It can be difficult to feel content in your body, particularly when living in our thin-obsessed culture which insists bodies need constant monitoring and modification. Between social media scrolling, comments from others about their bodies, and potentially your own negative self-talk, it seems as if this unhelpful feedback is coming from all angles.
Body image dissatisfaction can feel so pervasive that it can be overwhelming to know where to start with changing body image thoughts. If you are struggling with body image, ask yourself if you tend to participate in the body checking or body avoidance behaviors. It’s perfectly normal to find yourself resonating with anywhere from a few to most of the body checking or body avoidance behaviors, or alternatively a combination of the two. See below to see if these come up in your relationship with yourself.
Body checking is a preoccupation with one’s weight and shape, which leads to spending an excessive amount of time checking your body and appearance. Body checking may look like:
- studying yourself in the mirror
- checking for your reflection in surfaces like windows
- pinching yourself in an effort to detect perceived fat
- comparing your body shape to others
- measuring parts of your body
- weighing yourself frequently
- changing outfits repeatedly before leaving home
- frequently adjusting clothing
If you tend to do any of these behaviors, you may find that you struggle with anxiety connected to concerns that there is something wrong with your appearance. Body checking can also contribute to a distorted perception of one’s body, which can also quickly spiral into dissatisfaction.
On the other end of the body image behavior spectrum is body avoidance. Body avoidance might come up when it feels too overwhelming to connect one’s body’s weight and shape. Body avoidance may look like:
- wearing only loose and/or dark clothing
- not looking at yourself in the mirror, when showering, or when changing
- avoiding shopping for clothing
- refusing to engage in physical intimacy
- avoiding swimming and other activities which make you feel self-conscious
- not seeing friends and family because of fears of their thoughts or comments about your body
- resisting taking or looking at photos of yourself
- determining certain clothing styles are only permissible for people in thinner bodies
Often the purpose of body avoidance is to avoid your body because it’s too painful to confront. However, the avoidance itself often not only maintains, but increases, the fear. Additionally, by avoiding your body you don’t have the opportunity to challenge the fears about your body, and therefore assume that they’re true.
Shifting Your Experience
Noticing these behaviors is the first step towards shifting your experience with your body image. A helpful place to start is with journaling a few days around which behaviors come up for you. For many who struggle with body image these behaviors have become habitual, which makes it even harder to catch.
After you have a better grasp of how your body image distress presents, work to determine how you can shift your most pervasive behavior and gently change it. For example, if you find yourself weighing yourself frequently, can you put your scale away and not weigh yourself for one week? Or if you only wear dark clothing, can you wear a bright piece for one day? Be sure to go slowly with shifting these behaviors overall. Changing too much too quickly can feel overwhelming, and it’s important to feel empowered (even if a little fearful!) as you make these changes.
These small steps to identifying and starting to shift your body image can be difficult, but it is certainly worth the battle. If you are struggling with body image, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our skilled therapists.