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Empowering Women's Journeys

Building a Positive Body Image Story

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

Globally, women and men alike all but dread the question which commonly follows: “Who is the fairest of them all?”. A resounding “Not me” or a simple “Ugh…” are frequently responses – especially among us females. Worldwide, all out body hating and shaming are present in even young boys and girls! The gazillion dollar question of “why do we do this to ourselves?” has way more than one answer that ls intricately different for each of us…

Body Image: A Touchy Subject

A majority of us women (especially, but not solely) here in the west are not unfamiliar with this sensitive and nuanced topic. Studies have shown that self confidence in our body image has been on a steady decline for decades now.

Too fat, too thin, too curvy, not curvy enough, not pretty enough, not worth it – the brutal words that go through our minds when in front of the mirror runs rampant… Not one of us is alone in our struggles with insecurities and struggles with body image! Believe me, I am one of us, too!

Becoming preoccupied and concerned about body image can begin as early as after puberty (or even earlier)! As soon as we are old enough to compare what we see in the mirror with the “ideals” shown on mass media or on the screen, not so “ideal” or realistic judgments can set in. In addition, risk for the development of other mental health disorders (especially anxiety or depression), physical health conditions, or other harmful behaviours (disordered eating habits, abuse of medications or illicit substances) increases.

Even though we legitimately know that our bodies naturally need to change and grow so as to be able to fully mature and function in this world, it is curious that our expectations and self standards do not seem to budge much further than the nearest screen…

In the Eye of the Beholder

Body image refers to so much more than just the external elements of a person. What is perceived by other people very rarely matches up with who the person actually is on the inside. The equation broadcast on social media that beautiful = skinny and flawless is not at all accurate (or in any way realistic); rather, these predominately unattainable images and messages from the “perfect” (and largely photoshopped) images of skinny, tall, beautiful women serve only to perpetuate and intensify intolerance of differences in society.

Individually, we KNOW we are so much more than pictorial images of our bodies: our accomplishments, intentions, values, virtues, and so much more provide content to the incomplete images often set before us.

The Dignity Inherent in YOU

Let’s be honest: we are all vulnerable to pressures and misconceptions about the images of our bodies. All we need to is turn on the Internet or glance at a magazine. One of the many other things we also have the ability to do is modify our relationship with the image of our body and, ultimately, care for and love the woman we are; independent of what is seen on the outside, the woman carried within has dignity – a value that cannot be taken away, no matter what. How is it possible to love the body you have AND all of the woman that you are within?

Here are a few steps to get started:

  1. Self Compassion: A gift to you from you.
  2. Notice the thoughts and beliefs you have about your body: where do they come from? How do you feel emotionally when these thoughts/beliefs take hold of your mind? What actions/behaviours are common? Just notice without judgment. Maybe it makes sense that you feel this way… (This is NOT to agree with or verify it – it’s calling it for what it is.)
  3. Name and acknowledge which emotions are present for you when the negative thoughts about your body arise and let yourself feel them – it’s okay to feel whatever you feel! Allow yourself to really feel it. Notice how this changes as you let yourself sit with the uncomfortable emotions.
  4. Appreciate the body you have and all it does for you: you breathe, your heart beats, you can watch a sunset, you can listen to your favourite song, you can dance, you can read, write – there is a lot your body helps you to do!
  5. Relate to food and exercise as ways of caring for yourself/for your body rather than as obstacles or means of losing weight or gaining muscle.
  6. Engage in self care activities.
  7. Talk to someone you feel comfortable with and trust about your concerns – perhaps a friend, family member, coach, or other professional.
  8. Begin to compose a list of the unshakeable values and vituess that make you YOU, regardless of transient circumstances and emotions.
  9. Get educated and involved in what is known as the Body Image Movement ( https://bodyimagemovement.com )
  10. Give yourself a hug!

Your Body’s Nobody’s Body But Yours

Would you expect all 3.95 billion women in this world to fit into the same pair of jeans? Of course not! It is similarly unfair (and unrealistic) to insist that all bodies look the same or are built up by the same values, characteristic, strengths, and passions. While there are certainly differences across cultures in what the “ideal” body shape or size is, each of us women is equally entitled to feeling dignified, feeling comfortable in our skin, and feeling satisfied in the body you came to this world in. You have a lifetime warrantee on it this corporeal vessel that carries the woman you are!

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