Is my negative body image going to vanish when my weight problem takes care of itself?
I’m a bit skeptical about it.
The first reason is that having a negative self image is independent of how you actually look. For example, my older sister is US size 2/4 but says she often feels fat. It’s pretty clear to me she doesn’t see the same thing I see when I look at her. On the other hand, I just watched a TV-program where a 218-lb (99kg) Finnish woman told she doesn’t feel especially fat or ugly. Being obese doesn’t equate negative body image either.
And then there are the non-weight-related body image issues like saggy breasts, stretch marks and less than perfect teeth. They’ll still be there even if I lose the weight.
I had an eye-opening experience when I visited my parents house during the Holidays. As usual, my mom wandered around the house without clothes after she’d showered. I’m used to it but found myself wondering why I can accept my mom’s body as it is but can’t accept my own.
It’s pretty clear we were both shaped using the same mold: we look very similar except she’s taller and has slightly broader shoulders. Our bodies are well-proportioned and we both have well-shaped (though short) legs. We both have round bellies and tend to gain weight around our middles.
And we’re both overweight at the moment.
Still, I don’t find my mother’s body distasteful in any way. In fact I think she looks pretty good for a woman in her 60’s, compact and well proportioned.
So why is it that I find my overweight and imperfect body unacceptable? What makes it different?
My best guess is that it’s because we often relate to our bodies as if they were a random collection of parts thrown together – we don’t see ourselves as a whole person. We focus on body parts in isolation, compare it to some more or less artificial ideal and then find it wanting. I think it’s also the reason why we don’t think of other people’s bodily “imperfections” as imperfections but as part of who they are.
First step in resolving body image issues – giving up avoidance behavior
The first step in resolving my negative body image was to give up avoidance behavior.
By avoidance behavior I mean avoiding mirrors or being photographed. I also stopped avoiding the mirror during salsa class. Looking myself at a mirror feels a bit uncomfortable, but I do it anyway. When I look in the mirror I try to adopt a neutral attitude and pay attention to what I really see, not so much what my mind says.
When the summer comes, I’m planning on putting on sleeveless tops for a change and going out – regardless of what I will weigh. I’m going to really flaunt my flabby underarms, if for no other reason than to spite people who may be horrified by such a fashion faux pas. 🙂 I used to be one of those people.
If someone actually comments, I’m going to wave my flabby underarm(s) at them.
I’m actually starting to wish summer comes soon! 🙂
Maybe I will turn into one of those old ladies who unapologetically flaunt their flabby underarms. It must be very liberating to wear whatever you want without thinking about what you look or what other people think.
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