Fear—it’s a high-traffic word.
Anyone who is on the journey of healing, change, transformation or consciousness has more than likely come to some awareness of fear’s hurdles.
At times, it is very bold.
However, when it comes to its link to body image, fear tends to be a bit sneakier.
For those of us dealing with poor body image (PBI) fear often shows itself through some of the following experiences:
The language we use to describe ourselves and our bodies is often negative.
We have a difficult time looking at ourselves without feeling anxious or hopeless, and we often find ourselves analyzing particular body parts and/or features of ourselves.
We are willing to put ourselves through extreme measures to change our appearance.
We view people with our “goal appearance” as better, smarter, more beautiful, more successful.
We believe life (and all of its details) will be better when we finally reach our goal.
What is often completely and totally missed when it comes to poor body image is that the thoughts associated with it are fearful expressions of being unaccepted.
But the reality is, we cannot control how other people feel about us—no matter how much we alter or change our bodies.
You know all those images of women you see in magazines, commercials, billboards and movies?
They plant the seeds of very fast growing weeds.
Women are led to believe there is something innately wrong with them and thus, are unacceptable and unworthy because they do not fulfill the set standards. This is not an opportunity or reason to shame women for having the idealized appearance. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone is unique.
75% of “normal” weight women believe they are overweight, while over 90% overestimate their weight. And at least 50% of American women, at any one time, are dieting.
What is the leading subliminal reason for dieting? To feel accepted by society’s standards.
There is a deep-rooted belief that if you can control your appearance, then you can control your life, your worth and the level of acceptance you receive.
This comes from the images that consistently link appearance with success, happiness, intelligence, love and the list goes on.
Surprisingly, women aren’t actually fearful of being fat.
There is a reclaiming of the word fat in the body-positive community. Remember when queer became okay to use again? Well, fat is okay if used in a non-derogatory way.
Women are fearful of being unsuccessful, not getting married, being thought of as weak and unfriendly, being unloved and the most of all, of course, not being accepted.
Messages are deeply root into our subconscious that we will be accepted if we meet the set standards. With this, it is learned that if we control our bodies, we won’t have to fear the loss of happiness, success, flow of love or lack of acceptance.
So, if you are someone with PBI, fear will show up as something wrong with your body. Poor body image is protecting you from deeper insecurities and fears, so you can feel as though you have some sense of control over how people see you.
If you are fearful of an experience or outcome, you will likely go to your body’s lack of x, y, or z, because you believe if you lose/gain/reach/change enough, you can control how worthy and accepted you are.
Again, what it comes down to is that you cannot control how other people feel about you—no matter how much you alter or change your body.
Or as Quincy Jones declared, “Not one drop of your self-worth depends on anyone’s acceptance of you.”
Deeply feel that.
Controlling our bodies so we don’t have to live with the fear of being unaccepted is an unnecessary, wrongly directed and exhausting cycle. We will have a much clearer grasp of reality when not directed by the fear of being unaccepted.
As you release fear, you will simultaneously gain the insight into the reality that you, just as you are, are out-of-this-world worthy.
By shifting your view and the experience of your own self-worth, you will shift the lens you see yourself through. Your body will no longer be a burden.
Instead, you get to experience it as a gift.
The first step is releasing the idea that you will change your perspective, or life in general, by altering your body.
This is an inside-out job. Let it go.
Instead, deeply feel your worth and value, and soon enough, the lens you see yourself through will be that of ample worth and acceptance.
When you find yourself experiencing symptoms of poor body image (you will start to get better at catching it) continue to practice awareness, ask yourself, “What in me is fearful of being unaccepted? Why do I feel unworthy?”
(Hint: anything regarding your body is the wrong answer.)
What am I afraid of? Why am I uncomfortable? What is the root of my anxiousness?
When you put the fear of being unaccepted aside, what is left?
Your experience with your body and fear is a means to learn more about yourself and to help uncover your deepest sense of self-worth.
It is a tough gift to receive, but a valuable one at that.
Author: Natalie Shapiro
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Renee Jahnke
Photo: Courtesy of the Author.