Body image issues can’t be cured over night. They can’t magically slip from your mind or get swept away in the passing breeze. It would be a dream to believe that to be possible, but the thought alone is unrealistic. For so many people who’ve battled eating disorders (or even those who haven’t gone down that path), a negative body image began to take hold before we were even aware what it was. It can start with an offhand comment, a misguided joke, a sudden realization, or something more serious such as being bullied. Whatever the origin of the negative self image, it isn’t only an opinion. It’s a disease. It can intensify at lightning speed and can leave you infected for the entirety of your life. Granted, its effect is more detrimental to some than it is to others, but for something so widespread, it’s power is greatly underestimated. It isn’t merely about appearance and skin deep concerns, the disease of a negative body image cuts much further to the core.
If you feel that you’re not the right weight or body shape, your self worth takes a hit. You tell yourself that you aren’t worth as much as you could be, but if you changed what you wanted to about yourself, you would be worthy. Like the switch of a light, once you hit a certain number on the scale, you will have worth. You’ll be desirable, appreciated, respected, exactly who you’ve always hoped to become. The trouble with that notion, however, is that the voices that live in our minds have echoes. Those echoes ring loud and relentless, and most often we’re powerless to stop them. They’re chain reactions of the initial self-deprecating thoughts we scarred ourselves with, only adding to our open wounds. They’re poisonous, the most surefire form of self sabotage known to humanity. The negativity keeps you in a chokehold of doubt, reminding you that you’re not good enough, so as a consequence you shouldn’t be confident. If you feel that you’re too big, you believe that you need to make yourself small. Keep your opinions quiet, shrink who you are as a person to deflect attention from your flaws. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling that you’re somehow lesser quality, then portraying yourself in a way that makes others believe it too, which only makes your fears validated in the end.
It’s no secret that the list of things that I would change about myself grows longer everyday. If by some rarity I’m not obsessing about my weight, I’m picking apart who I am as a person. I resent that I have a tendency to procrastinate, that I isolate myself from people, that I always seem to have more to do than I can manage to get done. I am frustrated that I would much rather shove away my emotions and feelings than address them like I should. I regret being far too kind to those who deserved cordial at best, and I straight up hate that I make myself an easy target for being used simply because I can’t stand to let anyone down. I also avoid conflict like it could literally burn me.. that’s a weakness people just love to exploit. A negative self image isn’t restricted to only pertaining to your outer appearance. Under the surface, the true catalyst of it all sometimes hides. While most of us generally have something about ourselves that we’d like to change, underlying resentment and internalized negative emotions can amplify the issues we see on the outside to be more pronounced. Perhaps without all the hidden baggage, we’d look in the mirror and think that we needed to lose weight or find a workout plan to get more toned. With the hidden baggage though, it turns into a storm of calling ourselves fat, lazy and unlovable, or worse. It’s like a hurricane: the desire to change is the storm itself, the negativity is the warmth of the water. Piling more and more negativity on only serves to raise the temperature, making the storm more powerful. With self image, negativity doesn’t take long to spiral into hatred.
Knowing that what eats away at us from within is one thing though, fixing it is another. It’s incredibly difficult to analyze what your own internal issues are, especially if you’re like me and run at the slightest mention of a therapist or psychologist. I’m far from having all the answers, but i will share that the key i’ve found is to keep it simple. It’s not about fixing yourself in record timing, like you would a car. It’s not about waking up one morning with the sudden realization that your self hatred the day before is gone and you are content in your own skin for the first time in decades. It’s about progress. Instead of allowing your only thought when you look in a mirror to be that you wish your legs were slimmer, remind yourself that they’re strong too. When you take a selfie and criticize the fullness of your face, compliment yourself on the way your eyes glow. Actively refuse to allow the majority of your thoughts to be negative and I promise you that over time you’ll find the weight on your shoulders that much lighter. While negativity is the fuel to the fire of body image issues, positivity is the extinguisher. It won’t stop a wildfire overnight, but through time it’ll slow the blaze.
Sending love, positivity & hope to all! 🙂