What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you marvel at the image reflecting back, or is your experience one of resistance and negative emotions? On both ends of these views is a situation of mind and matter: what we mind matters, and what we don’t mind, doesn’t matter.
For the individual suffering from a body image issue, it’s a case of matter over mind. That is to say, the body – physical matter – is being placed above the viewer. They look in the mirror and feel victimized by what they see. However, this is simply confusion about who we are at the most primordial level. We are not who we see in the mirror; we are the viewer.
Your Body Is A Process
Many of our problems, if not all, could be cleared up with proper literacy. Let’s clear up the words “body” and “body image.” The word “body” first originated in Old English, meaning life. The word “body image” didn’t originate until 1937 — perfect timing to trick us into thinking were nothing more than meat and bones, to be sold endless beauty products by the snake oil salesmen.
There was greater clarity and wisdom when it came to words created long before modern times. You see, our bodies are not nouns; they are more correctly verbs, or processes. The body is really just a communication center.
What we call our “physical” body is not as physical as we think. The body is made up of matter; therefore, we call it material. Yet, if we take a deeper look, we can see that all matter is made up of atoms, which is really just moving space — which means our body is mostly empty space.
This is why our bodies are constantly changing; they are more of a process than a material, concrete, finished object. That’s why the body was referred to as life and death in ancient times. Until your body is a corpse, you are still in process, constantly changing and evolving.
Consider this moment, your body is in the flux of constant change. You are not the same body you were when you first started reading this article. That’s because you are constantly recycling information in the form of thoughts, emotions, food, chemicals, and billions of other invisible particles. You are never the same person twice. In fact, none of the atoms you were born with are in your body right now.
Right now you are ingesting this information, and it is actually having a physiological effect on your body. If this information makes you feel smart and happy, then the positive emotions will be releasing chemicals that are actual immunomodulators enhancing your immunity and activating positive genetic expression.
If we first begin to view our bodies differently – as they truly are – the living activity of our creative thoughts and actions, we can begin to take control of our bodies again. When we see the body as a never-ending process, we stop fighting change, which leads to stagnation, and instead we engage in transformation. This thought alone will open the doors to change and transformation. Otherwise, a view of the body as a noun or thing makes it a very “dead” phenomenon. That would cause just about anyone to feel body shame. So, how to overcome body image issues?
Being in control has two sides. First, we feel stable, well within our comfort zone, but also ready to meet challenges and opportunities as they arise. Maintaining such a state keeps you in control at all times. However, our bodies want to preserve homeostasis – self repair and balance – and we psychologically want to be in control. By resisting our body’s true needs, we only wreak havoc.
Here are the major influences that throw off the whole control mechanism:
- Stress – This forces the body to go into survival mode, creating disorder in normal homeostasis.
- Randomness – This creates a state of tense caution waiting for the disaster to strike.
- Negativity – Such as hostility, resentment, and anxiety, which lead uncertainty and stress.
- Frustration – Limits your freedom to act and respond.
To truly be in control, you must eliminate or minimize these behavioral patterns. This is easier said than done as it has become increasingly hard to do in today’s stress-filled world.
For example, consider how most people feel when they look in the mirror and are displeased with their body image. Typically, most people are uncertain about where to even begin to change their image or emotions about the situation. Even when they begin to consider action, the diet industry is filled with unknowns, uncertainties and random fakes looking to make a quick buck.
Who knows what’s actually going to work or not? It’s frustrating to feel we have no ability to know what’s true or how to change our situation, which makes us feel victimized and want to escape it. It doesn’t take long for these thoughts to create a large degree of tension and anger – all of these scenarios building up a massive amount of stress.
But normal working conditions can create the same sense of losing control. Others can tell us what to do, and if your boss makes arbitrary decisions, unpredictability enters the picture. There are frustrations, large and small, because no one at work is completely autonomous, or free to do what they really want to do. On-the-job stress goes with the territory; that’s why so many people dream of running their own business. No matter how difficult being self-employed turns out to be, it offers an opportunity to feel that you are in control.
Dos and Don’ts For Handling Self-Image Issues
The good news is that we are always in control of our being. We may not be able to change our body immediately, but the world within us that created the body we can. We have complete control over our views, thoughts, emotions, and actions, all which can transform our bodies. We can do a lot to stay in control if we take a better approach to control issues. Look at them from the viewpoint of your body, which wants to stay in balance while remaining poised to act. From this vantage point, the dos and don’ts are more clear-cut:
- Don’t shut out the stress that is throwing you out of balance. These might look like lack of sleep, poor diet, bad relationships, etc.
- Don’t shut down emotionally. Your body always knows if you are feeling bad and what we resist persists. As easy as it is to dislike your body image, that doesn’t change it.
- Don’t become passive. This only makes mind and body become dull, reducing your ability to act when the time for acting arises. Eating tubs of ice cream may numb the pain, but won’t solve the problem.
- Don’t become a control freak. This includes obsessive dieting and exercise. Someone who is self-critical, demanding, or constantly finds fault is trying to control their body so they can ignore the real problem, which is inside themselves.
- Don’t become rigid in ways of thinking and doing. Rigidity feels like control but turns out to be lonely, isolating, and makes you inflexible to new solutions.
These tips should carry no surprise, since they are based on the most basic psychological truths – each one leads to greater unhappiness. Along these same lines, the things that would be most helpful to do are aimed at making us happier, freer and more balanced:
- Look carefully at the persistent stresses in your life and face them. Examine if you are adding to the stress in your surroundings. If so, take steps to put an end to it.
- Be aware of and accept your feelings, especially the negative ones. What we face we take under our control. Staying in denial about negative feelings only makes them worse. What we resist we become. By accepting them, we become free of them, we might even have a good laugh about it. Self-hate won’t get you into the sunshine exercising with friends and enjoy beautiful food. Only love will do that. The highest form of love is acceptance.
- Follow a routine that keeps your body in a healthy state of balance. This means simplicity; adequate sleep, regular meals, avoiding toxins like alcohol, drugs, and sugar. No need for the latest nutritional fad or workout; stick to the basics. Even a simple stretching routine in the morning can change how you feel for the rest of the day.
- Be active. Notice I said be active, I didn’t say do CrossFit or mountain climb. You don’t need to be a pro athlete to be healthy. Simple, low-impact physical activity (think movement) at least once an hour, such as standing up and stretching, has been shown to keep the body in a state of homeostasis. As you feel better about your body image you can experiment with higher endurance sports for the fun of it.
- Recognize your frustrations. As you face your own anger and pain and do what it takes to resolve them, take note of what triggers them and also what resolves them. A journal is very helpful for getting introverted self-criticisms out of your head for dissection and release.
If this list of tips here seems like too much work, you are already out of control, because everything on the list is what comes naturally to mind and body when they are in balance. No worries — just acknowledge it and accept it. Overcoming body image issues starts primarily in acceptance. When we get out of our own way, we let the body heal in the simplest, easiest, most natural way. The funny thing is that it takes effort to keep yourself out of balance, which unfortunately has become the new norm. We push ourselves, ignore our body’s signals of discomfort, sleep too little, eat too much (or the wrong things), and praise ourselves about how much stress we can handle.
Stop the glorification of being busy. Whoever told you “no pain, no gain” had some issues. All insane modalities are destructive in nature, regardless of their promised justifications. Life is not meant to be painful; it’s mean to be celebrated. Your body is to be loved and used to carry you through this beautiful life. A simple “thank you” to your body for all it has allowed you to experience might just be the first place to start.
In reality, we aren’t in control just because we are free to make bad choices. Control depends on a sound foundation in mind, body, and spirit — a state that makes us feel secure, centered, willing and prepared for whatever comes our way. Once we realize this fact, we are in a position to take a much better approach to the whole complex issue of being in control – a healthy body image is just a starting point.