Feeling distressed about the way you look is something that society tells us is “inevitable.” We believe that body image distress is something we will all experience for our entire lives; that it’s just something we have to deal with. We’re taught (and generally believe) that our body must be a project, in order for it to be worthy.
Thinking of your body as a project, sets you up for failure.
Why? Because it suggests that your worthiness is enmeshed with your physical appearance. And because your body-project’s end goal does not actually provide you with authentic worthiness. In fact, when your body is a project, that end goal is usually a moving target that you never actually reach. You are more than your body, you are more than a goal, you are inherently worthy! It IS possible to live without body image distress.
Instead of thinking of your body as a project, what if you thought about your body as something with which you have a relationship?
What does it mean to you to have a healthy relationship with something? When you think about a healthy relationship, what do you think about? For me, trust, respect, communication, love, and appreciation are paramount to a supportive and healthy relationship.
What would it look like for you to have trusting communication with your body? It might look like listening to your hunger and fullness cues, especially when they seem confusing. A confusing hunger cue might be feeling hungry 30 minutes after finishing dinner. What would happen if you trusted that your body knows what it needs – how might that change how you talk to your body when you experience those confusing cues? Perhaps, instead of responding with, “what is wrong with me,” you might respond with “that’s unexpected; okay I’ll have a little more dinner.” When we trust that our bodies are telling us what we need, we can begin to let go of the perfectionism associated with the body as a project.
When you are in a relationship, respect and appreciation are important components, even when you’re frustrated. In a human relationship, this might sound like, “I really dislike that my partner leaves her coffee cup by the sink each day, and I’m also really appreciative that she makes the coffee every day.” In a relationship with your body, this appreciation often shows up in gratitude for function or ability. For example, “I don’t really love how that part of my belly looks, and I’m also really appreciative that my belly protects my organs.”
To begin the journey of creating a relationship with your body, the first step is identifying what a healthy relationship looks like for you. What are the qualities and characteristics that help you know your relationships are supportive and healthy? Second, be honest with yourself about what your inner dialogue sounds like and your willingness to start shifting that. Lastly, ask your therapist to help you with cognitive challenging and reframing so you can begin to shift your inner dialogue into supportive, respectful, and trusting language.