Depending on where you look for body image statistics, somewhere between 60% and 97% of people (men or women….teens or adults) report not having a good body image. Body image is how we think, feel, and act toward or about our bodies. If you don’t feel good about your body, you are certainly not alone. And depending on what you believe about your body, I would bet many reading this would struggle to believe that it is not their body’s fault. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), we call this fusion with our thoughts. Sometimes our thoughts are so entrenched that we have a hard time seeing and knowing that it is a thought and believe it to be reality. I posted a quote on social media yesterday from Lindsay Kite that says, “My body was never the problem; my perception of my body was the problem.”
What if we tell ourselves this every time we have a bad thought about our body? What if we could imagine, even if only a moment, what it would be like if we didn’t see our body as a problem, as something holding us back, as something to hide? Extra points if you write some of the thoughts down of what you would do and how it would be.
One quick caveat—weight stigma and fatphobia are real. Society is not always easy breezy for folks in larger bodies or with disabilities. Racism can also sometimes create a hard stop for folks. I don’t want to pretend like these are not part of reality. For purposes of this exercise, I am looking at the stories inside our own heads that we are telling ourselves. How are you hiding? What is your body holding you back from? Can we each find a way to do the thing we would so love to do? Honestly, we may need to get creative or innovative. Maybe we need to show up to our high school reunion or post the selfie on social media. Maybe we tell the truth in the conversation at work. Maybe we go swimming or dancing. Maybe we start the YouTube channel we’ve been dreaming about. The truth is, we can often do the things, wear the things, be the things—it is society who says we can’t. And if there is indeed a limitation, that’s where creativity and innovation come in—maybe we develop a way to somehow work around the limitation.
In Brené Brown’s work, she has a great mantra—she says, “don’t shrink, don’t puff up, stand your sacred ground.” I love this mantra. I developed my own version for my own journey, which you will notice I leave out the don’t puff up part (you can psychoanalyze me if you want). Jamie’s version: Don’t hide—stand in your truth!