I think it is pretty fair to say that nearly everyone has at least one part of their body that they genuinely do not "like". Dare I even say most people have a part that they may even "hate". I know I do.
Most people are familiar with the idea of grieving a loss such as a death of a relative or pet, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, etc. I am a firm believer that this idea of loss also applies to our body image: let's call it body image grief.
So what is body image grief?
It's the grief we have for our "ideal bodies", former bodies, smaller bodies, etc. You know, that moment when you see an old photo and say "man I miss that body". Or "DAMN, I looked so good then," (implying you don't look good now which is false- that's a whole other blog though). These are just a few examples, friends. But if you know, you know. AND you are in good company here.
What does body image grief look like?
Well, first it is important to know that body image grief goes beyond the body itself- because it is about SO much more than simply your physical body. It is often times about the "work hard enough" mentality that is ingrained in our society. You know, the idea that things would be better or under control if you "just worked harder at it". Hmpf. Or maybe that if you "cared enough" about yourself that you would "loose the weight". Another HMPF. I think it is also important to acknowledge that diet culture neglects our mental health, biological factors, and genetics that also go into our physical body. Let's also acknowledge that diet culture comes with a disclaimer about results not being promised or typical, which is because diets FAIL. Diets fail. They fail because they do NOT work. Period.
Let's also acknowledge the component of body image grief where you grieve the "extras" that would come with that particular or ideal body. For example, the feelings of self-worth or self-love that would automatically come with the ideal body. And let me share a little secret- it doesn't work that way at all. If it did, we wouldn't look at an old photo and "miss that body", because it is likely the same body that wasn't "enough" at that very moment. Read that again.
I saw an old photo from a few years ago and instantly had body grief. I released a large sigh, had an automatic frown, and I missed the girl in the photo. I missed the smallness of her figure, her carefree spirit, and her genuine smile. I chose to sit with those feelings for a moment. I took some deep breaths and just sat in silence.
Then it all came back to me. When I was that person in the photo, I didn't like my body then either. She still felt "too big" and she needed to loose weight as fast as possible. I realized her carefree spirit was one that existed before becoming a mom with a tiny human to love, protect, and care for daily. Her genuine smile has been dampened with recent life stressors, but still makes an appearance from time to time.
The key here, friends, is to learn how to sit in the suck. And yes, it is uncomfortable. And scary. And not fun. And even torture at times. And it is also how we move our way through the body grief towards body acceptance.
Steps to help you learn to Sit in the Suck:
1. Explore the WHY or WHAT:
What am I feeling in this moment? Why is this coming up for me?
2. Assess the Timing:
Am I in a place to sit in the suck? Both physically and mentally?
3. Honor the Suck:
Yes! Honor those feelings that come up for you. Don't push them away, don't belittle them or reason/rationalize them, simply acknowledge and honor them. Don't try to fix it.
4. Show Compassion:
Determine what it is that you need in this moment and show compassion. Talk to yourself like someone you love dearly. Validate, validate, validate.
Friends, this is a sensitive topic for many people and I want to acknowledge that this may not be the easiest blog to read, let alone to apply. I also want to give credit for your bravery in even reading this blog and being open to its content. It's an indication of your courage and love for yourself.
Please remember that body image is not your actual body, it is how you feel about your body. It's the thoughts and feelings you have. And the best part- that means that it CAN change, with your help. Unfortunately, we can’t change society’s beliefs around our bodies; however we can gently challenge and change our own beliefs!
My encouragement to you is to read this blog and let it marinate. Maybe re-read a day or two later and see what comes up for you. Does a certain body come up? Or a particular photo? You may want to even journal afterwards to the person in that image or photo. What do they need to hear from you? What compassion can you show them? What love or kindness would they appreciate? You can give that to them and that is such a beautiful gift.
Lastly friends, you are beautiful and loved just as you are.
Your here and now body is worthy of the same love as well.
Be kind to yourself today and continue doing your best.
If this article resonated with you, we are here to help. Contact the office today to schedule an appointment with a skilled and compassionate therapist! Let's do the hard work together.