is achieving your ideal body image so important to you? This question is all about getting down to ground zero and really checking in with those things that can be easy to take for granted.
Having an answer to this question is important because it supports you in understanding your body image more deeply, and how your body image is a response to various life experiences. This helps shift the problem from being all in your head, to fully understanding the context of how and why it exists. This can also help lessen the hold of shame.
There might not be a single, solitary answer to this question for you, and that’s ok! Life is complicated, and it’s more common for there to be a bunch of intersecting reasons than just one that stands alone.
For example, deep down, does it come from a longing to be accepted or approved of? Do you imagine that if you had the “right” body, you’d be more likely to be loved or included by important people in your life?
The answer to this question is bound to be very personal to you, so think about how this longing makes sense within the scope of your lived experience.
I’ve also written a blog post that complements this video nicely, so make sure to check that out on the Heart & Oak Therapy blog, which I’ll link in the description. In that post I provide some other guiding questions you can use to explore this for yourself.
2. Whose story is it that your body isn’t “good enough” as is?
So, once you have your own personal understanding of why achieving your ideal body image is so important to you, it can be helpful to ask yourself the question, “whose story is it that your body isn’t ‘good enough’ as it is”?
Are you the source of this story? Or is it possible that it’s come from someplace else? Is it a story you deciphered from ways you’ve been treated by people in your life? Could it be a common story in our society – one you’ve become so accustomed to hearing that you can’t even remember when it first started showing up on your radar?
The fact is, there is no objectively “right” body type to have. The very notion of an attractive body is totally contrived by culture. Want proof? Look at the history of just about any culture from around the world. For example, many different global cultures have made round bodies out to be a sign of abundance and fortune at various points in history. The super skinny or hourglass shaped woman, and the lean, muscular man are very much inventions of modern western cultures. If we’re held to those standards and told that’s how we need to look in order to be “good enough”, it doesn’t leave us many options other than to feel inadequate.
Once you’re able to identify who the story that your body isn’t good enough the way it is really belongs to, it opens the door to a few other things worth considering. Perhaps most importantly, where do you stand on that idea? If you feel sad, discouraged, frustrated, or afraid at the idea that your body isn’t good enough the way it is, does that mean you’re for that idea, or against it? Usually people don’t feel negative emotions in response to things that feel right or good to them, so if you feel down about that idea, that’s probably telling of where you really stand on it.
3. Strengthen or shift your relationship with your body
My third tip on how to love your body for more than how it looks has to do with strengthening or shifting your relationship with your body.
When you have a solid relationship with your body beyond its physical appearance, it becomes a lot easier to resist the story that you are unworthy unless your body looks a certain way.
Your appreciation becomes genuine when you really tune in to your physical body and recognize all that it does for you.
To get started on that, it helps to take up practices that allow you to really connect with your body, as a part of the person you are. Some guiding questions you can use include, “how does your body communicates its wants and needs to you? What sensations help get these messages across, and how does it feel when you take care of them?”, “When does your body feel best? When does it feel strongest? When does it feel most relaxed? When does it feel most well?”, “How does your body’s physical appearance represent its health and wellness, and to what extent? Like is it possible to be physically healthy and well, and to carry body fat? What feels right for your body? At what point does the amount of body fat impede or support your body’s wellness?”
I’ve included a link in the description to a post on the Heart & Oak Therapy blog that offers more questions like these to help guide you down your own path toward strengthening your relationship with your body.
One thing I really want to stress is that in a world that tells us we’re inadequate in so many ways, having a really positive relationship with your body is more likely to be a work in progress than an end game achievement. By doing this work, you’re going against the grain in a big way, and that’s a challenge! The last thing we need is to feel ashamed for not having a squeaky-clean body image on top of the struggles many of us already have. That’s just yet another layer of bullshit that our culture attempts to pile on top of us.
The fact that you are even here listening to me talk about body image tells me just how strong you really are. Your courage to honestly consider where you are at, and how you want things to be different is legit, and it’s hard but important work.
It can be hard to even admit that you’re struggling with your body image. After all, aren’t we all meant to be incredibly secure, confident, and independent people? But this work is gradual and takes time – it’s not just as simple as flicking a switch and going from night to day. By opening your eyes and ears to your own lived experience and understanding your relationship to your body in context, you can start to cultivate more and more appreciation for all the great ways it can serve you.
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Take care until next time, and keep doing the things that help you live a better, brighter life!