Is your negative body image kept alive by your inner critic?

Your body critic at work

Do you have a negative body image, complete with harsh inner critic, that chatters in your head?  Keeping you focussed on all your imperfections and supposed flaws?  

Do you ever wonder what it takes to have a positive body image?

At my talks, workshops or webinars I ask people how many of them would like to be married to the voice they hear in their head when they look in the mirror?

Sadly, nobody ever says yes. This has been equally true whether I have been doing a workshop for a group in big bodies or whether it was one of my Shape magazine workshops packed with over 200 slender, and (by cultural standards) gorgeous women who really had no visible reason for having a negative body image. Yet, they too were plagued by their body critic!  But this much was obvious.....Body shape or size wasn't what made the difference!

Our body is our calling card 24/7. It's the first thing people see, it's forms an enormous part of their first impression about us. Our body is distinguished by a physical boundary called out skin. Everything inside our skin is 'us' and everything outside isn't (at least not until you get into quantum physics).

Thomas Cash the renowned body image researcher estimates that about 2/3 of your self esteem is determined by your body esteem! Yet so many of us have a disturbed image of the bodies we live in.

Let's face it: to be a woman living in many parts of the Western world is to be immersed in a culture obsessed with thinness. 'Thin' in this context carries with it connotations of 'desirable,' 'sexy,' 'healthy,' and not to forget 'happiness ever after.'

Body confidence is our birthright

Here's the thing though - we are all born with a positive body image. Take any 2 year old put them in front of a mirror and see what happens. They can have rolls like Michelin man, and they don't have a harsh body critic. They just 'know' they are fantastic, incredible beings who everyone loves.

What makes the difference between looking at the picture of the legs above and knowing they are a toddlers legs or an adults legs? Why, when we know they are baby legs do we ooh and ah over their cute dimples, but when those same legs are adult - why does that harsh body critic get going? 

How does our positive body image get replaced with a negative body image? Often it only takes 5 or 6 little words from someone (often someone we love), or a nickname (like tub-tub or fatty or whatever) for us to stop thinking we're wonderful and to start with what I think of as 'body-worry.'

And it's body dissatisfaction where all the rot really sets in. It's this body critic that makes us compare ourselves (usually unfavorably with others), it keeps us ever vigilant trying to hide parts of ourselves that we feel particularly self-conscious about. And remember we do live in a thin-obsessed and increasingly 'fitspiration' world of anorexic models and too thin role models like athletes. 

• Why are we so thin-obsessed? It wasn't always  like this!
• Why is it that if you have a positive body image - you're almost thought of as abnormal?

• Why is plastic surgery one of the fastest growing 'medical' specialities?

• How did it happen that our bodies became what we base so much of our worth on?

We've been conned into thinking that shrugging off a poor body image and replacing it with a positive body image is a simple matter of losing weight. Weight loss is apparently the answer to all your problems.

Don't ever forget this: there is BIG money invested in the keeping us insecure and keeping us believing that we have no willpower, and that diets work and that we even need to lose weight in the first place. As long as you have a negative body image, you'll be spending plenty money on dieting, clothes, make-up, plastic surgery, beauty salons, clothes and so on!

Postive and Negative body image - they're fickle!

What is a positive body image compared to what constitutes whether you have a negative body image can be pretty fickle. Let me show you what I mean.

Take a few moments to look at a picture of any model - how does your body feel by comparison? How do you match up?

That's what happens every time we flip through the pages of a glamor magazine because if you're like the average woman, you were definitely feeling less confident about your body having compared it. Jut looking at the picture had given us a negative body image!

Now take a picture of someone much fatter than you - and again compare yourself - do you feel any better about your body now?

So how we feel about our bodies changes according to our mood, who we are with and how our bodies feel physically. So whether you are having a good body image or a bad body image day, can change depending on your perceptions, emotions and circumstances.

But here are a few things we can say about how you feel in your body: 

• it's not based on fact.

• it's not inborn - it's learned.

• it's not a 'Deep Truth' - it's a surface truth.

Deep truths are those that are stable - they don't change from one culture to a next or from one historical period to a next.

Lose weight and you'll supposedly lose your negative body image too

But trust me on this - losing weight isn't the total answer.  People (including me when I was stuck in Diet City) who lose the weight, are often elated initially only to have their harsh body critic return even when they have not regained any weight or when they've regained only a small portion of what they lost. 

The problem is that that the voice that constantly chatters on, giving us a negative body image, resides in our head. That's why developing a positive image has to start in the Mind.

Without a mental diet - no amount of losing weight will change your body esteem or help you live in a joy-filled body for very long. I know from working with models - you know those glamorous figures we all think we'd die to become (and yes, I know people who literally have died trying to look gorgeous) - how insecure they are and how riddled they are with negative body images. 

You may be surprised to hear this but most models I've met are in agony over their bodies.

And no amount of thinness can buy a deep internal happiness either - if that were the case models would be happy and I'd have been ecstatic when I was anorexic... and I wasn't - I was miserable.

Pssst.... I'd like to let you into a secret that it took me years to discover: Living in a joy-filled body is less about the size of your tummy or the breadth of your hips than it is about the size of your spirit, the breadth of your love. And I had to be tricked into going to a nudist resort to discover that for myself.

Should anorexic models be banned?

France is moving to hold the fashion industry accountable for using anorexic models - what's your opinion on that?

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My friend died from Anorexia 
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