Recently, I was speaking with a client about the media and female body image. As she, and most women recognize, female body image the media have been intricately entangled for some time now. This is not a new story. Idealized and unrealistic images are no secret.
She expressed that even though she was acutely aware of the images and the messages they push, she could not help but shake the reality that these images have a serious effect on her level of self-worth and acceptance.
What we are left with here is that even though women may be aware of the messages conveyed within such images, they still may not have the tools to appropriately deflect and counter them.
Images are both the message and the messenger. They do a very, very good job at reflecting their objective.
I inquired what the images say to her. She expressed they declare, “You are your body.” Then they ask, “But do you add up? If your body does not add up, you worth is also insignificant.” She internalizes the message that her body is the basis of which she weighs her value, and if it is not comparable to that which she is supposed to maintain, she is then lacking value.
Instead of countering by honoring the temple she finds herself in, she opposes with, “I am not my body. I am more than my body. I am my soul, my mind.” Beautiful. Yes. Great.
However, what she has lost here in fighting the idealized image is a connection to and with her body. Instead of countering with, “No, this is my temple and I will it honor it,” she denies her body entirely. She removes herself from, and her relationship with her body in an attempt to make her “imperfections” no longer matter.
Here she finds herself in a vulnerable place between two paths: base your worth on your body (my value is weighed on my ability to add up to the that), or wholly deny it (my body doesn’t matter). What is lost in choosing denial is the vital relationship with her body. A woman is her body. She is her soul, her thighs, her uterus, her mother, her father, unborn child, her breasts, mind, stomach, heart, and her wisdom. She is everything - body included.
Finding the space between acceptance of industry standards and rejection is not a slight task. A woman must counter idealized standards while not wholly denying her body in the process. Self- acceptance, worth, and value do not only come from contesting the standard. They also comes from honoring the body and self-love – fully, now and unconditionally.
If you insist on denying your body one day, and obsess about its imperfections the next, you are left between a rock and hard place. Building tools and a practice that supports honoring and acknowledging the temple are vital steps in supporting the process of healing.
HERE A HANDFUL OF GOODIES THAT SUPPORT THE CAUSE:
1. If Instagram or other social media platforms are your friend, begin following plus-size models and body-positive bloggers (or anyone that may not fit the “standard”). The intention is not to set their bodies as your goal-body, or to demean the beauty of women who do fit the standard. Instead, this is meant to balance the images you would otherwise see 100% of the time. Keep following your #eatclean folks and women with abs for days, but also follow some beautiful, curvy ladies. (This was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received)
2. Stick a post-it note on your mirror, in your car, or anywhere you often find yourself that reads, “I accept myself – now and unconditionally.” Repeat it. Repeat it again.
3. When you find yourself looking in the mirror, imagine a young girl is watching. You can imagine your daughter, niece, or perhaps even you as young girl. What if that girl could hear your thoughts, or watch as you look at yourself? Would you feel comfortable with what she witnesses? If not, maybe it is time to begin rethinking how you talk to and see yourself. After all, that young girl will always be in you somewhere.