I thought I had conquered the Negative Body Image Beast once and for all and then lo and behold a few weeks ago she reared her ugly head.
I know her well. She plagued me for years as I struggled with an eating disorder in my late teens and early 30’. You probably know her too. She’s the one that points out our flaws, minimizes our attributes, distorts the image we see in the mirror, and pretty much gets us to hate our bodies. She tends to pop up during bikini season, inside dressing rooms, while shopping for jeans, in locker rooms when we’re naked, when we step on the scale, and when we look at ourselves in the mirror (especially a magnified one).
I’ve assigned the pronoun “she” to her because to me she’s a lot like a backstabbing mean girl you see in the movies. Think Amy Elliott Dunne from “Gone Girl,” or Skyler White from “Breaking Bad,” or Dolores Umbridge from “Harry Potter” all rolled into one. You can’t help but hate them.
Here’s what happened…
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
A few weeks ago my husband asked me to meet him for dinner. Of course, I said yes, because well…we’re empty nesters now and who doesn’t like a date night and a chance to be served a meal without cleanup duty attached to it? I put on a sweater, grabbed a favorite pair of jeans, and dashed out of the closet and into our bathroom to put them on. That’s when the trouble began.
First, it was the jeans. They didn’t fit right. They were snug in the thighs and I felt fat. Ugh! Next, it was my face. I went to the mirror to freshen up and zeroed in on the droopy skin at my jawline and the stray whiskers on my chin. Double ugh! Lastly, it was my hair. It was frizzy, going every which way to Sunday, and I looked like a labradoodle. Triple ugh! One minute I was excited about a date night and the next minute I hated my body, my face, and my hair!
Thankfully the body hatred I was feeling didn’t last too long. I quickly recognized the nasty Beast’s lies and replaced them with some rock-solid truths (see below). I sent the bitch back to the pit where she belongs and then I went to dinner with my husband and that was that.
Talking myself off the ledge of body hatred hasn’t always been that easy for me. I wasted a lot of years believing the Beast’s lies and letting her dictate the worth of my body. Friend, If she’s been feeding you a pack of lies and making you devalue yourself then It’s my hope that this blog will help to give you the tools to put her in her place once and for all.
Merriam Webster defines body image as (noun) a subjective picture of one’s own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others.
Allow me a little leeway to add to the definition. Not only is body image established by self-observation and others’ reactions, but it also can lead to how we judge our own self-worth.
Here’s the deal. We’re not born with a poor body image. Nope. The Negative Body Image Beast shows up as we age. She’s got social media, peer pressure, pornography, comparison, and the lure of snapping selfies in her bag of tricks. They all play a big part in her plans to get us to have a skewed body image and a whole lot of body hatred.
All you have to do is search the internet using words like “beautiful” or “glamorous supermodels” or “perfect body” and you’ll find sites where you can rate yourself as “beautiful or ugly” or “build your perfect dream body”. There’s something really, really wrong with this and it’s time we say “no more!”
Action Point: Take a minute and think of a few outside sources that lead you to have a skewed image of yourself.
Lies on a Loop
With a negative body image comes a boatload of lies we tell ourselves. They tend to loop over and over in our head like an annoying song (think Baby shark, do do, do do do do 🎵) so much that much of the time we don’t even realize we’re saying them.
Destructive phrases pop up like:
- I look disgusting.
- I’m fat.
- The wrinkles on my face make me look 10 years older than I am.
- My thighs are the size of a linebacker.
- My nose is too big for my face.
- My arms are as skinny as a whip.
- My ears make me look like Dumbo.
And on and on they go as we berate ourselves and loathe our bodies.
Action Point: Take a minute and think of some of the negative words about your body that you told yourself this past week.
Editing Your Words
The more we allow the negative thoughts about our bodies to fill our heads the less room we leave for self-love. Changing your inner voice is key. So how do you do it?
- Recognize. Acknowledge the loops when they begin playing in your head. What are they? What phrases pop up more than others? This may sound pretty basic, but acknowledging a problem is really a first step to rectifying a problem.
- Tune in. Listen carefully to what you tell yourself. Can you remember where the negative words originated? Did they come from an event during your teenage years? From a time of crisis? From social media? From someone’s opinion? Is there a theme to what you tell yourself (is it focused on your legs, face, etc.?) If I could have shapelier thighs (or a slimmer nose, or a smooth face, or a flat tummy) would my life be better? Oh, really? How? Tuning in will help you bring to light what you are saying to yourself and (hopefully) help to point out how foolish some of the words are.
- Instead of thinking of your body as one entity, think of it as individual parts, with separate jobs, and acknowledge the benefits of each. Your legs allow you to get from Point A to Point B. They allow you to run races and to get down on all fours and play with your kids or grandkids. Your arms allow you to hug your loved ones, hold a baby, and reach up or down to grab things. If you’re a woman, your midsection is where you find your uterus and it allows you to house babies for 9 months. Your nose helps you smell the scents of springtime, the powder on a baby, and your favorite food. Your face has aged with you and with aging comes a multitude of memories and wisdom.
- Ask the Expert. Separating truth from lies is key. Even though it took years of therapy to combat my eating disorder, going to the Bible and finding out the truth about who I am as a person was a huge turning point in setting me free. The same freedom can happen for someone with a poor body image. Beauty is subjective to people, but it’s not subjective to God. In His eyes, you are and will always be beautiful. God never makes mistakes. You are His treasure and how you feel about yourself will never change who you are in Christ.
A few of my favorite Truths are:
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made. His works are wonderful. (Psalm 139:14)
- I am God’s masterpiece. He created me anew in Christ Jesus so that I can do the things He has planned for me. (Ephesians 2:10)
- God saw all that He had made and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
- People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Erase and Replace. Once you begin to recognize the lies you’ve been telling yourself, replace them with truths like I am worthy. No one is perfect. I am imperfectly perfect. I am significant. I am a work of art. I love my body just the way it is. I accept myself. My body is strong and was made with a purpose. Use supportive language too. Supportive language is different from positive language. “I look like a pig” is not replaced by “I’m gorgeous”, but instead something like “I don’t have a perfect figure but I can accentuate the good body parts and there are many of those”. Words like this add value to who you are and support your worth.
Action Point: Using supportive language, take a minute to replace the belittling words that you’ve been telling yourself this week.
Friend, you wouldn’t say destructive words to anyone else so why say them about yourself? Silence the negative words in your head and learn to speak kindly to your soul. When you sense that the Negative Body Image Beast is after you, pause, get quiet, and go on high alert so that you recognize her. Tune it to what she’s saying (but don’t take it to heart). Then, this is the best part, laugh in her face! Take back your control by going to The Expert for truth. You are loved and very worth it.
I’d love to hear back from you. What did you think of this blog? Got anything you’d like to add to it? I’m always open to suggestions. Drop me a line and let me know what they are.
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