Most of us have spent a lot of time at home this past year, which while isolating, may have been a relief from a constant fixation on body image.
Body Image is the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body. So, how you think your body looks to others. The primary way we develop our body image is by self objectification through self comparison. We compare the internal image of ourselves to a constant stream of external images of others and rank our bodies based on our own set of internal beliefs about how bodies should look.
Now, while being at home, our idea of how our body looks didn’t disappear, but the stream of images to compare ourselves to was narrowed to faces on zoom, our social media feed and images on tv. Perhaps you were even able to curate your life and feed to allow you to see more diverse bodies and or less bodies all together and ease some of the self comparison dialogue in your head.
However, as the world opens up. Kids return to school. Grown ups return to work. The stream is involuntarily widened again due to the increase of bodies you’ll be exposed to, ads on public transportation or the constant socialization around dieting/body discontent that happens at school or at the office.
So, here are 3 strategies to reinforce your own body image as you reenter a society obsessed with dieting and body alteration:
- Remember that your body’s purpose is not to be desirable. Its purpose is to be functional and keep you alive. Write this on a sticky note and put it in as many places as you need, so you have a daily, constant reminder (to combat the stream of messages telling you the opposite).
- Listen to your internal dialogue around self comparison and add self compassion instead. When we compare ourselves to others, particularly our internal body image to curated external images of other bodies, we turn ourselves from active 3 dimensional human beings to passive, stagnant objects, whose sole purpose is to be pleasing to the eye regardless of how debilitating it might be to our daily lives. When we add in self compassion, we ground our internal dialogue to reality in a kind and supportive way.
- Focus on how your body FEELS instead of how it LOOKS. Making choices to support your body and health involve tuning into your own intuition, not looking in the mirror. Try to take time each day to listen to how your body is feeling and make choices to support it. This will also help you remember that your body is an active partner in your life, not a stagnant object.
Our Body Image can be hard to alter because some self comparison is natural and unavoidable, but the better you can get at undercutting your own self objectification the more connected you’ll feel to your body, who was your first partner in this life and will be with you until the end. It loves you, deeply and unconditionally.