Is the negativity you feel toward your body always related to your appearance? Because your anger, your frustration, your sadness, your fear, your heartache might have zero to do with your waist, your weight, your arms, your hips, your nose.

It might have more to do with your heart.

As Jennifer Rollin told me in her insight-filled interview, we may transfer the emotions we’re feeling onto our bodies. “Often it’s easier for us to talk about hating our thighs, then to express that we feel insecure in our relationship with our partner,” she said. “Negative body image is often an important signal that we need to pay attention to something else in our life.”

Maybe your frustration with your belly is really about your frustration with your job. Maybe your frustration with your weight is really about you feeling utterly exhausted. Maybe your hatred for your hips has more to do with feeling anxious about seeing your ex. Maybe your disgust over your face is really about your disgust with a loved one’s behavior. Maybe your discomfort with being in your body is really about unexpressed rage: rage at someone for crossing a boundary, rage at someone for something they said (or didn’t say).

How do know when you’re putting painful, tough feelings onto your body?

Asking yourself questions can help. Here’s a range of questions you can ask yourself to identify what’s really going on:

  • Have I been sleeping enough? If not, why? What’s been on my mind? (Plus, everything is terrible when you’re sleep-deprived.)
  • Have I been listening and responding to my needs? What do I need right now?
  • What am I aching for?
  • What’s been bothering me?
  • When I wake up in the morning, what am I thinking about?
  • When I go to sleep at night, what am I thinking about?
  • What thoughts am I having throughout the day? (Here, it can help to set an alarm to go off every hour or so, and write down exactly what you’re thinking when it beeps.)
  • Did anything happen last week or recently that hurt me? (It doesn’t matter how “small” it was; if it upset you, you deserve to honor that feeling.)
  • What physical sensations am I experiencing? Where? When I feel this way, what usually triggers it?
  • Has anyone crossed one of my boundaries lately? What kinds of boundaries do I even have? Do I need to create stronger limits or improve a bit in maintaining my boundaries?

Sometimes, our negative feelings about our bodies are superficial in that what’s really happening resides in a deeper place. It might reside inside our hearts. There, you might find an ache, a longing for a relationship to heal (maybe the one with yourself); a frustration about the job you thought you’d love but don’t (at all); mixed emotions about a certain change in your life; an anger with yourself about being too sensitive (you’re not); a sadness over being rejected; a sadness, an emptiness that you can’t quite name (that’s OK; keep journaling about it).

Identifying these feelings may be far from straightforward or simple. But any time you explore further, deeper, you honor yourself. And you get closer to finding an actual solution or, if there isn’t one, a powerful dose of acceptance. So the next time you start bashing your body, consider, Might something else be going on? 

What does your negative body image really reveal? 

Photo by Chris Lawton.