Every body is the perfect body!
This week has been one filled with many conversations about body image, mostly negative, and the effects that it has on our every day life. I think back on all the words that were spoken amongst friends and I can clearly hear these beautiful and unique women picking themselves apart, piece by piece, rattling off in quick succession what each of them would change if they could. “If I had the money I would get my breast done”, one said, “I would like for my ass to be rounder and shaped like a heart”, another said. At that time I was thinking well all you have to do is get a great surgeon and you can pretty much have whatever it is that you want for the right amount of money. Now, I sit and think, how in the world did we get here? Why are we so unhappy with our bodies and allow this constant self criticism to spill over into all parts of our lives?
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (2016), body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. Body image is developed at an early age and as I think back I can remember knowing at the ripe old age of 4 that I was different and not like the other girls my age. I knew I was bigger and weighed more at the age of 4. I didn’t watch much television back then but when amongst my peers I compared myself to them more so than any of them pointing it out to me. However, body image is heavily influenced by culture and societal standards which comes across in our media. The trends of what is acceptable haven’t changed much over the years. For men it has been skin thin and muscular and for women thin is still “in” but sometimes there is an allowance for a bit of curviness with the right waist-to-hip ratio. No matter what is “in” right now, it’s not the norm and even with us knowing it is not the norm we are all chasing this ridiculous, unrealistic ideal set in place as the overall idea of beauty. I often say that we are chasing a standard and we need to wake up and realize WE ARE the standard. We are all uniquely made and trying to live up to another’s expectation leads down to a path of darkness, if you will. Chasing this standard of beauty has directly led to poor body image which in turns produces low self esteem, depression, a poor relationship with food and eating disorders. So, how do we change something that seems to have grown out of control?
On an individual level, the first step is to recognize that there is a problem. I think sometimes you have to just get sick and tired but even as I type and am aware of my own issues I still have that desire to be 30 lbs. lighter and not that I can’t stand to lose the weight but the problem is I am holding onto the idea that I will be prettier at a lighter weight and I am not happy NOW as I look into the future and try to grasp that last bit of weight loss. THIS is the problem. Once the problem is recognized for what it is then the steps can be taken to make changes. I am currently mastering habit changes and what I have learned is you are what you think. It may sound cliché but it is ohhh so true! It takes more than getting up and saying positive mantras all day. Being mindful of your thoughts, especially the negative ones and replacing them with positive ones is the key to changing your mindset. It is not an overnight process but it will be well worth it. Also, taking the time to really celebrate your body and what it does for you can help turn around those negative thoughts. I love my legs because they are strong and they carry me through the day. I also happen to think they look pretty good too! Picking a body part that you love and then allowing that same affect to spread to other parts of your body is another action step that can move poor body image into a positive one. If you are suffering so much that you now have an eating disorder and/or are depressed, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and I know first hand because I suffer from food addiction and binge eating and have for many years.
The issue of poor body image has been around for a long time and even though from a cultural standpoint it seems to be the norm, I truly feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed, continuously, because it is eating away at all most all of us and taps into our happiness and zest for life. The only time we have for living is in the present because we are not promised tomorrow nor the next second. So, wishing you looked like a model or holding onto the idea that your 20 yr. old body can make you happier is taking away from the happiness that you could be experiencing right now. I am taking back my happiness as I work through my own body image issues and it is my hope that you will do the same for yourself so that you can live your best life!