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Holistic Psychology Answers
Dr. Jeanette, licensed psychologist, alternative approach
I have such a bad body image, what can I do about it?
The word body image in and of itself reflects the problem. Your body needs to be loved and accepted for what it is. It is not an image; it is real flesh and blood. More importantly, it is you. It is the place where the real you lives and breathes. Do not be disheartened at the thought of this; this is your ticket to freedom and joy. Your relationship to your body is the most important relationship you will ever have on planet earth.
Our society has conditioned us into thinking that certain types of bodies are sexy and desirable, while other types are not. If we don't have those large breasts, small waists and that beautiful face, then we are out of luck. This is plain nonsense. If you've ever really noticed, we all have marvelously individualistic bodies just as we each have unique fingerprints.
As most of you know, in different cultures, different bodies are considered desirable. Women frequently reject their body because it does not fit into the ideal as defined by their particular society. When you do this, you are accepting society's definition of an ideal that does not even exist in reality.
Men are also defined by the size of their penis and the curve of their ass. If we accept these debilitating judgments as standards for ourselves, we end up thinking that our body is bad and we are bad. Then we have a bad body image. When we think this way, we inhibit ourselves and end up depressed and anxious.
An anorexic or bulimic adolescent goes to the extreme to fit into a certain "image." There is a frightening film called Edge City. It is based on a real event, which occurred on the edge of Philadelphia. It is realistically portrayed, showing a bulimic adolescent and how she got caught up in her peer group image and ends up being intimately involved in a group murder. A chilling reality. Trying to fit into any image frequently lead us into self-destructive acts and behaviors.
Any way you look at it, it is not healthy to let others define you. You need to accept and love yourself-- just as goddess, god, and nature made you. Your body is your instrument for living. Your body is what houses your energy. When you reject any aspect of your body, you are rejecting yourself at the most basic level.
You reject yourself because you accept outside definitions of what you should be. When you do this, youspend all of your life and all of oyur energy seeking outside approval. If you live an image, your life is a shell and you cannot ever like yourself or feel good about yourself. Seeking approval is never going to satisfy your deep need to be loved. You can succeed at getting all the approval the world has to offer, just like Marilyn Monroe did, and you will end up feeling as empty as she did.
It is also common for both men and women to see themselves unrealistically. Once a person has been fat, she sees herself that way, even after she loses weight. Once a person sees himself as ugly, he sees himself as ugly no matter how attractive he may become.
This distortion of current reality is curious because it simply doesn't change no matter how much or how many people try to get the person to see what is actually in the mirror; she still thinks she looks fat. This is because her beliefs are frozen into this fat body image and nothing is ever going to change her mind. She sees fat in the mirror.
Your "bad body image" sounds like you are carrying around the belief that you look bad and nothing is ever going to change your mind.
In this fat example, the physical body has changed but the issues that created the fat in the first place have not changed. This is the reason most fat people gain their weight loss back. The solution does not lie in the right diet or in self-control.
In my experience the only thing that can ever change this frozen fat image or any other bad body image is to directly experience the real feelings that have not been experienced.
Within this fat image, frozen in time and in your mind, your real feelings are waiting to be acknowledged. Even though you have changed, by force, physical reality, the fat image is your emotional issues. The fat itself was a result of deeply embedded, unexpressed emotions. These inexperienced emotions must be experienced.
When you do this, you move beyond your bad body image into reality. This is powerful living. Look in the mirror and keep looking until you are confronted with your own critical eye and your own self-hatred. Let this come up to your awareness. Keep looking until the self-hatred and judgments drop away. Keep looking until the shame and embarrassment vibrate through your body making you blush and feel uncomfortable. Keep looking until you can actually see what your body looks like in the mirror without society's conditioning defining what you see in the mirror. Now you are looking at the real you in the mirror.
When you can do this, you will see a naked body, innocent and pure. This natural creature can become vibrant and healthy, even if it is still fat. Loving your body as it really is will provide the fertilizer you need to grow into your potential. Each body can be full of vibrant and alive energy. And each body is unique and beautiful in its own way. It is our job to accept our body and take good care of our physical instrument so that our body can be its own best self. A body that is open and flowing will naturally be attractive and desirable.
Have you ever noticed how a face can go from being tight and critical and ugly into being open and bright and inviting? If you put your energy into being your best self rather than wasting your energy on an image, you will reap rewards.
Each body can be a free and healthy instrument for naturally occurring feelings. Then joy and love and desire will vibrant through you several times a week! A magnetic personality is the result of energy, not an ideal body. A charismatic leader may or may not be that perfect ideal, but she is always full of life.
So put your awareness, time and energy into becoming your authentic self, letting all body images drop away. Keep breathing and looking in the mirror until you can see and accept what is really there. Your body will respond by becoming the most wonderful physical manifestation of you. It will also bring you much pleasure and satisfaction.
See Love your body for more information about the body and how important it is in feeling safe and secure. I hope this helps you live in your real body and enjoy it.