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Unraveling Body Image and Shame



I remember it all very well... I was in the 11th grade and one of my good friend’s looked at me and told me I was so skinny I “looked like an Ethiopian.”  I was definitely a tiny teen, but it wasn’t due to malnourishment, it was simply my body.  His comment threw me into a spiral of shame and embarrassment about how skinny my legs were, and I stopped wearing shorts.


In my mid-thirties, we went on our first all-inclusive, adults only vacation. We indulged in divine food, relished in the hot sun and appreciated every moment enjoying laughter with friends.  I gained a few pounds. After the trip, a good friend at the time told me my belly fat was “gross.”


When I was in my early 40’s I was in the best physical shape of my life. I was teaching aerial yoga 5 hours a week; I was running and swimming and had just completed my first triathlon sprint.  My good friend at the time told me she never wanted to go on vacation with me if she had to be next to me in a swimsuit.


I literally felt like I couldn’t win. On one hand, if I gained 5 pounds, I am “gross” / I am not accepted. On the other hand, if I am strong and healthy, she doesn't want to hang out/ I am rejected.


Nearly 100% of the women and men I work with feel some sort of shame around their body image.  Shame is dangerous because it perpetuates into other areas of our lives without us even noticing it and hinders us from living our full potential.


WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?


Sure, there are plenty of advertisements on TV, social media, magazines that tell us what our bodies should and should not look like.  They directly or indirectly tell us our bodies just aren’t good enough. We consciously or unconsciously believe these messages and think “If I don’t look like that, I must not be acceptable.”


But, perhaps our beliefs about our body image could be more personal than the advertisements we see?


Have you ever stopped to consider when and where you decided to take on a negative attitude toward your body? 


  • Perhaps it was very early in childhood when you overheard your mother talking about how fat her belly is and how she needs to go on a diet. 

  • Perhaps it was when you were a teen and that friend in the hallway commented on your skinny legs. 

  • Perhaps there was a moment in your later adult life when you felt rejected by a friend or partner for the way that you look.



AREAS YOU MAY NOT REALIZE THAT ARE AFFECTED


Have you ever considered that your negative body image is unraveling your intimate relationship? 


Here’s how:


  • Feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious about your body during intimate moments can lead to a lack of presence or avoiding intimate situations altogether.

  • Difficulty communicating your needs and desires to your partner because of insecurities about your body can lead to misunderstandings and unmet emotional and physical needs.

  • Feeling unworthy or unattractive can hinder your ability to be vulnerable and fully engage in intimate moments.


A negative body image can create a cycle where avoidance and lack of intimacy lead to lack of connection, which leads to further feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, thereby perpetuating the problem.


Addressing these challenges can not only improve your relationship with yourself but also enhance your intimate relationships, encouraging greater connection and satisfaction.


 

Did you know that a negative body image can unravel your finances and the amount of money you make?  


  • Negative body image can influence the career paths people choose. For example, someone may avoid jobs that require them to be in the public eye or engage in networking opportunities due to insecurity about their appearance.

  • A person with low self-esteem related to their body image may struggle with negotiating for promotions or salary increases, believing they are not deserving or capable.

  • Poor body image can lead to lower levels of confidence and self-esteem, which can affect productivity and performance at work.

  • For those interested in entrepreneurship, negative body image can affect their willingness to put themselves and their ideas out into the world, potentially hindering their ability to grow a successful business and increase their income.


Addressing and improving body image can lead to greater confidence, better mental health, and improved self-esteem, all of which can positively impact career choices, negotiation skills, and overall earning potential.


 

Do you realize your negative self-image has a direct result on how well you do (or do not) take care of your body? When we are not taking care of ourselves, we internally unravel and feel in chaos.


  • A negative self-image can lead to emotional eating or restrictive dieting as a way to cope with feelings of inadequacy or to try to attain an ideal body image. 

  • Feeling self-conscious about our body can lead to avoidance of physical activity or exercise, which can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle and compound the problem.

  • Negative self-image can lead to inconsistent self-care practices, skipping meals, or not prioritizing regular exercise.


A negative self-image can create a cycle where poor self-care leads to negative health outcomes, which in turn can reinforce feelings of inadequacy and self-criticism, perpetuating the cycle.


Improving self-image and practicing self-compassion can lead to healthier habits and better overall well-being.


UNRAVEL YOUR BODY IMAGE BEFORE IT UNRAVELS YOU


I understand firsthand what it is like to experience a negative body image and feel shame around how I look.  Feeling and thinking these things is not a life-sentence! You have the power within you to shift your perspective and choose healthier conversations in your mind and with others.


Here is a How To list of ideas to consider:


  1. Awareness of where these patterns are coming from is always a good first step. 

  2. Begin to look for what was lacking in those earlier experiences that has continued into today and meet your needs in the present.

  3. Participate in activities that make you feel good about yourself, whether it's a hobby you enjoy, exercise you find fun, or spending time with people who encourage you.

  4. Make a choice to treat yourself differently:

  5. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend facing similar struggles.

  6. Learn to recognize and challenge negative thoughts about your body. Replace them with more balanced and realistic perspectives.


By incorporating these strategies into your life, you can begin to shift your mindset and cultivate a more positive relationship with your body image.



I’VE TRIED ALL OF THOSE THINGS AND IT’S STILL NOT ENOUGH


Need some professional support? I’ve created a beautiful online program just for you. 


This 7 step process will guide you in:


  • Gently exploring when you first decided to feel shame about your body image

  • Discovering ways that decision has impacted your health, your relationships and perhaps even your wealth

  • Shifting your resonance with self-depleting ideas and feelings around your body

  • Incorporating tools you need to love your inner radiance!







CONCLUSION


It has been a pleasure having this conversation with you today. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!



Namaste,

Heather



P.S. I went for a walk in the middle of writing this blog. The sun had finally warmed up enough to allow me to not be freezing and it shined so bright on my face for those two miles. Maybe you would like to get up and go for one right now, too?


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