The Five Words That Are Helping Me Heal My Body Image Woes

19 comments

I think about body image a lot. Like a lot, a lot. I can’t really recall a time that it wasn’t on my mind. I was thin as a kid and then when I hit middle school I put on a lot of weight. From that point on I’ve been thin (not that I believed that at the time, of course) and voluptuous. I’ve spoken at dozens of events about the importance of saying a big f*ck you to the media for their role in creating an unattainable beauty standard that leaves millions of us feeling like crap about ourselves (because we aren’t all a size 0, white, with blond hair and blue eyes). I’ve written papers and blog posts about my belief that it’s all a big conspiracy – companies WANT us to feel bad about ourselves so that we buy their products in our never-ending search for perfection. I even participated in the CTWorkingMoms goddess gathering as a way to empower other women to accept their post-baby bodies.

Photo credit: Jean Molodetz
Yep, that’s me. Letting it all show at our goddess photo shoot. Photo credit: Jean Molodetz

And yet, I’ve still found myself plagued with body image issues.

Recently though I’ve started to feel a little better. If you follow my blog posts you already know that this past September I ventured out to the Odiyana Center and started taking weekly meditation classes. Even though I started to feel a fairly immediate sense of inner peace, I still felt really badly about my body. I would worry about what other people thought of my body, about how it looked in whatever I was wearing and I would wish for baggier clothes so I could hide it better. (True confession – I’ve even worried about what my fellow meditation practitioners think about my body while I’m at class)

And then I started to listen to meditations about our attachment to our bodies and as silly as it might sound, I had an epiphany.

I am not my body.

That might seem like a simple statement but this true realization has had a positive impact on me. To remember that I am not my body, that my value does not lie with how my body looks, makes me feel just a little bit better.

I suppose the natural follow-up question is, well then what are we? I think we are our minds, our thoughts, our words and our actions. By reminding myself that it’s important to me to show compassion to everyone, to be kind to those who cross my path and to help other people be happy, I can find some distance from caring so much about how I look.

Cause really – this is true isn’t it? When we die we’ll be remembered for how we treated other people, not how we looked. I’m not saying being healthy isn’t important, in fact I believe it’s very important to be healthy. But by being able to remove our attachment to our bodies we can find relief from constantly hating ourselves.

Am I saying I do this perfectly? Definitely not. But each time I start to feel badly about myself I say in my head, “Michelle you are not your body. You are a compassionate, kind-hearted person and that is the most important thing.” And for a little bit, I feel better. Try it out – you might too.

19 comments on “The Five Words That Are Helping Me Heal My Body Image Woes”

  1. I would say yes and no…
    One interpretation (on a spiritual level) is that we are not our body because our body are just a vessel to transport our soul, and on the other side I have read, in a body acceptance book, the opposite affirmation (we are our body), but not as one may think…
    We are our body in that book mean that our body is not here to look good in the mirror or to be looked at,(it is not a possession like a statue or a painting) it is there to allow us to enjoy life from within. So we should be our bodies from within,from head to toe, enjoying how we feel inside of it, how we can move with it, the wonderful things we can feel through it, instead of just having a body that we learned to dislike for not looking like the modern ideal of beauty. For me being my body doesn´t mean that I am on the inside the way I look on the inside,or that my appearance defines me, or that it is the most important thing in life to look a way that will please other people´s sense of esthetic.For me being my body means inhabit my body, enjoying life with and through it, playing with my child in playground as when I was a child or dancing at a party (instead of seating in a corner being too afraid being silly would attract attention hence getting people judging me on my size).
    So many people (including myself) lost touch with their bodies because of only focusing on how it looks on the outside instead on how it feels on the inside…For me it is the real choice between being or appearing.
    There are also people who correspond to the medias view of beauty and still don´t live within themselves because they also only see their body as something to be looked at and not lived in.
    Of course if one is so overweight that one cannot move and is bed bound, life probably wont be that wonderful inside of this body.
    But the way you look on the picture, I would think that you can do any physical activities can´t you?

  2. excellent blog post. I too struggle with not liking my body type and weight and its age. I will spend time focusing on the 5 words and instead think of what I am, and what I offer to others in this world. Thank you!

  3. Thanks Michelle. This is an enormous struggle for many of us – post baby or not. I appreciate your insights. You are a true champion for body acceptance and I so admire and adore you gor that. Xxoo

  4. I love you for your wisdom and courage. You are an inspiration to women and young girls everywhere! Proud to know you 🙂

  5. I love the honesty and truth in your post – you are beautiful inside and out (I love that photo that you posted). thank you for the reminder that we need to look beyond the surface…

  6. I agree with your conspiracy theory! I keep buying makeup and hair products in that never ending search for perfection. I mean how many hues of brown and grey eyeshadow does one person need? Yet I can’t stop, and it’s the SEARCHING for something, probably not eyeshadow, that consumes me. I think about this a lot but haven’t yet figured it out.
    You are always so open with your issues and your concerns and your efforts to change. It’s refreshing and inspiring. Thank you, Michelle.

  7. Great post Michelle! I think most women have a similar journey as you described. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more accepting of who I am and have learned what works (and doesn’t work) for me. I still have a long way to go and learn, but have come a long way too. We as individuals are definately more than a dress size!! Each person has a valuable and divine spirit that is the true essence of who they are, no matter the body they are given in this earthly journey.

  8. I love your mantra: I am not my body. I too have weight problems and really need to get in shape, but it does become somewhat of a vicious circle at times doesn’t it? You look at your body and are disappointed but depending on the mood you are in it can either rev you up to doing something about it or bring you down so that you eat for comfort. These are the two directions I tend to take. Unfortunately the comforting usually wins out in the end. How much easier would it be though if we just said your mantra and then moved until we feel better. I say “move” instead of exercise because even though that’s what it is, “exercise” is such a daunting word. Exercise = work hard, sweat, no-pain-no-gain, aching muscles, tired and sore. None of these sound good to me. I’m going to borrow your mantra if you don’t mind and “move” with my kids, with my dog, with whoever wants to move with me. I’m joining the local gym with my son (so we can inspire each other) and move there too! I’m glad you feel good about yourself now. I feel a bit better too! 🙂

  9. WOW!! It’s good to read something and find a connection. I too have always had body image issues. I was thin as a kid, then gained in middle school, then dropped it in high school. I remember being about 23 and weighing 125. It was great! My ideal weight. Well after 2 babies and LIFE my 125 is longer my weight. I hate looking at the rolls on my tummy, the back fat that my bra can’t hide, the muffin top that appears when my pants are too tight! So what am I doing to finally start feeling better about me.. I joined a Crossfit Gym! It has been the most empowering thing that I have ever done for myself. Although the numbers aren’t dropping much at all on the scale, the inches definitely are. I feel so much stronger already and I am only 3 months in. It may be a small achievement to someone else but I did my first “real” push up the other day! I was thrilled to pieces. You have to find what works for you, that “thing” that makes you feel better about yourself. When you do find it, stick to it! Remind yourself daily about it! Just like you said, we may not be doing it perfectly, so we have to constantly remind ourselves! Love your blog.. you really are motivating others! 🙂

    1. Veronica I LOVE crossfit! I did it for a while before I had my daughter. It made me feel so strong and powerful. Glad you found something that makes you feel good about yourself.

  10. Thanks for posting this! I sent you a message at your fb page…I linked here from your Buddha Doodles challenge post. Keep embodying your new revelation, keep living your new mantra!

    1. Hi Melina! First of all, how much do I love Buddha Doodles?! So glad you found the link and came over here! I didn’t get a FB message from you (weird?!) but I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!

      1. Yes Buddha Doodles is awesome! Maybe try your ‘Other’ folder in messages, when I discovered that folder, I found 97 unread messages from people that were not on my ‘friends’ list. Hopefully you will discover it there 🙂

    1. Thanks Kate! As I have said 100 times, I have you to thank for giving me the confidence to go on this journey xoxo

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