The Problem With Body Image
I was catching up with a friend the other day when the topic of body image made its way into the conversation. It seems like more and more, people these days (men and women) are suffering with some kind of body image troubles, which stem from a wide array of influences. Social media and societal pressure are surely to blame, at least in part. Our news feeds, once filled with breaking news from around the world, are now inundated with picture-perfect images of celebrities, influencers, and people we know, flaunting their happiness for all to see.
The thing is, a lot of us are insecure. I feel like most of us know by now that not everything you see in the media is accurate, and most of it does not represent reality. However, despite this knowledge, we continue to play the comparison game and measure our worth against the "perceived" worth of others.
Throughout the years, I have come to the realization that the problem with body image is that it is SUBJECTIVE. Subjective!
Subjectivity is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, it makes our world a little more interesting. It allows people to have different tastes in things like food, movies, and clothing. It allows for amazing discussions centred around differing opinions on various subjects. Truth be told, subjectivity keeps our world a little more interesting.
But let's get back to body image.
Personally speaking, I have dealt with thoughts about my body ranging from A to Z. There are some days when I can't stand the way I look, some days when I think I look "okay enough", and some days where, despite the eating disorder voice in my head, I kind of like what I see in the mirror (although these days are far and few between). What's important to realize, though, is that body image can switch from moment to moment. Sometimes I can sort of, somewhat, accept what I see, run an errand, and HATE what I see upon return. What has changed? NOTHING - except my thoughts, interfering with the way I perceive myself.
The fact that body image can switch so fast is proof that it is subjective. It is completely dependant on mood, triggers (i.e. stressful situations), comments from others, and things we see both in the real world and in the media. The best thing you can do for yourself is not rely on that inside voice dictating how you should feel about your body. That inside voice changes its dialogue so quickly and so sporadically that it is NOT and should not be a reliable indication of how you look.
Now, I am not writing all of this to sound vain. There ARE things in life that are more important than the way your body looks. However, we all have bodies. We all have to get dressed. We all have to use our bodies to go to school or work and in doing so, we are inserting ourselves into social situations that may amplify the way we feel about ourselves.
The message I'm trying to get across to all of you, beyond my advice to not compare yourself to those you see online, is that body image and thoughts about your body are not backed up by research and facts and concrete evidence. Your perceived vision of yourself is most times entirely based on your mood. Ever wonder why you feel worse about yourself when you're stressed or angry or frustrated? Voila - it's because of the link between mood and body image.
Try and remind yourself of this link when your negative body image talk surfaces. Remind yourself that you are probably not seeing yourself clearly and that your so-called vision of yourself is subjective. It changes from day to day, and can even change from minute to minute!
Step away from the mirror when you are feeling down, and work towards self-care and being kinder to yourself. Body image is one of the most frustrating and overwhelming facets of eating disorders but also of life in general, because you do not need to be diagnosed with an ED to experience negative thoughts about your body.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, body image is not and never will be easy to understand. Sometimes, reminding myself that I'm not an accurate judge of how I look helps a little. I try to trust the words I hear from others. But sometimes, those negative body thoughts just feel too much to handle. And in those moments, I (try to) use strategies and coping skills that make me feel a little better. I make myself a hot cup of coffee or tea. I change into comfortable clothes and get cozy under a warm blanket. I put something on Netflix. I text a friend. I try, as hard as it is, not to wallow in my thoughts about my body.
If I can help in any way, or answer any of your questions about body image, I would be happy to. You are not alone.
But please do keep in mind that you are more than just a body. Your body allows you to walk and run and work and learn and play. Our bodies, despite all of our criticisms towards them, can be quite amazing.