As I stood in the checkout line at the supermarket yesterday, I looked at the magazine rack. It is placed, innocently, no doubt, right there amidst the candy and other temptations. The magazines surrounded me with messages regarding body standards in our society.
One featured Kim Kardashian, with the headline, “Stop Calling Me Fat” (consider, at the time, she is pregnant).
Yet another cover offered up Gwyneth Paltrow’s skinny diet secrets alongside an article that promised to give you 15 tips for firming and toning.
I could go on and on, but I’ll cut to the chase. Every single magazine with the exception of Time Magazine made mention of weight loss, fat, dieting, or body image. And as it so happens, Time Magazine’s focus was on how to eat in today’s world (organic vs. processed food, etc…).
And you wonder why we are obsessed with our weight, food, and how our body standards?
The fact that we are a culture obsessed with weight and body image did not come as a surprise to me. This unfortunate truth is something I have been aware of for a long time. Unrealistic body standards bombard us.
We are a nation that is brainwashed. Socially conditioned to believe that our weight and the shape of our body is a critical component of our worth.
Being proactive about body standards
What I found myself connecting to was how vital it is that we be proactive in our efforts to detach ourselves from this unhealthy obsession. I often tell clients that the moment they leave my office, they will be inundated with hundreds of messages. Overt and covert, these messages will directly contradict everything we have talked about during the session.
One hour a week of focusing on loving your body and feeling good about yourself as opposed to a constant barrage of body standard messages telling you that being thin is a necessary component to being worthwhile, and that you are not good enough as you are, is hardly a fair ratio.
I do this to create a seat for empathy. To help them understand that this obsession with body image and dieting is something they have been taught. And to highlight that this indoctrination of thought continues on a daily basis.
This helps clients understand that in order to change their body image and general focus, consistent and repetitive proactive measures must be taken.
Look at this as though there are two bank accounts. The Negative Body Image Account, and the Positive Body Image Account. Each day through media and other interaction with people, we (knowingly, and unknowingly) make deposits into the negative body image account. You must take it upon yourself to start depositing into the positive body image account. As you are likely to “draw” from the account with the most “money” in it.
You must take it upon yourself to start depositing into the positive body image account…
Here are a few ways to begin to change your focus and rebuild your self-worth and reject our culture’s body standards:
1. Go On A Media Detox
Commit to putting aside any and all magazines, blogs, television shows, or various forms of media that emphasize body size, dieting, weight obsession or generally make you feel like you need to work harder in order to be worthy. If this feels impossible or overwhelming, start small. Choose just one, or perhaps do this for a only one week.
2. Indulge in Positive Messages
If exposure to body shaming media hurts your self-esteem, then body positive media could help build your self-esteem. There are a number of books, blogs, movies, and documentaries that build and empower the body image and self-worth of women in our culture. Be proactive, and seek them out. It is that which we place our attention on that becomes our focus. You choose.
It is that which we place our attention on that becomes our focus.
3. Affirm the Positive
Find five things about you or your body that you are grateful for and repeat your gratitude daily. I don’t get hung up around specifics (i.e. 10 times a day vs. 50 times a day). The more you repeat something, the more it becomes accepted. Some people choose to do this in the form of a gratitude journal. Others prefer to make affirmations their daily mantras, incorporating them into meditation or quiet time.
4. Practice ACT
ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment therapy. ACT basically espouses the following: We are culturally indoctrinated with certain thoughts. To try and change those thoughts is nearly impossible. It is much kinder, loving, and quite frankly, easier, to accept those thoughts as what they are – old cultural ideas that have just gotten in your head. Then you move on to commitment to change. Commitment to living from a kinder, gentler thought that is more aligned with what you want to believe.
5. Practice Non-Judgment
When you are out in the world, or watching television, practice seeing beauty in all women, of all shapes and size. If you notice a judgment arise regarding size, or shape, recognize this as cultural brainwashing. Then choose to see the beauty that is there. This practice is especially helpful when learning to reclaim our subjective beliefs around beauty and shed social conditioning.
When you are out in the world, or watching television, practice seeing beauty in all women, of all shapes and size.
We cannot change our society and its negative influences overnight. Every day we awaken and face hundreds of messages about all the ways we are not good enough. We will do this for most of our life. Despite this, we can create change internally. And we can commit and recommit to living from our truth, and choose to see our world and our worth through the lens we know resonates with our heart.