Sunday, May 2, 2010
Learning to Like Yourself
"The problem of body image dissatisfaction is sadly epidemic in this world. To dislike your own body is to dislike yourself. A negative body image needlessly diminishes the quality of your life."
First of all, THANK YOU for all of the wonderful support! I am very honored and excited to share these wonderful experiences with you. :D
This week I have decided to talk about body image issues. Darcy has years of experience with this topic and I believe it is an important one because unfortunately, whether we like it or not, it affects us all at some point.
****QUOTE OF THE WEEK******
-Dr. Joyce Brothers
Having been involved with the modeling industry since age 16, I can firmly say I know exactly what it is to struggle with body image issues. In the past I have struggled with mild body dysmorphia and anorexia (although it was nothing ever life threatening), and never once over the course of my career did I reach my (or was it my agent's?) goal weight of 105 lbs.
The closest I got was about 110 lbs. I am 5'9".
At the age of 16, when I first began modeling I was healthy and fit, but I needed to lose 10 lbs (according to my agency.) If I did, they would send me to Japan. "When you are walking down the runway," they said, "you have to be a hanger for the clothes and when you are stomping, nothing can jiggle."
This is an image of me at about age 16, before I ever seriously started dieting (photo by Beth Studenberg).
Fast forward to three years later. This image is from one of the first test shoots I did with Marco Berardini upon signing a 3 year contract with Next Model Management in L.A. I believe the expression says it all.
Constantly trying to adhere yourself to somebody else's ideals can be exhausting; not to mention devastating for your self-esteem.
Long story short, in a world that demands perfection, it is almost impossible not to have body image issues these days. Between plastic surgery and photoshop one thing is quite clear, the body images being hurled at us by major media are not real.
They are snipped, plumped, sucked, injected, shaped, lipo-ed, airbrushed, etc.... (you get the picture). Regardless of that knowledge, it seems to be that this unrealistic ideal has become widely in demand and accepted.
So, what can we do?
We can educate ourselves on how to appreciate a healthier & more realistic body image, and we can paint.
Deepok Chopra states, "The way we apply pure potentiality is through the experience of silence... As I cease from judgement, I create silence in my internal dialogue and when I create silence in my internal dialogue I get in touch with the field of pure potentiality."
I believe the key in what Chopra says is to cease judgement in order to experience our true potential. This is especially true in the context of body image in which we are constantly judging ourselves.
-Learning to Like Yourself-
Before I move on, in order for you to evaluate where your own body image is at I would like you to answer yes or no to the following questions from "The Body Image Workbook" by Dr. Thomas E. Cash.
-Are there aspects of your physical appearance that you really dislike?
-Do you think more about what you dislike about your looks than about what you like?
-Do you spend a lot of time worrying about what others think of your looks?
-Are your looks really important to you in determining your self worth?
-Do the same old negative thoughts about your looks keep popping into your head and playing like a broken record?
-Do you spend a lot of time, effort, or money attempting to "repair" your looks or trying to achieve physical perfection?
-Do you often search for the ultimate diet, the most effective body-shaping exercises, the right clothes, or the most flattering cosmetics or hairstyle?
-Do your feelings about your looks get in the way of accepting yourself or enjoying your everyday life?
-Do you have difficulty accepting the body that you live in? Would you rather be living somewhere else?
Dr. Cash states "Your affirmative answers to these questions indicate that your body image presents some difficulties for you. You are not alone... [For some people] dissatisfaction is more extreme and is associated with a range of emotional and behavioral problems. Having a negative body image spawns other problems in living. Following are some of the most frequent troubles that can and do arise. Often a poor body image lowers self-esteem. Poor self-esteem means feeling inadequate as a person; it means you have low self-worth and don't highly value yourself. As much as one-third of your self-esteem is related to how positive or negative your body image is. If you don't like your body, it's difficult to like the person who lives there- you!"
Transformation of your feelings and attitudes towards your body will only change through a paradigm shift in which you learn to view your body with respect instead of resentment.
It is possible to develop a deep connection, and love for your body with art because it is the expression of what is within you. The more we give to something and invest our time in it the more we will begin to see ourselves in it and really develop a connection to it. When you give to something like a painting or a drawing you create an experience of connection with it that can be very powerful and healing in the limitlessness of free expression.
Darcy Lubbers has noted in her book, Adult Art Psychotherapy, that "Mitchell (1980) and Bruch (1978) view artwork as a valuable tool for anorexic patients to gain self awareness. Crowl (1980) presents examples of the anorectic's art as being related to three areas of conflict: self-image, self-esteem, and control."
I cannot agree more. Below is a painting; the first self-portrait I did in my college level oil-painting course. It was a final project and as part of the assignment we were to give a presentation to the class explaining the concept. Mine for this painting very much involved the self-awareness of my healing; a transcended acceptance of the imperfections of my body with a new found appreciation of my flaws, much different from my previous state of resentment for all that denied me of being "perfect."
Interestingly enough, it is the non-threatening nature of art therapy that makes it so successful. Darcy states, "Creating a trusting alliance is often extremely difficult with eating disordered patients because of their strong resistance to treatment. They view their illness as ego-syntonic and mistrust those who may "take it away from them,"... The immediate, enjoyable art experiences foster feelings of trust and positive relating, which are necessary before important theraputic work can begin."
On that note, may we not be blinded by what we see; but instead empowered by what we know.