How you perceive your body, source of joy or anxiety?
*This post is written for women and “you” because body image is a subject that affects many young women, but women and men, both teenagers and adults, can find valuable answers. So whoever you are, continue reading!
Hey you! Young woman in the making! Do you have a minute? We need to talk.. Well, if you wish!
I swear I’m not here to give you a lesson, to tell you who or how you should be. Because people who know-it-all and want to teach me a lesson (specifically when I asked nothing) totally annoys me (what makes them think their opinion is of interest ?!). So I do not intend to do that.
I want to share with you what I’ve learned (thanks to my profession) and what I wish I would have known earlier. I think it would have helped me understand myself and put words on some of my feelings. And I think maybe it could help you too. You’ll decide!
So I’m here to give you a gift! Ha ha! No kidding, my intention is to offer you a point of view, different perhaps than the ones you’ve heard before (or maybe not!).
So let’s talk about the relationship we have with our bodies. I don’t know if this is your case, but sometimes this relationship can be chaotic, or even downright negative. Sometimes this relationship even makes us totally unhappy. We can suffer the consequences without realizing where it comes from. I hope to raise your awareness, if necessary, and encourage you to reflect on the topic.
Is your attitude towards your body good or bad? You like it or wish to be in someone else’s shoes?
What is body image?
Let’s start with the beginning. Body image is the perception that one has of one’s body. Thoughts, feelings and attitudes that we feel when thinking about our body (and other people’s body). Your body, do you like it? Do you hate it? Does it make you anxious? Does it influence your relationship with food? Do you think about it often?
Depending on your answer, it can affect many areas of your life. For example, if your body makes you anxious because it doesn’t please you, you may tend to isolate yourself to avoid others’ people eyes. It could be that eating stresses you for fear of gaining weight, and that it undermines all pleasure to taste, to eat and to share a good meal with your family!
It may also be more subtle. Sometimes we are not even aware that we have an opinion. We have an inner voice about, and it’s unconscious and involuntary. We think that our opinion of our body is actually the Truth. You know, “I find myself ugly because I am ugly, it’s obvious! No one will ever be interested in me, I myself would not be interested in me”. All of these attitudes and inner talks come from your body image (among others).
Today, what is your perception of your body? Any different than yesterday’s perception?
Gift of Knowledge 1: What is a healthy body image and a disturbed body image?
This definition can help you to position yourself, and to become aware of your own relationship with your body. Keep in mind that not everything is black and white. It may be that you are somewhere between these two states.
Healthy body image:
- A clear and true perception of your body and your appearance. You see the different parts of your body as they really are, neither more nor less.
- You celebrate and appreciate the unique shape of your body. You are happy to be different (to be you!).
- You understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about his character and value as a person.
- You feel satisfied and you accept your body, you refuse to spend too much time worrying about your appearance and your weight.
- You are comfortable and confident in your body. You use it to move, feel, love, etc., in a natural and spontaneous way.
- You take care of yourself no matter what shape is your body.
Disturbed body image:
- You have a distorted perception of your body and your appearance. You perceive parts of your body different from what they really are.
- You only see the parts of your body that you don’t like. You cannot imagine being happy with that body.
- You are convinced that only other people are attractive. You believe that the size, weight or shape of your body is a sign of personal failure.
- You feel ashamed, embarrassed and anxious about your body.
- You feel uncomfortable in your body.
How do you feel about these definitions? If you realize that you have a healthy body image, it’s really great! You are right! Keep cultivating this state. You will become a model for other young women, as you lead by example!
If you realize that your perception of your appearance may not be optimal, don’t worry too much and keep reading. There are solutions. (By the way, you’ve already taken the first step which is to ask questions and look for answers. Well done!)
Gift of Knowledge 2: The fact that you find yourself ugly (or beautiful) is only a perception, an opinion.
A perception is probably very realistic in your eyes (after all, that’s the definition of a perception: the way you think and interpret something), but very questionable in the absolute! The reality is not so simple and it’s a very good news! Reality changes according to everyone’s perceptions.
I bet that your mother, or your father, or your best friend or your partner, finds you super cute because they love you as a whole! On the opposite, did you notice that you can find someone super hot but as you get to know that person better, you start finding him/her less beautiful (perhaps that person is super rude or selfish) …even if his/her appearance did not change. Your opinion changes.
Even our own perception of our appearance can change on a daily basis. Personally, if I didn’t sleep well and I walk in cat vomit as soon as I get out of bed, the day is off to a rough start! My perception of reality is altered (in a bad way!) and everything freaking annoys me! Suddenly, I’m less keen on my image. But is my body the problem? NO! It’s rather my perception on this day (and my cat who just vomits every day. Always on my side of the bed). Realizing that your body image is a matter of perception and not The Truth gives you power. Because perceptions change, and evolve.
Our perception of our body is an opinion that changes. It is not The Truth.
Gift of knowledge 3: Your social and intellectual capacities, your talents and your abilities do not depend at all on what you think you look like.
That’s the best news! Beautiful or not, we can always be funny, brilliant, creative, kind, strong, determined, open-minded, helpful, generous, accomplished, empathic, assertive … You get it!
It’s true! Think of someone you esteem (your parents, a teacher, a friend, etc.) and ask yourself: does my esteem for this person is lower when she gets up in the morning, wearing a not-so-fancy PJs and messy hair (and morning breath!)? I am convinced that the answer is no. It’s the same for you. Your appearance doesn’t add or subtract anything to your value as a person.
Being beautiful (by the industry’s standards) is not necessary to be a happy and worthy human! Being unique is the way to go!
My body image is disturbed, what can I do?
First, if you feel your body image is disrupted, it makes you unhappy, and you feel it’s taking too much of your time and energy, I strongly urge you to talk to someone about it (someone you trust or talk to a health professional – It could be a doctor, a registered dietitian, a psychologist or a nurse). It’s important to be honest with yourself about this. I would not want you to stay alone with your thoughts if they make you unhappy. That being said, I have 2 ideas to improve your perception of yourself.
1.Make a list of your social and intellectual qualities you love about yourself. You can also ask those who love you to give you their opinion on your strengths. Add your successes and what you discover about yourself over time. Keep it safely and read it often!
2. Make another list of what your body, as it is, allows you to accomplish that you find pleasant and satisfying. For example, practicing a sport, hugging a loved one, petting a cat, rocking a baby, cooking, laughing out loud, holding the hand of someone who needs it, admiring a painting, listening to or playing music, tasting a succulent dish, smelling a perfume, laughing with friends… Do these actions often! It will make you feel good.
Get your self-love chart by subscribing. Print it, fill it in, and read it over on days where you need a reminder of how worthy you are!
*BONUS TIP*: Be critical of the unique and unrealistic beauty model conveyed by the media and the fashion industry. Observe the slogans, attitudes and images (and their retouching) that make you feel inadequate and PROTEST. Claim your rights to be who you are!
You could, for example, make yourself the spokesperson for girls who are unique and beautiful, you could write to advertisers, magazines to condemn the messages that you judge offensive about beauty and thinness, you could write a manifesto, post on social media, create a slam, or simply write in your diary. Whatever you do, do’t let yourself be convinced (neither by others, nor by yourself) that you are anywhere less then perfectly imperfect.
Do these things inspire you? Do they give you ideas of what else you (and others) can do to feel good about your body? Share in the comments!
Your body image is disturbed? Do not stay alone with your thoughts, there are solutions!
Remember that perceptions vary, that being beautiful (by the fashion industry’s standards) is not necessary to be a happy and worthy human, and that if your body image is disrupted there are solutions. You have the power to change things!
CIAO for today, I’m gonna use my body and all its physical and emotional abilities!
National Eating Disorders Association, Body Image
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