A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine asked me to share a relevant blog on self-image and how women feel about their bodies. I committed to the request on the spot, believing I could put something together easily, or better yet, pull an old blog out and just share it with her.
But, there has been no ease. And, not one old blog.
I’ve been a bit puzzled about my own process. Why have I, as a therapist and advocate for women, not ever addressed this? And, why was I procrastinating on doing so?
I began to think about how I generate content for blogging, and realized they primarily arise from the sacred space with my clients, from living life with friends and family, and from my own personal journey. And, I have begun to realize that as each woman tells her story, it very rarely invites the vulnerable and provocative journey of truly loving our body. In fact, I have had several beautiful women end therapy with me after a long journey together. We sit together with a sense of accomplishment, and reflect on the conquering of depression, of relationship issues, boundaries, trauma, and the like. I remember our intake session together and what came up first. I ask, “What are some reasons why you’re here today?”
“I hate my body and how I look”, we reply.
For whatever reason, this rarely gets addressed. It will float about here and there, but the deep work gets skated over. Perhaps it is the client; perhaps (and probably) it is also me.
I realize the pressure for perfection is bigger than you and me. I realize the message to look better, thinner and younger is subtle and insidious. It funnels into our news feed and is rampant at the mall and even on Amazon. It is at our workplace and school drop off times, and at the gym. It is even in a quick look from our husbands and friends. The campaign to combat poor body image (especially here in Newport Beach) may never be fully addressed and defeated in my lifetime. However, I wonder if you and I can link arms and help each other along. Here are some thoughts:
- Let’s stop judging how other women look. I suppose this could go both ways. But for the purpose of this blog, I’ll clarify: let’s stop seeing how much prettier and skinnier and younger everyone else looks compared to us. As a friend to some of the most beautiful women in the world, I promise you that we are all seeing our own deficits before our own beauty. Instead, we could try and seek out the inner beauty of the women around us. I find that when I pay attention to the outer beauty of others, I feel shame, inadequacy, and smallness; yet, when I pay attention to the inner beauty of others, I feel empowered, encouraged and convicted.
- Let’s commit to not talk about women behind their back. I believe this continues to promote the ugliness that is within me. It not only makes me like myself less, it propels the idea that we are allowed to hurt each other. When I trust my own commitment to only uplift other women, I believe (and perhaps with ignorance) that I’m being loved with unconditional regard of my own imperfections.
- Let’s learn the art of sincere complimenting. Have you ever gotten that strange feeling when receiving a compliment? It’s laced with insincerity, and it feels oddly unsafe. That’s us women overcompensating for the discomfort of our own insecurities. It also generates the idea that we don’t really have each other’s backs. Let’s seek out ways we admire one another from a real place, and practice extending those with genuineness. People are intuitive and will feel our warmth and want to give back. And next, let’s practice sincerely complimenting ourselves. If that’s too difficult, perhaps start with asking safe people to share some sincere compliments about your beauty.
- Let’s honor our body. I really think this helps immensely. Putting our scale and food tracker aside, are we exercising and getting our heart rate going? Do we eat enough vegetables everyday for healthy digestion? Do we have activities that connect us to our body? Are we hydrated? More and more, I am learning how to pay attention to what my body is asking of me. As I tend to this relationship I realize it is less and less about weight and size, and more and more about longevity and thriving.
- Let’s talk about it. I would love to open up the invitation to talk more about where our poor body images came from. Who taught us about our ugliness and how are we fostering it today? I believe that the combating of shame is language. When we invite dialogue and others into our vulnerability we dissolve the roots of our false inadequacy. I hope to learn more about your beauty!