Never Mind the Inner Chatter!

How I’m Rebranding My Personal Body Image.

While staring at my reflection in the mirror a couple of weeks ago, I found myself smiling. I was, as always, staring squarely at Eve, my inner critic. The difference this time was inspired by my year of reflection. I realized it was about time to undergo a rebranding of my body image.

In decades of struggling with the appearance of my body, I’d only been regurgitating shame. What was true in my past, starting at ten years young, is not true now. And yet, the shame continues, neglecting to fade with time. That is, until I remember that I get to write my own script and intentionally inform my attitude into the future.

I’m not attempting to diminish or belittle the all-too-common struggles of that 10-year-old girl, or anyone in society. When most women look in the mirror, their first thought is they need to lose weight, regardless of whether they need to or not. It’s remarkable to consider the unconscious and overt signals we absorb from every direction about body image.

But looking in the mirror that particular day last month, I decided to employ agency over my life going forward. In that moment, I committed to retraining my brain to reframe my body image. No longer will I focus myopically on pants size or the number on the scale. Rather, I will be content with what and who I am in the moment— not complacent, but content, as in reverence.

So, in typical coach-like fashion, I’ve begun to apply to myself the reframe techniques I use with clients, continuing on the path toward “radical self-acceptance”. My first step in this rebranding was to forgive my younger self. Until this point, I’d irrationally stewed in shame when remembering different ‘milestones’ of my silent battle with weight gain.

Armed with my new aspiration, I now allow myself to lean into the hurt I pretended didn’t exist in my past. I’m permitting myself to actually feel the quantitative and qualitative embarrassment I’d suppressed for years.

Tara Brach’s self-compassion meditation has been essential as I work through these seemingly forgotten episodes. And my understanding of the dimensions of self-compassion has also sanctioned me to share these thoughts with you; after all, we are all connected.  

I’m now committed to practicing particular mindset mantras. I want to create a state of awe and reverence, respecting how my body serves me so effectively.

Here’s a peek into my mind’s chatter, both proactive and responsive:

  1. I appreciate my “able bodied” status. Did you know that we have 11 functioning systems in our bodies? We are walking marvels! I am blessed to be fully functioning with healthy vital signs. When I look at my body image from this perspective, the number on the scale constitutes a mere soundbite not necessarily in alignment with the bigger story.  
  2. I thank my body for all it does. This is a riff on a Strozzi Institute somatic session led by Dana Silverman. During a spontaneous coaching opportunity, Dana suggested the volunteer give thanks for all her body did to birth one of her children. Her tiny body carried, nourished, and kept safe the treasure in her womb. The remarkable structure and composition that allows the human body to survive is hard to imagine. So now, I thank my legs for my morning march, my belly and lungs for the ability to breathe deeply, and my brain for “cleansing the emotions of the day” while dreaming.
  3. I embrace daily movement. Not only am I grateful for the ability to exercise, but thanks to Seven Circles I have been training my body for healthy and safe movement in general. I am conscious of the movement opportunities derived from routine activities like cleaning the shower, carrying home market produce, and stepping up to reach the bird feeders. I’m actively grateful for the ability to lift a heavy stock pot and 40-pound bags of birdseed. I relish in all of the steps taken in my home to water the plants, to keep the floors clean, and to cook healthful meals. These acts are joyful and healthy.
  4. I focus on the positive. This practice grew from a long-ago dating experience. This man and I had a strong connection, yet I was never physically attracted to him. “What part of him is attractive?”, asked a friend? Well, he did have cute ears! So that was what I focused on, and it worked for a bit. Flashing back to the present, I’m proud of my biceps. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I was able to do a single full, unaided push-up. But considerable time and effort toward maintaining the “guns” has revolutionized my upper body strength. I remind myself that it’s an act of sustaining resilience, and a huge personal accomplishment.
  5. I Employ Humor. This is my favorite technique to rebrand my body image. When I catch Eve in a spate of backtalk, I remind her and myself that as an active recluse, this body rant is totally in my head. Only my spouse sees me regularly from the neck down!
  6. “Rinse and repeat”. I get to recognize and remember that I’m my own worst critic. And these are past stories of unworthiness. Rewiring the brain’s neuropathways will take a while. Each time I remember any of the above, I’m working toward greater self-acceptance. And herein lies the opportunity to acknowledge the past, breathe, and imagine a nearer future of contentment with myself.

If this topic resonates, please weigh in. And be sure you receive our Tuesday hits of inspiration and oxytocin, where there will be more about body image during the coming weeks.

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