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Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle:

A Manual for a  Guilt Free System of Healthy Living

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Chapter 5: A New Look at Body Image

A New Look at Body Image

 

I. An ALERT on Body Image Issues

 

The cavepeople used to draw images and pictures of themselves on the walls of their caves to keep a running narrative history of their lives. The cavepeople did not seem to be bothered by body image problems since they drew their bodies just as they were. Cavepeople were not irrational about body size since they were happy to have bodies which were alive and surviving the hardness of their lives. They were accepting of their bodies in an unconditional way by saying: "My body is fine and acceptable as long as it keeps me alive and well." How well do you compare with the cavepeople when it comes to your body image? Answer the following questions: Do you have a problem in being able to unconditionally accept your body as OK as long as it is alive and well? Are you concerned about looking at images of yourself? Do you have a problem accepting your body just the way it is? Do you have a problem with your body being seen in public? Are you bothered about being seen or looked at when you are trying on clothes in a clothing store? Do you have a problem looking at your naked body in the mirror? Do you hate having your picture or a home video taken of you? Do you hate seeing your body's image in a shadow? Do you avoid looking into large street side windows to avoid seeing your body's reflection? Do you avoid being captured on the camera in a store window so that you do not see your body on the TV monitor? Do you hate looking at pictures or home videos of you? If the answer is yes to all or most of these questions, then most probably you have poor body image and are in need of extensive work to get more rational, realistic, healthy and reality based concerning your body image.

 

Poor body image comes from a variety of irrational, unrealistic and unhealthy causes.

1. It can be based on the conditional acceptance of your body only if it meets certain criteria for such acceptance or approval.

2. Poor body image can be based in denial over what your body really looks like and a refusal to see your body the way it is rather than how you fantasize it to be.

3. It can also come from self-rejection and self-non-acceptance. This is the refusal of self-acceptance of yourself as a good person. This refusal is because your body does not meet the "standard"which you believe it has to reach. This body standard must be reached before you can believe that you are a "good enough" person to be accepted by yourself.

4. Poor body image can come from self-hatred over what your body has become.

5. It can come from the fear of your body being seen by others the way it is rather than how you would like it to be.

6. It can come from the need to be invisible and not seen by others and yet it is seen by others and commented on by them.

7. Poor body image can come from the guilt over the fact that: "I have done this to my body."

8. It can come from perfectionism over the fact that: "My body is not good enough the way it is."

 

When you are dealing with your poor body image you need to first ALERT yourself so as to get rational about your body so you can relax the anxiety, stress or panic you experience every time you are about to see an image of your body in a mirror, picture, home video, store window, security monitor or your shadow.

 

First you need to

ASSESS what is causing you the stress, anxiety or panic when ever you are in public or looking at an image of yourself. The tension you are experiencing is most probably due to seeing or the fear of seeing an image or reflection of your body which you do not want to see and simultaneously do not want others to see. This is a sign of poor body image which is a factor which can de-rail or sabotage your efforts at maintaining your new and emerging balanced lifestyle. You need to go on and identify what unhealthy thinking leads to the distress you experience over your body image.

 

Second step is to

LESSEN the impact of your negative body image by identifying the irrational thinking which underlies this concern.

 

Third step is to

EASE out of the stress by identifying new healthier self-affirmations which help you to become more rational, realistic and reality based about your body image. What follows are some irrational messages you might be giving yourself which lead to the panic, stress and anxiety of poor body image. Under each irrational and unhealthy message is a rational and healthier self-affirmation counterpart:

 

Unhealthy: I can't really be that big.

Healthy: My body size is what it is.

 

Unhealthy: I look ridiculous in that picture.

Healthy: I look in that picture just the way I look in real life.

 

Unhealthy: How did this happen to me?

Healthy: I did this to myself and I accept this fact for what it is.

 

Unhealthy: Who is that person in the picture?

Healthy: I see me the way I really am in that picture.

 

Unhealthy: If I had on different more flattering clothes I would have looked better.

Healthy: I am the size I am and different clothes may camouflage it but they will not change it.

 

Unhealthy: If I sit up straighter I will look less bad.

Healthy: I will sit up straighter because it is healthier for me to do so.

 

Unhealthy: There must be something wrong with the camera or mirror for me to look like that.

Healthy: My body is the way the picture or image shows it.

 

Unhealthy: I can never have anyone see a picture of me so they can make fun of or ridicule me.

Healthy: I do not care if others see my picture because I do not care what their response is.

 

Unhealthy: I am so embarrassed when I see a reflection in a mirror of me.

Healthy: I accept myself for who I am when I see a reflection of myself in a mirror.

 

Unhealthy: Everyone else in the picture looks better than me.

Healthy: Everyone in the picture, including me, looks like themselves and that is OK.

 

Unhealthy: I am no good unless I am thin.

Healthy: I am good just the way I am and my body size does not determine my goodness.

 

Unhealthy: I can't possibly be considered beautiful (or handsome) with my body the way it is.

Healthy: I am beautiful (or handsome) for who I am and not the way I look.

 

Unhealthy: I can't possibly be happy while my body looks the way it does.

Healthy: I am happy for who I am and my looks will not interfere in my happiness..

 

Unhealthy: My blubber is ugly.

Healthy: Blubber is blubber and does not need to be given power to control my life.

 

Unhealthy: My body needs to look better than this before I will ever like myself.

Healthy: I like me just the way I am. My body size does not determine if I am likeable.

 

Unhealthy: My body tells me I need to go on a diet.

Healthy: My body tells me I need to implement a balanced lifestyle so that I can gain the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy.

 

Unhealthy: Although I have been practicing the Balanced Lifestyle model for six months my body still looks awful to me.

Healthy: The Balanced Lifestyle model promises the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy and does not promise a thinner body.

 

Unhealthy: I will only be OK when certain body parts are thinner or smaller.

Healthy: I am OK just the way I am. My being OK does not depend on how my body looks.

 

Unhealthy: A certain body part is disproportionate to the others and it makes me ugly.

Healthy: I look fine even if my body parts are not proportionate.

 

Unhealthy: My body only looks good enough to me if it is a "Swiss Bank Account" body.

Healthy: My "Italian Bank Account" body which is experiencing a Balanced Lifestyle looks OK to me.

 

Unhealthy: I can't believe I feel so good about myself when my body looks like that.

Healthy: I can feel good about myself by unconditionally accepting myself the way I am.

 

The aim of the LESSEN and EASE steps is to let go of: conditional self-acceptance, denial and fantasy thinking, self-rejection and self-non-acceptance, self-hatred and self-loathing, fear of being seen by others, the need to be invisible to others, the need for perfectionism for your body to be "just right," and guilt for what your body has become. Once you have identified new healthier self-affirmations you then go on to the next step.

 

Fourth ALERT step is to

RELAX the stress of poor body image by breathing in the new messages of affirmation and breathing out the stale air of the irrational and unhealthy old messages about your body. As you relax try to visualize yourself accepting your body image as you look at mirrors, pictures and home videos of yourself, video security monitors, store window reflections and your shadow. Keep visualizing your successful self-acceptance of your body image so that in reality the next time you see your image reflected, you will accept it unconditionally with no stress, anxiety or panic.

 

Fifth ALERT step is to

TAKE ACTION and to allow yourself to see your body's image in a variety of situations and practice the unconditional self-acceptance model. To make this action more long lasting do the following exercise: Draw a picture of yourself. Then label every body part you do not like. Give a reason why you do not like it. Then work at developing a rational and healthy reason why it is OK and deserving of your acceptance. Write 5 affirmations of acceptance for the identified body part. Do this for every part of your body, you have not been able to accept at this point in your life. Keep working on this exercise until you can say: "I accept every part of my body unconditionally." To take further action try this: The next time someone is taking pictures or home videos ask him or her to take your picture and to give you a copy of the picture or video when it is ready. This will provide for you an opportunity to see if you have overcome your anxiety, panic or stress whenever you think your body will be seen by others. It will also test if you are ready to look at images of your body the way it is rather than how you would like it to look.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self -Esteem Seekers Anonymous, The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The ALERT System

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 2: Handling Irrational Beliefs
  • Chapter 4: Handling Guilt
  • Chapter 12: Overcoming Perfectionism

II. An ANGER workout against Sources of Body Image Self-Hatred

Rumor has it that if cavepeople were criticized for their body shape or looks they killed the people who criticized them. They would club them to death and have no further concern about what was said about their body. In our more civilized society, you cannot club to death the people who have over the years criticized your body. These people have helped you evolve into self-hatred for your body image. You can however do ANGER workouts about these sources of self-loathing and self-deprecation so that you are free of the irrational negative messages you give yourself about your body. These sources of body image self-hatred could be any or all of the following: one or both of your parents, a sister or brother, a grandparent, a relative, a teacher, a neighbor, kids in school or in the neighborhood or the media, advertisers and the diet industry. These people over the years have contributed directly or indirectly to the negative messages in your head every time you look at an image of yourself. These negative body image scripts are so well entrenched in your subconscious, that by this time in you life, you may not be able to remember who first said them critically about your body. What you need to do, to help you change your poor body image to a healthy one, is to kill the voices in you head which currently criticize, reject and disapprove your body. To kill these voices you will need to do ANGER work on each and every source of these negative body image messages. This ANGER work will take some time and will involve a recurrent effort to exorcise these negative, self-hating and self-loathing messages about your body until you can accept your body unconditionally just the way it is.


First step of the ANGER workout is to

ACCEPT that you are angry at the sources of the negative body image messages in your brain. You will have to accept that you resent the people who in the past or currently say the critical, disapproving and rejecting comments about your body. You will have to admit that you hate them for what they have done to you. You will also have to admit that there is rage built up inside of you against them which you have stuffed all these years. You will have to accept that you need to let go of the anger you have against yourself for your body image. You will have to accept that you need to redirect this anger against those people, who have taught you to be self-critical, conditionally accepting, self-rejecting, self-disapproving and self-destructive in your attitude and feelings about your body image. You will need to accept that you were taught and reinforced by others to be self-critical and self-demeaning about your body image. You will need to redirect your self-hatred and anger where it rightly needs to be directed, which is towards the sources of the negative body image messages.


Second step of the ANGER workout is to

NAME at whom, for what and why, you are angry. You need to do an exhaustive self-history from your earliest recollections on and identify the sources of the self-hating negative messages you have about your body image. For each person identified you need to identify which messages they gave you, which you carry to this day. You need to identify how these messages contributed to the following categories of irrational causation of poor body image:


1. Conditional Acceptance of Your Body:

The sources, of your negative body image messages, told you that you were only worth associating with or gaining the approval of others if your body was the correct proportion, size and weight. You were told that you could participate in certain activities only if your body was meeting the conditions and criteria for such participation. You were told that it was a shame that you had "such a pretty face" and it was too bad that the rest of your body did not look as good. You were told that "thin is in" and only thin bodies were acceptable. You were told by these sources that you needed to diet, starve yourself and learn some self-control so that you could improve your looks. You were told that: "looks are everything" and "others will judge or accept you by your looks." You were told that you would never amount to anything unless your looks changed. You were told you would never be able to have a relationship with a significant other unless you changed the way your body looks. Identify every person who taught you this conditional acceptance of your body. Identify every message you remember hearing about conditional acceptance of your body and name the message and the source of the message in your ANGER workout.


2. Shame and Guilt for the Way Your Body Looks:

The sources, of your negative body image messages, told you that you should be ashamed for your lack of will power and loss of control for allowing your body to look as unacceptable as it had become. You were told that you should feel guilty for letting down your parents, family, friends, school, community and yourself for allowing your body to look the way it did. You were told that you were not "trying hard enough" to change your body looks. You were told that you were "breaking the hearts of others" for how your body looks had evolved. You were told that you ought not to go out in public so as not to embarrass your parents, family, friends, school, community or yourself. You were told over and over again that it was your fault that your body had become what it had. You were told that you will eventually pay for your bad habits of eating, dressing and grooming in the future. You were told that it was a shame that you had allowed your body to deteriorate to the condition it had. You were told that your were lazy, slovenly, slothful and undesirable for what you had done to allow your body to become so ugly. You were told you should be ashamed that you had become so fat. You were told that you should be embarrassed and ashamed that you were not successful, in making your body look better, by failing all the diet program you attempted. You were told that there was something "terribly wrong" with you if you could not do something about improving the way your body looked. Identify every person you remember who tried to inflict shame and guilt on you. Identify every shame and guilt inducing message you heard about your body image and the person who was the source of the message in your ANGER workout.


3. Perfectionism About How Your Body Should Look:

The sources, of your negative body image messages, told you that no matter what you did to improve the way your body looked it was never "good enough." You were told that even though you had lost weight you still needed to lose more so that your body could look better. You were told that you should always be alert to eating any food which would hurt the way your body looked. You were told that you should constantly be on a diet if you wanted your body to look "good enough." You were told that you should always be conscious of how you looked before you went out in public to insure that you looked "perfect" to others. You were drilled on the need to get other's recognition and approval for your looks and that no effort to improve your looks should go untried. You were criticized for how your body looked, no matter what effort you put into improving it, because: "you could have done so much more." Your motivation and commitment to improving your body image was always put into question if you did not starve yourself and stay on a perpetual diet. You were told that you could always lose just a little more weight to make a certain part of your body look better. You were given a head to toe evaluation of your body and it imperfections to keep you focused on what body parts you needed to work at changing and improving. Identify every person who tried to inflict perfectionistic body image messages on you. Identify every perfectionistic message you heard about your body image and the person who was the source of the message in your ANGER workout.

 

4. Need for Your Body to be Invisible to Others:

The sources, of your negative body image messages, told you that it would be better for you not to be seen by others so that your ugly body would not be criticized and thus embarrass yourself or them.. You were told verbally or nonverbally that it would be better if you did not come along with them so that others would not ridicule them for having you along. You were told nonverbally that because of your body size, weight or shape, it would be better if you did not try out for public activities when you would either not be selected or you would be the last one picked. You were told verbally or nonverbally that it would be best if you were not seen and not heard so as not to cause conflict due to your body size and shape in the family, school or community. You were told that if you wore certain clothes you could camouflage your body and hide the "real body" from others. You were told if you made your hair up and wore the right makeup you could deflect others looking at the rest of your body. You were encouraged never to look in a mirror or look at your picture. You were excluded from family and group pictures whenever possible. You were encouraged directly or indirectly by others not to have your picture taken or be included in a home video. You were told, directly or indirectly, that you were never invited to the "in events" due to your body size, weight and shape. Identify every person who directly or indirectly encouraged you to make your body invisible to others. Identify every invisibility encouraging message you heard and the person who was the source of the message in your ANGER workout.

 

5. Self-worth Defined by Size, Weight and/or Shape of Your Body

The sources, of your negative body image messages, told you directly or indirectly that your worth as a person was defined by the size, weight and shape of your body. All of the comments you received from them were preoccupied with the status of your body image. They ignored giving you reinforcement or rewards for anything about you other than the state of your body. They ignored your personal achievements, personality characteristics, intellectual abilities, competencies, creativity, generosity, kindness, skills, abilities, interests, involvement with others and career accomplishments. They only focused their comments on your body such as: how big it had gotten, how small it was getting, how fat it was, how thin it appeared, how awkward a certain part of your body looked, how beautiful a body part looked, how well dressed you were or how sloppy you looked. These people helped to contribute to your pre-occupation and concern about your body image. They helped to shape you into being self-conscious about your body image. They assisted you to believe that your worth as a human being hinged on how your body looked. They were able to help cement in your subconscious and conscious mind that: "I am only as good as my body looks and everyone in my life judges me by how my body looks." Identify every person who directly or indirectly made you feel that your worth as a human being was dependent on how your body looked. Identify every "self-worth dependent on body looks" message you were given and the person who was the source of the message in your ANGER workout.

 

Third

Once you have done a thorough analysis to name every person or group of people and their negative messages about your body image, you are then ready for the third step in the ANGER workout model. You now need to GET IT OUT of your system. This requires that you do specific anger release work to free you up emotionally. You will need to do three specific GET IT OUT activities: resentment release, hatred elimination and rage workouts.

 

1. Resentment Release:

The first ANGER workout GET IT OUT activity is resentment release towards the persons and groups who are the source of your negative body image and self-hatred. You need to follow the directions for this work in Chapter 7: Handling Resentment, page 39 of the Tools for Anger Workout (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). You need to write a letter of resentment to each person or groups of people and list what you resent them for in terms of your self-hatred and negative body image problems. You need to list every thing they said or did which gave you the negative messages identified in the NAME IT portion of the ANGER workout. You need to detail out in these letters of resentment: How these people did these bad things to you intentionally or unintentionally. If these offenses were done directly or indirectly. What the negative consequences were for you of these offenses. How the negative body image and self-hatred grew in you as a result of these peoples offenses towards you. How your life could have been healthier, happier and filled with more emotional and physical energy if these offenses had not happened to you. How the choices you have made in your life and the direction you have taken in life were influenced by the offenses of these people. What irrational beliefs you have developed about your body image as a result of these peoples offenses. What new healthier messages you need to develop to get your body image and Balanced Life Styles efforts on a healthier and more solid footing. What are the rational reasons why you need to release the resentment and anger you hold with these people who have been so offensive to your personal development. Finally, why you are now willing to forgive and forget these people for their past offenses so that you can proceed on with your life in a healthier way. Chances are that you will not be able to forgive them, so you will need to go on to the second step of the GET IT OUT process which is hatred elimination.


2. Hatred Elimination:

Once you have identified your resentment issues you will most probably realize that some or all of the people who have been sources of your self-hatred and poor body image are people whom you hate for doing what they have done to you. You need to follow the guidelines in Chapter 6: Overcoming Hatred, p. 33 of the Tools for Anger Workout (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) to work at hatred elimination. You have to work on recognizing that you harbor hatred towards the people who are the source of your body image problems. You need to recognize that what they did angers you even to this very day. You probably need to do a series of Write, Read and Burns at one hour intervals to work at eliminating your hatred for the people who have been at the root of the self-loathing and self-hatred of your body image. In the one hour of writing, take one person at a time and identify: Why you hate this person? What this person said or did to you which caused you so much pain? What were the results of this person's behaviors on your life. Were the offenses listed real, perceptions, assumptions or imagined? What were the negative consequences to your body image of these offenses such as: your conditional self-acceptance, shame and guilt concerning your body image, perfectionism about how your body should look, the need to have your body invisible to others, and your self-worth dependent on your body's size, weight and shape. You then need to identify in your writing important issues such as: How well informed the hated person was about the effects of the offensive behaviors on you. What did this person need to know in order to prevent affecting you negatively. What blocked this person from knowing what change in his or her behaviors would have been good for you. What was wrong with this person that they acted so irrationally with you. What makes this person worthy of being forgiven for their ignorance, short sightedness and lack of common sense for treating you the way they did. What new thoughts and feeling do you need to develop so as to eliminate your hatred for this person. Once you have written for an hour then put it aside. The next night read for one hour what you have written and then burn it. Continue the writing, reading and burning on each person until you have been able to forgive each person and let go of your hatred. To assist you to work towards the release of your hatred after each Write, Read and Burn session you might need the third part of the ANGER workout GET IT OUT process which is rage workouts.

 

3. Rage Workouts

As you are identifying your resentment and hatred issues, you will most probably need to be working on rage release by rage anger workouts. Follow Chapter 11: Eliminating Rage, p. 65 in the Tools for Anger Workout (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). As you begin to identify the issues of anger towards the people who have contributed to your self-hatred and self-loathing, you might be driven to contact them directly and vent your anger and blame on them for what they have done to ruin your life. If you were to directly contact them to let them know how angry you are, you would end up in the old unhealthy anger cycle.This is where the natural feeling you after expressing anger on a person, is guilt for hurting the other's feelings. This is then followed by remorse for having done so. This results in pulling in the anger leaving you feeling the stuffed emotions of depression and resentment towards the person. Over time you might get irritated by the person or something that triggers a memory of what the person said or did about your body image and you express your anger on the person again. To avoid getting into the old unhealthy self-feeding loop of the anger cycle, you need to use the ANGER workout process for unresolved and current anger issues as identified in Chapter 1: Anger Work-Out, p. 1 of the Tools for Anger Workout (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). In the ANGER work-out model you release your rage on inanimate objects and the people in question never are confronted with your rage and hostility. You pound on a weight bag, or pillows or some other beatable object and yell and scream until you have exhausted the topic. You do this over and over again until you are no longer triggered into rage and anger when you are presented with a behavior, message or comment which stirs up the memory of the offensive behaviors of the person for whom you harbor resentment, hatred and rage. You need to release your rage as you progress with the GET IT OUT process so that you can finally forgive the people who are the source of your self-hatred and poor body image. This forgiveness will then lead to the fourth step of the ANGER work out model.

 

Fourth

After you have accepted you are angry, named whom, what and why you are angry and then gotten it out of your system by resentment release, hatred elimination and rage workout, you are then at the next step of the ANGER workout which is you become

ENERGIZED and emotionally open and free to proceed in working on improving your body image and open to implement the Balanced Life Styles program more completely in your life.


Fifth

With this new found energy you are then finally ready to take the last step of the ANGER workout process and

RESUME your life with a new sense of direction and full acceptance of your body just the way it is. You will be more willing to let go of conditional acceptance of your body and become more unconditionally accepting of yourself. You will let go of shame and guilt for your body looks. You will let go of the need to be perfectionistic about how your body should look. You will give up the need to have your body be invisible to others. Finally you will no longer base you self-worth on your body's size, weight or shape. You will grow in self-worth and self-confidence by freeing yourself of the messages in your head of self-hatred and self-loathing and be ready to believe that you deserve the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy which come from living the Balanced Lifestyle Program.


Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous: The SEA's Program Manual
  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The ANGER System
2. Tools for Anger Work-Out
  • Chapter 1: Anger Work-out
  • Chapter 6: Overcoming Hatred
  • Chapter 7: Handling Resentment
  • Chapter 11: Eliminating Rage

III. CHILD Work on Body Image

 

Cavepeople were able to accept their body image unconditionally because they were so thankful that they were still alive. They did not care what their bodies looked like as long as the blood was still running through their veins. They did not have shame or guilt for how their bodies looked because it was not of concern as long as they were still breathing. They were not perfectionistic about their bodies or parts of their bodies because they were happy if their bodies were still able to move and run when needed. They were not concerned about their bodies not being seen since they were more concerned that their bodies were seen and able to chase down their food sources was necessary. Lastly Cavepeople did not have a concern about their worth being dependent on their external looks, since survival of their whole existence was the main focus of their attention and time. Cavepeople were not concerned about their looks and body image. They were more concerned about their survival and living. How about you? Are you concerned more about how your body looks than about your survival and health? If you are not concerned about your survival and health then you, most probably, are not fully implementing the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle in your current life. If you are not focused on the "3 Increases" of health, happiness and energy and are still worrying how your body looks to yourself and others, then you are miles away from becoming the caveperson ideal promoted in this program. What you need to work on is to self-nurture yourself to let go of the conditional acceptance of your body. You need to let go of the shame and guilt over your body looks. You need to let go of the perfectionism which does not allow you to accept your body as being "good enough." You need to let go of the need for your body to be invisible. You need to change how you value yourself and let go of the dependency on your external looks to measure your self-worth. You can accomplish this self-nurturing and letting go of the causation of negative body image through the CHILD work which follows.


First you need to

CALM yourself down and center yourself with the visual imagery of you, your Higher Power and Inner Child in a union of inter-loving and inner sharing. You need to visualize you holding your Inner Child, which is your inner spirit, close to your heart. You then need to visualize your Higher Power hugging you and your inner spirit. This visualization helps you to focus on the concept of "strength transference." You gain strength from your Inner Child and Higher Power to take the steps necessary to change the way you think, feel and behave towards yourself when it comes to your accepting of your body image as OK just the way it is. As you continue to feel at peace with the visualization you then are ready for the work of this CHILD work which is to do either "Mirror Work" or "Video Work." As you are feeling calmer, either stand in front of a full length mirror or tape yourself on a video and watch yourself on the TV monitor as you progress with the self-image CHILD work.


Second

Once you are situated in front of the mirror or video camera, you are ready to proceed with the next step of the self-image CHILD work which is to

HEAL. You begin to work on healing your inner spirit by telling yourself messages of hope and self-forgiveness about your body image.


Third

In the healing you do the next step which is to INFORM yourself of new messages about your body and how you will change the way you deal with your body image in the future.

 

Fourth

As you proceed in the informing step you will find yourself proceeding to the next step which is to

LOVE yourself more and accept your body just the way it is.


Fifth

Lastly you will proceed with the final step which is to

DIRECT your inner spirit and Higher Power to assist you to continue your efforts to let go of the negative thinking and feeling you have about your body and to be more open to accept your body in a loving and accepting way.

To help facilitate your CHILD work you will need to develop a script which will let you address the five causes of your negative body image. You will need to address:

1. letting go of the conditional acceptance of your body based on external looks, shape and size

2. letting go of the shame and guilt you have for how your body looks and grow in self-forgiveness which allows you to proceed in life with no remorse or guilt over your mistakes and failures concerning your body

3. letting go of the perfectionism which never allows you to accept your body as "good enough" when you have worked on losing weight and re-shaping your body in the past

4. letting go of the need for your body to be invisible from others due to your shame over your body not being good enough to be seen and

5. redesigning how you value yourself so that your self-worth is no longer dependent on how your body looks but rather your worth is defined in "cavepeople" terms of how well you are doing in taking care of your health, happiness and energy.


What follows is a sample script for Body image CHILD work. You can take bits or pieces of this or develop a completely different one for yourself. You will need to do this CHILD work as much as you can until you have overcome your poor body image.


Script for: BODY IMAGE CHILD WORK

(When doing this script, talk to yourself using "you.")

 

Unconditional Acceptance Theme:

  • You are OK just the way you are.
  • You are acceptable just the way you look.
  • Your body is acceptable just the way it is.
  • Your head, face, hair, neck, ears, nose, mouth, eyes, forehead, chin are OK as they are.
  • Your neck, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, hands are OK just the way they are.
  • Your chest, breasts, tummy and back are OK just the way they are.
  • Your hips, gut, genitle area, and buttocks are OK just the way they are.
  • Your thighs, lower legs, feet are OK just the way they are.
  • Every part of your body is acceptable and OK to me.
  • Your body's shape, size and looks are OK just the way they are.
  • You may lose weight, shrink in size and shape due to the Tools for Balanced Lifestyle Program being fully implemented in your life, but you are acceptable to me right now and will always be acceptable to me no matter what happens as you implement the program.Your health, happiness, and energy level will improve as you implement the program and I accept that your body size, shape or looks might not change substantially.
  • Your health, happiness and energy are more important to me than your body looks.

 

Letting Go of Shame and Guilt and Self-forgiveness theme:

  • There is no reason for you to feel guilt or shame for how your body looks today.
  • I forgive you for your past mistakes and failures in your effort to control your weight and change your body looks.
  • I see no reason why you should ever feel ashamed when you present your body in public.
  • I recognize that you are a "whole person" with a mind, competencies, intelligence, creativity and abilities which often go unnoticed due to your obsession with how you look. You are a wonderful person and there is nothing you need to feel ashamed or guilt over when it comes to your body size, shape or looks.
  • I forgive you for all the times in the past you bugged me for how I looked and how I should be embarrassed for what had become of my body.
  • I will no longer hold you to a standard of behaviors which require you to check yourself carefully so as not to be ashamed or guilty over what you have or have not done to make your body look "good enough."
  • I hope you will always proudly hold your head up high and present yourself openly to others with no self-consciousness over how your body looks to them.


Letting Go of Perfectionism Theme:

  • You do not need to worry yourself anymore about your body not being "Good Enough."
  • You do not need to worry about doing enough to improve the way your body looks.
  • You do not need to worry about failing to do the right thing to improve how others view and accept you, since I love you just the way you are.
  • You will never have to worry in the future about me coming down hard on you for not having enough "will power" or "self-control" to improve the way you eat and dress so that your body will look perfect to others.
  • You will no longer be expected to reach the unrealistic expectations and goals I have set for you in the past about how much weight you should be or what your body's shape or size should be in order for it to be approved by me.
  • You will no longer need to worry about if your efforts and time spent in self-improvement will make your body finally acceptable and "good enough" to me since your body is acceptable and "good enough" for me right now.

 

Overcoming Invisibility Theme:

  • You are acceptable and deserving of my approval just the way you are and I will assist you to make yourself open and visible to everyone in your life and not keep you hidden, unseen and quiet in the future.
  • You no longer need to camouflage your body so that it will not be seen. I will help you make your body be seen just the way it is.
  • You are worth being seen and heard. You are a valuable person and too valuable to be hidden and invisible to others.
  • You are going to overcome your sense of isolation and abandonment which come from your being invisible and not letting your needs and wants be known to others.
  • Your body is OK just the way it is and I will from now on let it be seen by others because you deserve to be seen.
  • Your body is the recipient of the 3 Increases of health, happiness and energy from this program and as such it needs to be seen by others since it radiates a new vitality which it has lacked for too long.
  • Your body is a gift from your Higher Power and since your High Power accepts and loves you, who I am to go against such wisdom. I will keep you, a precious gift of my Higher Power, visible so that the whole world can enjoy the "gift" that you are.


Intrinsic Self-worth Growth Theme:

  • Your worth as a human being is not based on how your body looks. Your worth as a human being is based on the fact that you are alive and a part of the human race.
  • You are worthwhile to me because you are you, who is a unique and special human being.
  • You are a valuable person because you are a sum total of what make you alive: your thoughts, feelings, creativity, ingenuity, energy, personality, intelligence, competencies and abilities.
  • You no longer need to minimize your self-worth based on your body appearances since how you look has nothing to do with your worth to me.
  • I love you just the way you are and the way you look.
  • You are deserving of my acceptance, love and valuing.

 

Use this or your modified Body Image CHILD script until you are able to say: "I accept my body just the way it is and I accept every part of my body."

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous: The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The CHILD System

2. Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 5: Letting Go of Shame and Guilt
  • Chapter 6: Self-forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Self-Love
  • Chapter 8: Self-Affirmations
  • Chapter 11: Overcoming Invisibility

3. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 1: Self-Esteem
  • Chapter 12: Overcoming Perfectionism

IV. LET GO of Poor Body Image

 

Cavepeople were not hassled by body image. If they were criticized or ostracized because of the size, shape or look of their bodies they would let go of the need to deal with such statements because they would take the answer into their own hands and eliminate the offending party. Cavepeople were able to take care of such problems in a rudimentary and simple way. It might have been harsh but it did settle the issue immediately. You can settle the issue of your poor body image immediately as well. It does not however include the termination of any criticizers. It does however entail the letting go of the need to allow others the power to influence how you think and feel about yourself. Letting go of the need to be approved by others frees you up to determine your own self-evaluation and self-judgement system to evaluate your worth and value. You need to admit that you have been emotionally dependent on others for their acceptance, recognition, valuing and positive judgement. You need to admit that you have handed over to others the responsibility for your emotional health and self-esteem. You need to admit that you have given others power over your thinking, feeling and actions concerning your body image. You need to admit that you have allowed others to teach you that conditional acceptance of your body is the only allowable way to treat your body image. You have to admit that you have allowed others to shame and make you feel guilt over your body size, shape and looks. You have to admit that you have allowed others to make you perfectionistic about your body image and that you have learned that your body will never be "good enough" until it becomes the ideal "perfect" image which others project as perfect for you. You have to admit that because you have become so self-conscious about how others judge and criticize your body looks, size and shape that you try to be as invisible from others as possible. You lastly have to admit that you have allowed others to influence you to believe that your worth as a human being is depended solely on how your body looks. You need to LET GO of the control of others over your self-image, self-esteem and self-worth. You need to take control of your own thinking, feeling and actions concerning your body image and become more realistic and self-loving. You have already looked at the ALERT, ANGER and CHILD work involved in changing your body image, it now is time for you to take back the control over your life and set out on a new path of self-acceptance, self-determination and self-loving. What follows is the LET GO of poor body image.

 

First step of the LET GO process is to

LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE inside of you, which encourages you to give others control over your emotional health. You need to have done the ALERT, ANGER and CHILD work on body image and accepted that there are five causes for your poor body image. They are:

1. Conditional acceptance of self, based on the external conditions of size, shape, weight and looks of your body.

2. Shame and guilt over what your body looks like and the inability to forgive yourself for the shape of your body.

3. Perfectionism over how your body must be perfect before it can to accepted as "good enough."

4. The need for invisibility so that your body will not be subjected to judgement and criticism of others because it is not "good enough."

5. The basing of self-worth on externals especially on the status of your body's shape, size and looks.

 

Second:

Once you have accepted the 5 causes of poor body image you then must rid yourself of the anger towards those people who fed you messages which helped imprint poor body image in your mind and heart. After you have done your ANGER workout on the roots of poor body image you then need to do self-nurturing work to help you grow in unconditional self-acceptance, self-forgiveness and self-love. After you have used the body image CHILD work you are then finally ready to do the LET GO work concerning your body image and how you regard and accept yourself. Being ready to LET GO of the control of others over your emotional well being leads to the next step in the LET GO process which is to EXERCISING YOUR RIGHTS


In EXERCISING YOUR RIGHTS you are ready to state that: "I will allow no one to have the power to influence how I feel about myself and my body image. I am totally 100% in control of how I feel about myself and my looks. I will no longer allow anyone's comments about my body, shape, size or looks influence my self-acceptance or self-love. I accept myself unconditionally and will no longer give anyone the power to make me feel that I am only acceptable if my body is a certain size, shape or weight. I free myself of any shame or guilt I have about my looks and will no longer give others the power to make me feel shame or guilt for how my body looks. I accept my body as "good enough" and will no longer allow anyone the power to make me feel that it should be better. I make a pledge to make myself more visible to others and no longer give the power to others to make me feel like I should not be seen due to the shame of not having a body good enough to be seen. I no longer will base my self-worth on how good my body looks and I will no longer give others the power to make me feel that my worth is based solely on my body's shape, size, weight or looks."

 

In this step of the LET GO process you are taking control of your life and insisting that you no longer hand over to others the power to influence how you feel about yourself. You are declaring emotional independence and letting go of the emotional dependence which has led to your poor body image. 


Third

Once you exercise your rights you are now ready for the next step of the LET GO process which is to TAKE STEPS.

 

In LETTING GO of poor body image you need to TAKE STEPS to insure that you have released the pressure of control of others over how you feel about yourself. The control of others has led to your self-hatred of your body, looks, shape and size. You need to take decisive steps which will free you up of such control in the future to help you to overcome the self-hatred and self-loathing you have developed over your body image. The three steps needed to LET GO of self-hatred of your body image are:

1. Accepting personal responsibility for you own mental health.

2. Accepting that you are a human being.

3. Working out your anger over: "Why can't life be like my ideal?"

 

1. Accepting personal responsibility for your own emotional health.

This action involves accepting that there is only one person who has the power to influence how you feel about yourself and your body image and that person is you. You need to take back the power you have given others to influence how you feel about yourself and accept the responsibility for your own feelings. This means you will no longer be allowed to blame others for how you think, feel or act about your body image. Yes there were people in the past who imprinted messages in you which led to your self-hatred and poor body image. But as of today you need to take back control over your emotional health and state that: "I am responsible for my body image. I am responsible for my own mental health. I am responsible to put up healthy emotional boundaries between me and others who say negative and cutting things about my body's shape, size and looks. I no longer will give responsibility to others to make me happy or accepting of myself. I give myself the power and responsibility to help me unconditionally and fully accept my body just the way it is and to feel good about it. I will no longer hold others responsible for how I feel about my body image." To help you explore this concept further refer to Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility, p. 91 in Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, 1992).

2. Accepting that you are a human being.

This action involves accepting that you a human being after all. This means that as a human you are subject to making mistakes and experiencing failure. By this action, you let go of the perfectionistic control which others have encouraged in you. You are willing to forgive yourself for the mistakes and failing you have made in the past in relationship to your body image. By accepting you are human you are able to establish more realistic expectations for yourself and your body image. By accepting you are human you are more open to accepting the concept of the "Italian Bank Account." As a human being you are open to accept that you may slip as you make attempts to be more self-loving and more self-accepting and that you will need to immediately get back on the wagon and try again. By accepting that you are human you will be able to let go of the false pride which led you to believe that you have to solve all your problems on your own. You will be able to accept that humans need mutual support of other healthy people who are dealing with the same problem. You will allow yourself to reach out to support groups to discuss your efforts to overcome your self-hatred and poor body image. You will be able to accept that humans need other humans who have experienced similar problems to help them sort out strategies and ways of maintaining the recovery from the problem. You will also recognize that pride leads you to believe that you must do your recovery perfect and that this is irrational and impossible. Recovery takes time, your whole life and it is a slow process, taking one step at a time. For more information on this concept look at Chapter 13: Handling Pride, p. 71, in Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

 

3. Working out your anger about: "Why can't life be like my ideal?"

This action entails getting out your anger about not having life be the way you want it to be. Because of all of the causes of you poor body image you have over the years developed an "idealized image" of how you would like your body to look and are angry that your body is not the ideal way you want it to be. You may have wanted it to be an easy, no effort, easy to do process to get your body into such an ideal state and are angry that it takes a lot of effort and energy to change your looks.. You may have fantasized or dreamed that people would never comment about your body size, shape or looks and are angry when they do so. You may have wanted to feel full acceptance from others for your body just the way it is and have been angry that this has rarely happen. You may have believed, "how your body looks should not be involved in how others judge or value you" and you are angry that this is not true for you. You may have a belief that "what is inside a person" is what counts and not "what is on the outside" and are angry that people judge externals more than internals. You may be angry over the societal pressure for people to be thin. You may be angry that there is discrimination against "full bodied" or overweight people. Your ideals blind you to how the real world is and make you angry about "why can't the world be the way I want it to be." You need to admit you are angry about not having your ideals concerning body image come true for you. You need to do many ANGER workouts about the inability to have your ideals about body image realized in your lifetime. You need to free yourself of the negative feelings in you which sap your energy and are keeping you from being motivated to work on implementing the Balanced Lifestyles Program in your life. Only by releasing your anger about the loss of ideals about body image, can you accept life the way it is rather than how you have wanted it to be. You can get more information on letting go of ideals in Chapter 3: Tempering Idealism, p. 17 and Chapter 14: Tempering Survival Behaviors, p. 91 in Tools for Handling Control Issues, (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

Fourth

Once you have TAKEN STEPS to accept personal responsibility for yourself, accepted yourself as human and released your anger over not being able to reach your ideals about your body image you are then ready to GIVE UP THE NEED to give others the power to influence how you feel about yourself. You are then ready to


Fifth

ORDER YOUR LIFE in a way which make you solely responsible for your emotional health. This results in your willingness to accept your body unconditionally, without shame or guilt or perfectionism and allows you to make yourself visible to others with your self-worth based on your internal strengths rather than your external looks. You will know you have been successful in LETTING GO of your poor body image when you are able to hear negative comments from others about your looks and detach from them and not allow them to bring you emotionally down. You know you are free of the negative body image when you are open to allow your body to self-regulate through exercise and balanced nutrition and not worry about how your body will look as a result of this change of lifestyle.

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous: The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The LET GO System

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 13: Handling Pride
  • Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility

3. Tools for Handling Control

  • Chapter 3: Tempering Idealism
  • Chapter 14: Tempering Survival Behaviors