Where does our Body Image come from? It goes far deeper than just every time we look in a mirror. Our body image is constructed from the things we have been taught to like about ourselves and to NOT like about ourselves. We learned these things growing up from the messages we received as children, and from those messages they now shape how we see ourselves and our body image today. We receive all kinds of messages from society, the culture, parents, friends, school… etc.
There are different ways we were taught and received these messages. Some were quite obvious, even brutal: “Don’t eat so much, your fat and nobody will want you if you are fat.” If I received that message I may feel unlovable and that my spouse will reject me every time I put on a couple of extra pounds. Some messages were more subtle: maybe you overheard your parents talking about the next door neighbor “Did you see how Marylou was dressed? Her mother must be so disappointed.” That message can play out in my life now that I have to be careful what I wear and I am very concerned with what people think of me.
These messages create patterns that we are unaware of, and acting out unconsciously. Below is an example of an unconscious pattern of a woman I was coaching her in a coaching session.
She started a new relationship, in love and was frustrated with the 15 extra pounds she recently put on.
“Have you ever gained 15 pounds before?” I asked her
She thought quietly for a moment and said “Yes when I was 25”
“What happened when you were 25?”
“Mmmmm, nothing really, oh I met my boyfriend Charles?”
“Were you serious with Charles?”
“Yes we fell in love; he was my only other serious relationship beside the new one I just started?”
“Did you gain weight after you fell in love with Charles?”
“Yes…actually I did”
“Is it about the same timing like when you gained weight with this new relationship?”
“Yes, I never thought about it, but it is”
“So we have a pattern, let’s see if we can find out where itcame from?”
After the session we discovered that her mother always told her how she got attention from too many boys because she was too pretty and skinny and that she should be careful. Good girls don’t attract attention from too many men if the want to fall in love.
How that message translated to an unconscious pattern was that once she fell in love, she didn’t want to attract attention from other men besides her boyfriend to show that she loved him. She also had associated the weight as protection to keep her a “Good girl” not be promiscuous.
We can become aware of emotional aspects behind patterns and behaviors that we don’t like about our self and with that awareness and understanding it gives us freedom to change those patterns.
Start to create awareness for yourself by answering the following questions:
- Write down 2-3 things that you Do Not Like about yourself physically.
- For each item try to identify where did you learn it from, where did the message come form? Write the person next to the item; mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother or sister, other kids, teachers, people at church…