Hello everybody, welcome to episode 22 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino, and today’s question on body image issues has some layers to it. As many of you already know, body image issues cover a wide variety of subjects that include eating disorders, reconstructive surgery, and perception of beauty.
We've got a multifaceted question for today regarding self-love, which of course, is something we all strive for. There’s a lot to talk about, so we shan’t wait another minute. Here we go…
QUESTION: “Hello Greg, Thank you for your podcast! I have thoroughly enjoyed each episode so far. You are an amazing addition to the OLD group! I have a question for you regarding something that has plagued me for many years (as long as I can remember). It impacts my marriage, my libido and overall it distracts me from joy. I am not sure where it stems from but my self-esteem surrounding my physical body/appearance has been lacking (to say the least). I have a sense of guilt, shame and ultimately disgust for my body when I am not eating “perfectly” or exercising “enough”; as a matter of fact, I don’t even know what “enough” is anymore. I am always hearing to love yourself and feel good in your own skin but those terms always make me feel confused. I wouldn’t even know where to start and I am not even sure it is possible to feel those things. So my question in short is, how do you, not only practice self-love, but actually feel self-love and let go of guilt and shame? I am not a shallow person and I find this part of my personality to be annoying and not consistent with what I believe so how on earth do I shake it?”
Your Feelings vs. Your Beliefs
Now, now. I know I said once upon a time that we'd sometimes cut down longer questions to make sure the key points were hit and there wasn't too much repetition.
But if you think that I'm gonna cut down that beginning – that tire pump, that wonderful display of support – you're out of your mind. So never mind thanking me, thank YOU to the woman who sent this in not only for those very kind words but also for sending along such an important question.
One particularly interesting element I find in this question is that you can identify these feelings as being inconsistent with what you believe. That's a big realization to make, and it sure is interesting when we find ourselves acting on things that we don't want to – when our minds are out of alignment with our hearts in other words.
We find this in all facets of life, right? Taking jobs with good pay even though we know they don't fulfill us. Getting into arguments with people over things we know aren't worth arguing over. Even having sexual fantasies that are fun to dream about but we wouldn't actually want to happen in real life.
This lack of alignment is something we run into a lot, and though we aren't necessarily proud of these things, certainly not enough to consider them as things we value, they ARE things that we value. They're values that have been instilled in us, which can be different from values we want to live by, but they're values all the same. They become more intrusive when we try to go to war with them and don't pay them proper attention or proper honor, and given the way this has impacted major areas of your life for so long,
I could understand how enough disdain might have built up that it's easy for you to not be at peace with these difficult-to-understand feelings.
Body Image Issues: Where Does This Come From?
One thing you mentioned that I'd encourage you to keep pressing is finding where it stems from. I know you said you don't know where it started, but it definitely started somewhere and partnering up with a therapist to help you identify where it began I think will be of huge benefit to you. That doesn't mean we can't do some work here and now to figure that out, though, which we'll get to.
Ultimately, the goal of targeting where it started is to then differentiate that time and those feelings from this time and your own, unbridled opinions so we can do some of that, too.
So bearing in mind all that's been covered up to this point, I want to start pulling a couple of tricks from a gregaudino.com video I released back in September that answered a viewer's question about cultivating self-love.
Self-Love vs. Self-Hatred
A big part of practicing and feeling self-love, as you put it, is focusing on just the opposite, which is self-hatred. Self-love can't happen if we're just constantly reaffirming the good in our lives and trying to capitalize so much on what's easy to love that what's easy to not love will go away. It doesn't work that way. That which we don't like about ourselves is still a part of who we are, and all the self-love techniques in the world are never going to work if we're trying to mute the bad stuff. The more these bad things – so your feelings of disgust for your body – are tucked away and ignored, the more powerful they'll become and the more shame you'll feel.
So for you to explore these things a bit and truly begin the process of self-love, let's first take a look at how and when it exists in your life. What are the triggers? Brainstorm that in your life which might support this idea that your body is somehow not good enough at this moment, AKA body image issues.
Is social media further reinforcing unrealistic body expectations? Are the TV shows you're watching reinforcing unrealistic body expectations? Keep in mind that many people seek out idealized images in the media instead of passively observing images of unrealistic beauty ideals.
Think hard. Is there much in your life that facilitates body acceptance?
Identify Messages that Might be Holding You Back
Identifying the external factors whose messages might be holding you back and further feeding into the idea that your body needs to somehow be better is a great beginning, because you can then get to work on steps that weaken their presence in your life. Making more realistic comparisons and having a healthy level of self-esteem help to establish a positive body image.
Maybe it's less time on social media or different TV shows if those examples happened to be true for you and are related to body image issues. Consider the amount you indulge in these things now, how much you'd like to indulge in them, and what you can do to bridge that gap.
Developing those kinds of steps are right in the wheelhouse of what a life coach can help with, which might be something to consider if you find yourself having trouble doing that on your own. In reaching conclusions about how much of a presence you'd like these triggers to have, what you're doing is reordering your priorities, proving that reordering to yourself, and setting yourself up to make changes.
Some triggers are easier identify, or at least tougher to swallow, than others, though. Lessening exposure to really distant and unemotional triggers can be of great use, but in some cases, we find that the triggers come in the form of things that are harder to limit; mainly relationships. Because of the unspeakable importance of relationships and how much they influence us, the ideals that those relationships reinforce can take a huge toll on how we behave on both the inside and the outside.
Body Image Issues and Your Relationship Dynamics
That being said, I highly encourage you to question what role your relationship dynamics might have played or are currently playing in your battle to be comfortable in your own skin. Have you maybe received enough compliments in the past about your body that were enough to convince you that it was worth maintaining? Or maybe compliments that were just well-timed, when you didn't have much else to feel confident about?
Are you spending time around people who put a lot of emphasis on having a lean, fit body, and thus buying into this because it seems like everyone else does?
See, whatever those close to us find significance in, whether it be directly geared towards us or something more general, can swarm our minds because of our craving to be connected and unified within these communities.
If, after some self-work, we find that these communities are not conducive to what we actually do believe for ourselves, it might be time to limit exposure to them or, at the very least, question them and seek to understand whether or not these communities really do uphold these values.
This sort of questioning could very well help you find that the people you thought loved you or others for their bodies actually have a love that run much deeper than that, or maybe even are stuck in the same cycle that you might be; answering to a community or a value within a community that they don't necessarily agree with wholeheartedly.
All of these processes are means of exploring and getting in touch with this side of yourself that's difficult to face, allowing you more space to accept it and understand it rather than to avoid it.
Understanding and Forgiveness
All of this is not to say, however, that self-love doesn't also include the things you love about yourself as is. We love others for all that they are, accepting their flaws. We love ourselves the same way. We dig into the hard stuff, and the easy stuff, and if we feel distanced from our own self-love, there IS a lot to be said for reminding ourselves about the things we enjoy.
No, we can't focus only on them, as mentioned before, but you might also find it refreshing to get back in touch with the things you love about you regardless of the part that anyone or anything else plays. What are some of your finest attributes that you're proud of, where are they the most present in your life, and how can you extrapolate those times that they're most present? What things do you like to do, that you don't need anyone to watch or approve of, and how can you make more time for them?
It's possible that all this fracas you've been distracted by has distanced you from the things about yourself that you find to be anything but disgusting, the things that you don't even think to question whether or not you have “enough” of, the things that transcend the physical body you're measuring yourself by.
Getting back in touch with these things, while at the same time questioning and adjusting the elements of your life that don't support the feelings you want to have about yourself is a sure-fire way to understand yourself better, forgive yourself more, relish in your wins, and move away from body image issues towards a life of self-love.
Little extra sauce this episode, folks. Perhaps our longest ones yet. Maybe it’s cause there was a lot to discuss, maybe I just wanted to pay extra attention to it because it started off with some nice compliments.
Kidding! It was the former. It was a great question, an honor to answer it, and was something I think a lot of us needed to hear and felt connected to if I had to speak on behalf of the audience. I know I felt that way. So thank you again for sending it.
Of course, you can send your own questions in and have them answered on the show by emailing them to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Can’t wait to talk to you guys in the next one. Until then, everybody.