One of the things I know for sure about body image, from my own recovery experience and from hundreds of conversations with clients, is that your negative self-talk and feelings of loathing, disgust and heaviness in your body can change to peaceful acceptance in 24 hours, even when nothing has physically changed in your body.
Yuppers, that’s what I said, your Drill Sgt. can be happily on vacation in Mexico in 24 hours, leaving you at home to peacefully and contentedly practice life-enhancing coping strategies and self-care. And I’m not talking about trying to talk yourself into loving yourself as you are or about settling for being the weight and shape that you are now.
So, what am I talking about? I’m talking about integrity. Integrity means that your words and actions are in alignment. You want to know the secret to happiness? It’s integrity. You want to know the secret to feeling peaceful and content in your body; in your relationships; in your career; etc?
It’s integrity: Words and Actions Aligning.
You do what you say you will. And not just to others, but first and foremost to yourself. That’s where most of us who feel controlled by food and loathing of our bodies stumble; integrity with ourselves. We’re all over taking care of others and honoring our commitments outwardly at all costs.
We could be on our death bed but we’re dragging our sorry little butts to work or out for that coffee date with our friend because we said we would and we don’t want them to be angry or disappointed in us. We’re so afraid of the potential of losing someone’s approval and respect we’ll do anything even, and frequently so, compromise our own needs for respect or rest or consideration etc.
Yes, from the outside we appear to be these amazing people who have it so together. We are super beings who can do it all and then some. From the inside however we feel totally fraudulent; a complete sham; and completely fearful of being discovered for the big phony we are. This creates great anxiety and what do we do when we feel anxious? We beat up on our bodies or we eat or we restrict etc. Not very helpful and certainly not very full of integrity. We put ourselves out there as these confident together people but our words within and the actions we engage in when we’re alone belie a different story: We are frightened; we are overwhelmed; we hate ourselves for being so; and we feel compelled to drink, toke, eat, restrict, purge, shop, or clean to take the focus off our anxiety and to numb out, if only for a moment.
When our primary focus is on obtaining the approval of others because we believe that we will finally then be able to feel safe and secure in the world and be able to feel confident in ourselves and our right to be and to take up space, we are unfortunately, chronically insecure. You see, if I am giving you the power to decide whether I am worthy and acceptable I am at the mercy of you and I’d better hope and pray that you’re a nice person who is healthy and balanced, who doesn’t engage in guilt trips or manipulation, who doesn’t think that their needs are more important than mine but sees that we’re both equally important.
I’d better hope that you truly want what’s best for me even if that means that you don’t always get what you want. If you’re not that ideal, healthy, interdependent person I’m in big doo doo. Because you’re going to take advantage of my desperate need for your approval and have me doing far more than my 50% share of the work in our relationship. That’s going to make me feel even more anxious and overwhelmed, hypervigilant and hypersensitive, and even worse about myself. Which will make me even more fearful of losing your approval which will make me work even harder and feel more overwhelmed when you’re still not giving me the love and approval I seek.
Clearly there is no sanity and no safety in looking outside of ourselves for validation and acceptance if we aren’t first able to authentically validate and accept ourselves. The only safe place to enter into any sort of relationship is from a solid sense of yourself as competent, capable, worthwhile, special and deserving of dignity and respect. If you don’t believe that about yourself and treat yourself that way first and foremost you’ll not be able to trust that you are entitled to that from others. And again, you’ll find yourself connected often to those people who are only too happy to take advantage of the fact that you’ll compromise yourself to make them happy. Not a recipe for peace and joy.
So, what the heck does this all have to do with body image, you say? Well, back to integrity, when your words and actions are in alignment you just don’t hear from that 24/7 critical inner voice. You just experience silence, peace.
Words and actions aligning looks like saying to yourself: “I’m not going to spend time with Mellisa again, she is always criticizing me and others.” – and you don’t cave and agree to coffee the next time she calls, nor do you make some sort of excuse “I think I’m coming down with something” to avoid a courageous conversation. It also looks like saying to yourself : “I’m going to exercise 3 times this week and slowly reduce the amount of processed and refined carbs I have in my diet each day” – and then witnessing yourself following through on that commitment.
In this way you will immediately begin to experience a quieting of that Drill Sgt. and develop a strong sense of trust in yourself as someone who will put her needs first; someone who will not put herself in situations where she feels disrespected or compromised.
Take a few minutes now and ask yourself the following questions:
Where in my role as a friend do I say one thing and do another – even in my own mind?
What about my role as a parent? Employee? Volunteer? Partner?
What about in my role in my relationship with myself? Where here do I say one thing and do another? Even in such small ways as saying you’ll do the dishes and then leaving them in the sink overnight?
What could I do in each of these areas of my life to have a stronger sense of integrity; of trust in myself to do what I say and say what I do?
What might prevent me from taking action on these things?
Once you’ve taken a good clear look at the ways that you trigger the Drill Sgt. in you, you’re able to begin to make a plan for coming from a stronger place of integrity.
This is super duper important to you because I guarantee you that when you’re able to do this you will feel far far less anxious overall and your judgements about your body will practically cease and…..here’s the best part… your need to use food (or anything else, for that matter) to cope will stop.
Done like dinner!
If you would like help in learning how to remove any barriers to your acting with integrity and to quieting your personal Drill Sgt. once and for all, please send me an email. We can arrange for a one on one session or sign you up for our next amazing weekend workshop where you will get a 3 day dose of new tools and practice that will forever release you from food and body image stress.
I welcome your sharing.