When I was born, my body image was good.
Or at least I think it was good, since I have no real recollection of having any body image at all one way or another.
Then around age 11, my body image became bad.
It has pretty much stayed like that ever since.
Throughout my quick descent into eating disorder hell and then my much lengthier ascent back out again, my body image didn’t really get any worse or any better.
It just stayed bad.
In my early 30’s, I reached a point in my recovery work where I really began to feel like “me” again.
As in, I was once again in control of my stomach and its contents, as well as getting to be the one to choose what went into it and whether or not it stayed in.
But my body image was still bad.
I was just so excited about being able to handle eating again so I could have friends and dates and a life and actual hobbies and all that good stuff that I didn’t really care if I wasn’t crazy about what I saw in the mirror.
In the meantime, when bad body image stuff would surface, I would shove it away into the way far back crevices of my mind while promising myself I would get to it later.
Of course, later was always later. It never became “now.”
I say this because I noticed just a few weeks ago that it was all still back there – all those shoved-away horrible thoughts and insecurities and oh-how-I-wish-that-I-looked-like-her envy and all the worries that whoever I was going out with at the moment would soon ditch me for someone skinnier….
All those thoughts and feelings and fears were still all piled up in there, and in the interim they had had a lot of years to stew, bitch and get really, really fed up with their cramped quarters.
It seems worth mentioning here that all this came up in me at a time when I was already feeling incredibly compromised overall.
I’m not sure why, but it often seems to happen like this, where my psyche or soul or spirit or evil twin or whoever decides that the best time to hit me up with “surprise” healing work is when I’m clearly already overburdened by whatever life stuff I’m already busy dealing with.
Of course, that is probably better than presenting it when I’m feeling happy and peaceful, which would really suck (and also tempt me to re-bury whatever-it-is for the foreseeable future yet again).
So anyway, all of a sudden there it was – not just years but decades of piled-up body image badness spilling out all over everywhere.
I saw it so clearly – how instead of making that final commitment to recover on all levels that needed recovery, I had stopped one level short of truly recovered.
That level was – is – body image.
About the same time, I also realized it probably wouldn’t be realistic to set a goal now to achieve “good” body image (as in the kind of body image I had had before I even realized there was such a thing as “body image”).
Reason being, I have now had far too many decades worth of training in how to hate my body. It feels nearly effortless to bludgeon it with hate. And body hate, like self hate or any kind of hate, really, isn’t a “good” or “bad” sort of thing. It is just hate.
And the antidote to hate, for me at least, begins with kindness.
So that is what I am working towards now.
Today, my body image goal is to be kind to my body. That goal includes learning to see it kindly, to speak kindly to it, to treat it kindly, to give it the benefit of a doubt when I do catch a glimpse of it in a mirror, to see my personal body image glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
My goal is to begin to perceive just how unique and rare and precious it is to live inside a skin – any skin, but also my particular skin.
After all, while I couldn’t even begin to say what might happen after I die, I do feel fairly convinced that whatever that next stage might be won’t include being in a body of this particular type.
What might it feel like to be me, but body-less? Me without a body? Will there be a time in the near or far distant future when I no longer have a body and I look back and realize it was actually the best kind of friend and mentor to me and I should have appreciated it more?
For now, I am happy to report that when I remove the automatic presence of a body – my body – from the “me equation,” body kindness somehow becomes instantly easier to achieve. It is easier to feel fondness towards something I know I won’t have forever. It is easier to appreciate having unlimited access to a resource that won’t always be at my complete and full disposal the way it is now.
It is easier to recognize all the good things about it – this body – the ways it is better rather than worse, prettier rather than uglier, more fit rather than less, when I continually remind myself that one day it will be gone.
Will I miss it, this body? I think perhaps I will.
Today’s Takeaway: What is your current “state of the body image?” Would you say your body image is good, bad, kind, something else? Are you happy or at least content with the body image you currently have? If you would like to make some changes, what changes would those be and what do you think might help you achieve your body image goal?
P.S. This post is from my free monthly e-newsletter, “Good News for Recovery + Life.” You can read the full edition HERE.