Despite what you might think,
I don’t believe loving your body is, in and of itself, a particularly important accomplishment.
I don’t even specifically care about body image, when it gets right down to it.
Lemme back up.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose, my passion, my business, and my job.
Why does body image matter to me? Why have I gone so far out of my way to gather the sharpest tools and more valuable concepts to help people overcome self-critical thoughts, self-objectification, and feelings of worthlessness?
Put another way, why do I care if people like themselves?
It’s an interesting question.
The obvious answer is that life is way better when you like yourself, and I empathize with the struggles of others. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s about how a negative self-concept (including negative body image) blocks you from being YOU— and what that means for the world.
Feeling insecure blocks you from accessing connection, belonging, pleasure, joy, purpose, and meaning, and it robs the world of whatever gifts and truth you have inside you.
What I’ve learned from years of coaching women with body image issues is that you (yes, you) are an interesting, intelligent, sensitive, funny, creative, warm, powerful, big-hearted creature… even if you have no idea.
Thanks to being blocked by a negative self-concept, too many of my clients identify with their flaws and fears, and walk through the world thinking about making people like them, losing weight, toning up, looking hot, dieting, or making sure nobody is mad at them.
The thing is, humans are a deeply social creature. We can thrive only when we feel safe, and in order to feel safe, we need our relationships to feel safe—which is to say, we need to feel like people see us, like us, trust us, value us, respect us, and feel connected to us.
Women in our culture are never safe. As a result, we can never thrive.
Women are not physically safe from a variety of ever-present threats like rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, internet and IRL bullying, and other violence. (Not to mention the physical danger facing fat women, women of color, and other marginalized populations, just for having a certain kind of body.)
The lack of physical safety alone would be enough to keep most women from thriving, but on top of it, our relationships feel constantly unsafe and unstable, so we never feel safe emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
This is what happens when you teach kids that only a certain kind of girl is “good enough” to keep her relationships safe, and that her worth is based on how happy she can make the people around her.
This is what happens when we’re taught that the only way for a woman to safeguard her relationships and place in society is by not having a personality, needs, or desires of her own; that in order to stay safe we must make ourselves into empty vessels, existing to serve others and make them feel good, and never take up too much space.
It’s the issue of unsafety that I’m most passionate about.
Have you ever been going along having a perfectly normal day when someone says or does something kinda weird (like sends a passive aggressive email or makes a comment that’s hard to interpret) and all of the sudden your entire reality shifts? Out of nowhere you’re like “whoa are they mad at me??? ….is everyone mad at me??” and totally spin out, imagining your life like a movie about a clueless loser who nobody likes, and your body responds like you’ve just learned that people are waiting in the bushes to jump you at any moment?
Yeah. Me too. And it sucks.
Think about what happens in those moments: your stomach clenches, your posture changes, you shrink and tighten and tense and collapse in on yourself. You get smaller and smaller as the shame grows and the world feels less and less of a safe place for you to be.
This kind of state is not one from which you will create important art, innovate new ideas, set clear boundaries, take big risks, genuinely connect with others, or follow your heart. Fear completely cuts us off from our life force.
You’re a lot more likely to waste a day trying to figure out if Jerry from accounting is actually mad at you, while you numb out the discomfort of the whole situation with endless scrolling on instagram, binging on sugar, napping, and berating yourself for being so stupid.
But what about fear’s opposite?
Maybe you’ve had one of those completely expansive experiences where you felt free, open, joyful, alive, and connected? Where your inner critic was quiet for once in her goddamn life and you felt sexy and cool and interesting and likeable?
Maybe it was on that one magical vacation, or inside of one special friendship, or during one amazing phase of your life.
Those moments when we feel completely safe, when we trust that people like us, when we feel like our relationships are strong, and when we know exactly what we bring to the table, occasionally happen.
The feeling of safety allows us to relax, expand, and step into our power, ur truth, and our best self.
From this place, energy bubbles up and out of us into new ideas, creative projects, nourishing connections with people, and courageous risk-taking toward our heart’s desires. From this place, our life force explodes up and out of ourselves and spill into the world, impacting everyone we meet for the better.
Sadly, most women rarely (or never) get to feel this way. Our life force ends up strangled by fear, kept small and weak, like a flame without enough oxygen.
I’m passionate about healing body image because I see how powerful the ripple effect is when one person stops living in fear— it tends to spread courage and freedom outward, fanning the life-force flame for everyone in its wake.
Learning how to like yourself is about learning how to stop hiding, SHOW UP, and leave the world better than you left it because you were here.
And heaven knows our world right now needs you to show up.
It’s about so much more than your insecurities.