On Gratitude, Grief & Body Image
I’ve already written about the importance of gratitude for cultivating a positive body image and really a positive outlook on life.
Because when we have a negative body image, it’s all-too easy to live in a world of wishes and have-nots (or “haves…” Like I said in that post, it might be “I have big thighs,” “I have huge hips” and so on). This spirals into a harsh cycle, a cycle of lack and negativity.
And you become unable to see the amazing stuff right in front of you.
That’s why I’m happy that Ashley from Nourishing the Soul, a blog about body image and media literacy has kickstarted a series called Self-Discovery, Word by Word. Every month, one blogger (including me, and I’m so honored!) will select a word, and anyone who’s interested – both bloggers and readers – can write about it.
See Ashley’s post on the series for details on participating. This series is an opportunity for all of us to self-reflect. Ashley eloquently writes:
The goal of this series is to challenge ourselves to reflect on ideas that we may not often consider in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. The words that are chosen are meant to provoke thought and ultimately growth. As part of the blogging community (whether you are a blog reader or a have your own), we all have a unique opportunity to share our insights, our struggles, and our triumphs to help each other develop in new ways.
This month’s word is Gratitude.
I thought a lot about what I was going to write for this post, but the idea really came as I wrote a comment on Ashley’s beautiful post on gratitude.
Realistically, when life is going well, it’s not a stretch to be grateful. Sure, we might forget to practice gratitude (and thank our loved ones and/or G-d for our blessings). But it’s when something happens and life becomes unbearable that it’s really hard.
As many of you know, my dad passed away over a year ago. That was a time when gratitude was hard to come by. I spent the days in a coma. I was awake but I felt like I couldn’t open my eyes, and I had no use for my senses. I was going through the motions but I was going through them in a bubble. So it felt.
But while I felt like my world was crumbling – and in many ways, that summer, it was – I still had and have tons of things to be grateful for. I have my strong mom, a truly amazing woman. Period. My boyfriend. Who drove everyone back and forth from the airport several hours away. Who wrote heartfelt words that the Rabbi read during the service. Who held my mother and I in the hospital room.
And my family who came to Florida twice from NYC while my dad was sick. One of my cousins, a doctor, who spoke with us every day, five times a day, for those months my dad was in the hospital. Five family members who left work and their lives to come and try to save ours. My best friend, also from NY, flew down the next day. She, my boyfriend, my aunt and my cousin all slept in the living room of our house.
So in those horrible days, I still had so much to be thankful for. In that pain, there was love, family, friendship and compassion. And there still is.
You can say that a negative body image – and self-image overall – is kind of like grief. To you, your body, the way you see yourself might feel like a significant loss. That is, you might feel a range of reactions, including sadness, anxiety, fear and even numbness.
You might feel sadness that your self-image isn’t what you’d hope it to be. Or sadness that you can’t find a way to fall in love with yourself (but I promise you can). If you’ve abandoned the idea that weight loss brings happiness, you might grieve the end of this connection.
For instance, Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, in their interview here on Weightless, talked about how ditching the diet mentality can lead to grief and loss (and other stages like denial, anger and depression) but eventually results in acceptance.
Gratitude doesn’t always roar in all of these moments. It doesn’t always tug at your sleeve and say, “hey, remember me.” But it’s always there.
In the midst of madness, in the hustle and bustle of the every day, in the good times and bad, it’s there.
When I interviewed clinical social worker and coach Barb Steinberg for this week, I asked her about finding happiness in the every day, because that’s something she teaches teens and women, and that’s something that’s also hard to come by. Part of her advice:
Become a “seeker of moments” – those times when you stop in your tracks and notice that you feel good – petting your soft, furry cat; the taste of your bubble gum lip gloss; a great song on the radio; sharing a smile with the Starbucks barista; noticing the beautiful sunset…it’s the little things accumulated that make for a happy day and a happy life. We just have to slow down and take notice. We have to look for the things that we like, the things that bring us happiness. They are already there.
When we take notice in the moment or reflect at the end of our day with a gratitude journal by making a list of all the good things that we experienced, we need to say “thank you.” It is when we feel gratitude that our happiness expands and if you really begin to take stock, you will notice that with the more gratitude that you feel, the more happy moments you experience.
So bask in the gratitude around you. It’s there. In the pain, pleasure, laughter and tears. It is always there.
More on Gratitude
Here are some other fantastic posts on gratitude, which I absolutely love.
Gratitude: Expressed, Not Repressed by Katie at Health for the Whole Self
Perfect Timing by Tina at Faith, Fitness, Fun
Reflections on Gratitude by Joy at Being Joy
What are you grateful for? When times are especially tough, how do you stay thankful? If you’ve written about gratitude, please share a link to your post in the comments!
Tartakovsky, M. (2010). On Gratitude, Grief & Body Image. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2010/10/on-gratitude-grief-body-image/