I have to write a blog post about this video. It is so clever- and body image issues are really important to talk about. Body image impacts how we relate to ourselves, our loved ones, our families, friends, and the world in general. It’s obviously a major issue worldwide, and it is a very complex, and often vulnerable issue for many people in the world. I have personally experienced the range of body image, from insecure to secure and everything in between. Thankfully, through God’s grace and a lot of healing, I am engaging in the world from the lens of body image through a much more gracious and secure place. My insecurity still visits, but doesn’t stay as long and is no longer a permanent resident.
To start with, I think one of the main contributors to body image is our need for external regulation. It’s really tricky with body image, because when we try to make our bodies a source of external regulation, unlike other external regulators- we are bound to our bodies, we can’t escape our bodies (unless we die, which isn’t a good solution), and we can only change our bodies so much, and a lot that we don’t have control over with our bodies…so when we look at our bodies as an external regulator for how we are doing in the world, how worthy we are, we are placing a value on something we only have so much control over naturally. A person may want longer legs, but there isn’t a way to make them actually grow longer, for example.
So when we start to look at our bodies as the statement to the world that tells us we “are good enough” we start to play with fire. Our culture obviously doesn’t help, as we are inundated with ads that are unrealistic in regards to body expectations for both male and female. The other problem is that these advertisements oversimplify the issue. They make it seem like everyone in the world can be tall, muscular, and slender. This doesn’t take into account genetic ancestry, or even survival elements. We start to divide ourselves into camps that say slender or curvy is the best. Putting down the bodies of other women and men in order to promote the sense that our body type is the “right” body type. This happens pretty subtly too. We then can become proponents of our own suffering by heaping criticism on our bodies because they don’t look the way we are told they should.
If I were to tell you a story about a relationship between two people, and I told you that one of those two people was constantly examining the flaws of the other person, wishing they would change, putting them down, controlling them, you would probably say that’s really unhealthy right? Well, we are in relationship with our bodies too. Our bodies respond to our thoughts processes about them, the same way a person you are in relationship with would respond to your attitudes about them. If we are constantly slamming our bodies with insults and finding all the flaws, how could we ever expect our bodies to thrive?
Body image work is very complex, so know that I am not trying to oversimplify it. Much of the work around body image comes from identifying the lies that we believe about ourselves. Especially the subtle ones. The common denominator between discerning what is a lie and what is truth is whether or not the statement moves you inwardly toward a place of felt worthiness or a place of not feeling worth enough. Here is an example, you might say something like “I have to exercise to stay healthy”. This statement can have two effects depending on your mental state and attitude toward your body. The first is that it can simply be true. Exercising helps you to stay healthy, and the statement comes from a feeling of being enough, and worthy. However, this same statement can easily move a person into a place of feeling “not good enough” because of how they view themselves. The goal is to try and uncover the subtle thought processes that wind up serving as self-deception that ultimately chips away at your inner person.
It’s also really important to then align with the truth and to start looking at your body and giving it the respect it deserves. This is the beginning of moving toward utilizing your body as an external regulator, and moving toward internal regulation, ultimately becoming an ally with your body. It’s amazing how many millions of processes occur in our bodies every single day. Each one taking a whole degree of education to understand, and still so much remains a mystery. Our bodies, even in our limitations, are an absolute miracle. They are working unbelievably hard for us, and doing the best they can to keep us alive and functioning well. Honor that aspect of your body, and try to focus more on what it is, than on what it isn’t.
It is always a challenge to write a smaller post on such an in depth and personal subject, but the hope here is that is starts the process of stirring your thoughts and see if there are areas where you may need healing around your body image or treatment of your body. Getting help from a professional is a great first step in accomplishing this. Remember, you are a miracle and you are worthy, you are one of the most complex creatures on the earth, and you are unique. You are one of a kind. Embrace that, and my hope for you is to find freedom.