Body Image on a Spectrum

| Ashley Emmons, LCMHC

When we have negative thoughts about our body, we often believe that we will always feel negatively and that there is no other option. In fact, society seems to suggest that this is the case. The way you feel about your body is not something that society should determine for you. Everyone has the right to feel confident and comfortable in their own body and to shift out of a place of distress and into a place of vitality.

You do not have to live hating your body for the rest of your life. 

The negative thoughts you have about your body are not permanent (even though it might feel like they are!). Actually, you probably have neutral or even accepting thoughts about your body sometimes, too. But because of this thing called “negativity bias,” where the negative thoughts you have seem to be more important than the positive thoughts, you might not even notice those moments when you think about your body with neutrality or acceptance. As a result, we get stuck in a cyclical process where we think negative things about our body and then end up in distress over our body which increases our likelihood of thinking those negative things again. So, how do you break that cycle? 

One way is to recognize that body image thoughts are on a spectrum and our thoughts can (and do!) move along that spectrum all the time. If we look at a body image spectrum, it probably looks something like this: 

Your spectrum might have different titles on it and there might be more notches with words for how you feel about your body – like tolerance, interest, disconnect, or admiration. What words would you put on your body image spectrum?

When we are stuck on the left-hand side of the spectrum, it seems impossible to even imagine that there is another side. If you’re willing, let’s try to imagine that anyway. If you were in the body acceptance part of the spectrum, what would your thoughts sound like? How would you talk to yourself? What actions would you engage in? If you cannot imagine that right now, that’s okay! That’s where your therapist can help you. 

Today's the day to make a change.