Body Image. These two words can evoke a powerful emotional response. What comes to mind for you? For a lot of individuals, these words bring up an array of thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and memories. It can be overwhelming to begin the journey to healing body image. If this is you, we see you. We are with you.
Maybe your caregivers did not model healthy body image. Perhaps you have always felt disconnected from your body in some way. Maybe you have traumas associated with body image. Healing body image is no small task. One of the first steps that we can take in this journey is starting to build insight around our body image. In-the-moment body image can be broken down into four parts: cognitive, perceptive, affective, and behavioral. Read on to learn more around what each of these four components entails:
This includes what we think about our bodies. We have many thoughts in any given day. Sometimes, our thoughts are accurate, other times not so much. Our inner critic can oftentimes show up in our thought process and can be mean to us about our bodies. Bringing awareness to these thoughts can be helpful. However, we also want to be mindful around how much validity we give to the thoughts that are critical/untrue/shameful. Practicing cognitive diffusion can help us separate from the unhelpful thought. One way to do this is by saying: “I am noticing that I am having the thought that…” around a critical body image thought.
This includes what we see. This may be influenced by many things, including others’ voices in our heads, our emotional state on any given day, our past experiences, or our internal experiences. Keep in mind that what we observe about our bodies may or may not be an accurate depiction of reality.
This includes what we feel in our bodies. Building our vocabulary for our body image experiences can be an important component of healing body image. Somatic vocabulary includes words like “tingly, tight, hot, etc”. Building insight around how our bodies feel in any given moment is an important component of this work.
This includes what we do behaviorally as a result of thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and physical sensations. Do we nourish ourselves when we are hungry? Do we move our bodies in a way that feels good? Do we freeze? Do we hide?
Give this four component model a whirl the next time you are struggling with body image. If you are on the journey to healing body image, I see you and I am rooting for you.