Articles by Peggy

Body Image

We hear this pairing of words stuck together so often that I don’t always know what it means anymore. Is it about what we perceive of our own body? Is it about how others perceive us? Is it about how we compare ourselves (or others) to a certain cultural body preference or norm? My guess is that all three of these play a big role in our construct of 'body image'. Overcoming difficulties with ‘body image’ can be intricately wrapped up in numerous experiences and understandings of ourselves in the world. I have found in working with clients and within myself on this particular issue that having negative thoughts about our body image can be particularly painful and self-sabotaging – leading to actions and decisions that stray from our preferred way of living.

Sometimes our own ‘body image’ voice gets us living out stories that go against what we want in our life. For example, if a woman has a ‘body image’ story of “I’m overweight,” her actions will very often follow this storyline. She may not stick to a schedule at the gym. She may give into cravings for unhealthy food. Who wins? The voice of ‘body image.” Additionally, the voice of ‘body image’ likes to recruit its friends. People I work with often notice that when negative ‘body image’ storylines run high, so do stories of ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’, and ‘poor self-esteem’. All of these voices can be overwhelming and self-defeating.

So what can we do? In order to counteract the strong effects and influences of a negative ‘body image’ voice, we need to highlight the actions, commitments, and hopes that run against it. For example, the woman whose ‘body image’ voice says that she’s "overweight" probably knows that being overweight isn’t healthy. She may be able to come up with many ways in which she chooses ‘health’ in other parts of her life. Does she go to the doctor as needed? Does she choose not to smoke? Does she sometimes actually go to the gym? To help counter the negative ‘body image’ voice, she needs to claim why she is following through with the ‘healthy’ parts of her self. Perhaps she does these things because she wants to be here for her children and partner. Maybe it’s because she likes how it feels when she does work out at the gym. Could she secretly enjoy and value these ‘health’ choices but the ‘body image’ voice tries to convince her otherwise? By making ‘health’ choices more present in our brain, the ‘body image’ voice loses much of its power, enabling us to function in ways that make us happier.

Do this for yourself and see what happens. (You may want to get out a quick pencil and paper. Its fun and worth it!!)

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