My attempts to reconcile me and my body have taken an interesting turn over the past few weeks. I have begun to realise that my response to my body does not derive from a vision; it begins, instead, at the pit of my gut. I am feeling my appearance, rather than seeing it – which might explain why I have been finding it so hard.
It is not the size of my leg or the shape of my arm that make the relationship difficult; it’s the emotional response that’s messy. The lack of differentiation between what I feel and what I see.
Instead of being objective and basing my body-perception on facts and realities, I have been building it on far more precarious grounds; and, by reinforcing these through my emotional responses, all sense of perspective has been covered up.
This means that when I am told to look in the mirror and focus on my ‘good points’, I zoom straight past “I have nice eyes” or “I like the colour of my hair” and nose-dive into the feeling instead. It has been interesting to observe what these are:
I appear to have a bit of a ‘hard-done-by’ take on my body. I am disappointed by it and feel that it has let me down. This comes out in the criticism and the sharpness that I treat it with: the pinches and smothered anger and unkind names. I am quite shocked by how intolerant and angry I can be.
Hostility starts the division: it’s reinforced by distrust. I don’t get my body, nor believe that it can function as it should. I treat it, therefore, with a certain suspicion, as you would a piece of machinery that you don’t quite understand.
The fear comes with the distrust. It’s linked to expecting something to go wrong and not knowing what – or when – that will be. It goes back, as well, to the realisation that I am not invincible and the fear that accompanied how close I came to the edge. It means that I am super cautious with myself, and I’m still adjusting to taking up any space.
The shame is prickly like pin points. It is almost too difficult to acknowledge because it is buried so deep. It is a mishmash of fear and hostility and perfectionism and uncertainty, framed by the worry of what other people think. It is, I think, less prominent than it was at the beginning, but some of the previous red-cheeked awkwardness has left a permanent stain.
The disgust is where I move towards the more physical and where it starts to blur into identity and size. The repulse caused by one triggers a repulse towards the other and leaves me bouncing backwards and forwards in between.
When my body-image is so charged with negative emotion, it’s not surprising that the reconciliation has been so hard.
But not impossible.
Compassion is a new body-related feeling. I noticed it last week when I was bouncing around in disgust. I suddenly felt terribly sorry for this body that I was berating and, in the moment of sympathy, the negative emotions were instantly shown up.
The compassion allowed me to question whether the criticism was really fair, and whether the hostility might be mis-directed. This feels different – in a good way. It is a new route towards body acceptance, and one which I’m going to explore -
Because I think, if I start at the centre, the effects will radiate out -