As a psychotherapist, I have the privilege of hearing the thoughts and feelings people often share with no one else. I listen while they discuss doubts about relationships, question commitment to their careers, and voice guilt over frustration or disappointment in those they love most. The topics addressed in my office range from anxiety over the arrival of a new life to grief over the loss of an established one. Put plainly, we talk about everything.
And yet, while each individual brings their own topics and questions and goals to our sessions, I have recently recognized a distinct common thread amongst them.
No matter what originally brings someone in, no matter what we have discussed for weeks, months, even years, one issue – phrased, remarkably, the exact same way every time – eventually arises with the majority of my clients:
“I am unhappy in my marriage.” … “I want to feel more fulfilled at work.” … “I don’t know who I am since I had my baby.” … “I worry that I will never stop worrying.” …
“…And, I hate my body.”
Apparently this should come as no surprise: studies show that 91% of women hold the same opinion.*
The answer can involve exploration of inside forces (the voice of that childhood coach who mentioned how your game would improve if you lost some weight), outside forces (“THE MEDIA!”), and those familiar myths so many of us repackage as facts (“I’ll be happy once I’m thin.”). The answer is personal, unique, and may require some digging to be found. It may also be vague, unsolidified, and inconsequential. What matters is that body image isn’t fixed. It can be worked. Altered. Improved.
Through mindfulness and willingness.
By adopting a mindful attitude, we don’t challenge, but simply observe our negative thoughts about our bodies while making space for positive ones. By loosening our grip on long-held ideas, we can give them the necessary room to change and grow.
And when we are willing, we can examine our body image, acknowledge its impact on our emotional well-being, and recognize aspects of our bodies that we actually appreciate.
At Wildflower Center for Emotional Health we are excited to engage in an ongoing dialogue about this profound, pervasive, powerful subject. We invite you to join us, and look forward to progressing together!
* “BODY IMAGE STATISTICS – Statistic Brain.”
2016 Statistic Brain Research Institute, publishing as Statistic Brain.
JANUARY 26, 2016