Our perceptions of our bodies are influenced by many factors in our lives. For the past year, those factors included the fact that we were isolated in our homes with minimal contact. We acclimated to a world that existed primarily online and was therefore less personal. With this, came the constant checking of our online interests which exposed us to an influx of videos trying to solve all of our problems. Clothing, exercise, food, you name it, all promised to heal everyone’s body image struggles. In reality though, these are really just fabricated presentations that require enticing you to find your next big thing. They are preying on your hope for change. What they promise isn’t a panacea, but rather the false promise of something unrealistic and unattainable.
A multitude of factors impact our mental health. Some, such as the constant checking of email, social media, being cooped up for a year and a half, not having an escape, loss of friends, as well as the grieving of loved ones passed through the years, can overwhelm and exhaust. Just think about the mental processing that goes with all of this and you’ll recognize the processing intensity is more akin to a supercomputer. According to a CDC report, “elevated levels of adverse mental health conditions… were reported by adults in the United States in June 2020.” For eating disorders specifically, research has revealed that eating disorder symptoms worsened across the board for people with anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder nationwide since the pandemic began.
We struggle to check in with ourselves, always trying to accommodate what we believe we need because the images from the all-consuming pictures, videos, and daily impressions get lazered into our minds. We do this daily, repetition breeds solidification and we do the same thing every day, day in and day out.
What happens when this gets related to our bodies?
Every morning becomes a body image moment as we prepare to get ready for the day. We question how we look as further pondering of whether or not our clothes fit our needs takes shape. We step on scales, we look at ourselves in mirrors, and we continually ask ourselves, “will what I wear and how I look speak for me?” If not, we often ask ourselves, “will my body ruin every moment?” To further this nightmare, imagine looking at ourselves in the mirror and comparing what we see to the image in our mind. It’s difficult to appreciate anything, let alone our bodies when we are constantly comparing ourselves. Despite the fact that our perceived flaws serve in part to remind us of our humanity, we begin tearing ourselves apart, even before the day begins.
From Instagram, to local news, to students, to soccer moms, this body image struggle is ubiquitous across groups of people and across media outlets. We forget when there was a time turning to our body. was a place of comfort. Strength was natural we did not think about it all that time. When we learned we didn’t become self conscious about our body and when we ate we didn’t hype fixate on our stomachs.
Body appreciation is challenging, especially in the face of difficulty. Is it even possible to achieve? According to Allan (as cited in Tylka and Piran, 2019), what we do know is that if we question our “perpetual experience of engagement of the body in the world,” we then start to question another depth of our lived experience. We can hold a space to be inquisitive and possibly figure something out. We can listen to our bodies.
What would your body say?
Would it ask for us to keep pushing? Would your body crave perfectionism? Will your body ever be good enough? Will we always continue to use our own body as a scapegoat? Is your body the problem? Likely, you know the answers to these questions. So how do we heal this disconnect between what our minds tell us and what our bodies want? How do we begin to appreciate our bodies for what it is and what it does?
The first step of the journey is wanting to take a step. When you finally want tot take the step, it is scary and new. If you remember, the journey to body appreciation begins with listening, “what would your body say?” I’ve never met anyone who did this perfectly, although some clues to know you may struggle to listen is when you notice comparison, perfectionism, and unrealistic expectations creeping back in and sabotaging a new relationship between you and your body’s wisdom.
When things feel tough, we often only hear the negative. You don’t have to give up and when you do learn to recognize and live in moments of appreciation, the results are profound. Research has found that “Body appreciation is positively associated with multiple indicators of psychological well-being” such as optimism, self-esteem, proactive coping, and positive affect. Imagine not having to control your body to achieve these attributes.
We all deserve to live a life in which we don’t question our bodies or our own self-adequacy. Self-compassion and contentment can be learned when we start moving down a path towards body appreciation. Imagine increasing those special moments in your life because you didn’t have to blame your body..
Could it be your turn for body appreciation? Contact us.