Sometimes emotion needs to be left out of body image. This sounds robot-ish, and I’m not suggesting we become detached automatons. However, if we have negative emotional reactions to our bodies, often we can short circuit these emotions by bypassing them altogether.
I realize this is counterintuitive. Indeed, many women’s magazines and blogs encourage better body image by advocating for body love, and love is about as emotional as it gets.
Although a noble goal in theory, prescribed body love isn’t always helpful in reality. This is because love is hard to rationalize. It is an emotion that either is or isn’t. And it doesn’t become an is just because we are told it should be. (I’m also skeptical that body love is necessary).
“I Love my Body” is the Body Image Equivalent of American Idol
Personally, I have trouble countering negative emotions with forced positive emotions. The reason for this is simple: Emotions are connected to underlying thoughts. And those thoughts are like an internal body image thesis, which is based on a series of premises, premises that may or may not be reasonable or evidence based.
Trying to jump to “I love my body” without first writing some good reasons for this is like trying to convince myself I should be on American Idol simply because I WANT to be on American Idol (I’m tone deaf, singing in public would make me vomit, and I’m pretty sure the show is cancelled or something, but that’s not the point, so don’t overthink the analogy).
Personally, a positive emotion needs be to bolstered by rational premises. Otherwise, I’m not biting. Therefore, when feeling blue, I tap into my inner lawyer and argue for a better body image. Some women like to meditate or read inspiring self-help books, but I’m not one of them. This isn’t a value judgement on how other women feel better about themselves, simply an admittance of a personality quirk. If I’m going to believe something about myself, I need to know why.
Figuring out the “why” can take many forms. Sometimes my body image lawyer questions irrational conclusions, but sometimes it starts with the conclusion and then comes up with logical premises.
I Have a Good Body
Let’s start with a conclusion that we may not believe but would like to believe, a conclusion based on a descriptive word (rather than an emotionally laden word), and a conclusion that can be proven with reasonable premises.
What is this conclusion? “I have a good body.”
Even if your emotions are reluctant to believe this, your brain can venture forth anyway. Perhaps your emotions will scurry to catch up after they see how much fun your brain is having (it’s probably more like a feedback loop, but, again, don’t overthink the analogy).
Sit down with your computer or with pen and paper. At the top write:
“Conclusion: I have a good body.”
Then, write the numbers 1–5. Next to each number, give a reason WHY you have a good body.
The word “good” is purposely vague. That’s the beauty (pun intended) of this exercise. What does it mean for a body to be good? You tell yourself.
However, there is one rule: You aren’t allowed to change the conclusion. That part is nonnegotiable.
Believe me, I know this sounds hokey. But, if you have a negative body image, you’re already playing this game, only with a different conclusion. Thus, play devil’s advocate to our own thoughts. Literally argue for a good body image.
And because life has a sense of humor, I, Meredith, who is allergic to self-help, will now show you my premises for this admittedly self-helpish body image exercise.
I have a good body because…
- I made healthy children. The entire process was a pain in the butt, but my body did it. Three actual human beings are in this world because my body grew them. If that’s not good, I don’t know what is.
- I can carry my toddler, maneuver a bag of groceries, and open the door with my foot. The strength, coordination, and balance of this feat is off the charts.
- My body takes me where I need to go. It can walk for miles.
- My body is adaptable. Whenever I think it is down for the count, it learns something new and keeps on keeping on.
- Squats have done something amazing to my butt. Enough said.
Now it’s your turn…