I'm too short, I'm too tall, I'm not beautiful/handsome enough, I'm too scrawny/fat; my thighs are too large, my stomach too fat, I have a big nose, my ears stick out, I'm too flat-chested/too buxom, I can't stand my curls, I'm losing my hair, I’m too white/dark, I hate my feet, my toes, my legs, my penis-size, my butt, my belly, my arms, my chest/breasts, my neck, my chin, my teeth, my face, my eyes, my cheek bones, my hair, my baldness, etc. Did I leave anything out?
Body image is how we imagine our bodies to be. Negative body image is tainted with self-hatred, fear, unhappiness, and a lack of imagination. This lack of imagination involves us not seeing ourselves as a whole, positive, real, and loving human being with a gorgeous soul. Instead, we're led astray and we hone in on particular body parts we see as imperfect and ugly. We then conduct an ongoing, stressful assault on self. Of course, seeing ourselves as negative and focusing on our external features is not our fault. Most of us from childhood have grown-up with the concept of what is "beautiful" versus "undesirable" from our families, communities, culture, media, etc.
Negative body image and self-rejection have reached enormous proportions in the United States. And, having a negative body image can lead us to unhealthy and unsound eating /dieting/exercise habits, despair, sadness, depression, etc. In fact, the negative perceptions we hold about our body parts can lead to bodily harm and even our demise through eating disorders including starvation or chronic binge eating, binging/purging, etc. This dying through die-ting phenomena, is tragic and all too real!
I grew up with The Carpenters. I remember feeling so terrible when I learned Karen Carpenter died from a chronic and long-standing case of anorexia. Her heart was injured and it ultimately became too weak to function. All because Karen saw herself as not perfect enough, too big. Meanwhile, she was a beautiful, incredibly gifted artist who brought joy to many. But, self-hatred and attack got in the way. Karen Carpenter was only 32 years old when she passed. And there are far too many others who have gone through and are going through this dilemma!
Even when self-disdain doesn’t lead to such blatant devastation, the day-in and day-out impact on us can be trying none-the-less. And, it can happen in the most innocent or not of ways. I've gained some weight recently. After several years of maintaining a just about flawless, healthy diet and exercise routine, I've allowed myself to become a more "relaxed" eater. I still eat high quality, nutrient-dense food, but I'm more apt now to enjoy a post-meal treat. I've also been injured for the past year so my physical activities have needed to significantly decrease. Just the other day, a family member meaning well I'm sure, said to me, "You know, you're stomach is starting to stick out." Me, "Okay." She, "I'm telling you because it wasn't before." Me, "Does it really matter? Really? And, do you think I don't know this?" She, "Well, I just wanted to tell you because I wasn't sure if you knew." Me, "I'm well aware." She, "Okay."
Thankfully, I’m in a place at this point in my life of not getting spun around by such an exchange. Alarm bells didn’t go off in my head alerting me to do something quickly and drastically because my stomach was deemed as too big. I didn’t dive into self-hatred. Again, thankfully! I’m very connected to my inner being. I’m much more concerned about healing my injuries so I can get over body pain and start participating again in the sports I love to play. And, I’m fine with letting my body decide where it’ll go and how it’s supposed to be when offered sound and healthy eating, pleasurable movement, and psychologically, nourishing treats.