How to free yourself from body image tyranny?

We live in a world where image is everything. More and more girls, boys, women and men hate their bodies. Artfully photoshopped and CGIed celebs fill your screens. The contrast couldn’t be starker with the image that ambushes you in your bathroom mirror. Who could blame you if you started hating your body and its image? But the problem isn’t just that you haven’t got the tech to CGI your reflection.

Psychologists have long thought that the solution to your problem was to help you acquire more “realistic” beauty standards. They thought that you could boost your self-esteem by convincing yourself that your worth doesn’t depend on your body image. Seems logical enough, but that’s not the way your brain works.

Your brain is forever relating things in all sorts of ways. Most often, it does that by comparing: I am fatter than her/less buff than him; evaluating: I am not as thin/muscled than I should be; opposing: I am the opposite of a good-looking person; or by beading spurious causal chains: If I can’t lose 3 pounds/get a six-pack by the end of the month, then it’s proof that I’m worthless. To try and wrestle with these thoughts is like trying to wrestle with a bunch of pigs. The pigs love it and you soon get as filthy as them. And, as you know, in the end they win. Wrestling so will likely activate even more comparisons, evaluations, oppositions and spurious causations. As all of these are products of your brain, rather than trying to replace this brain product by that, you’ll get further by learning to gain some distance from all of your brain’s productions.

The good news is that you can learn to notice the productions of your mind. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to notice when your mind is taking you on another round of comparisons, evaluations and what have you. Once you notice your mind doing this, label it. For example, say: “My mind is comparing”. Soon you’ll more easily recognize the emotions that come with these, including shame and self-disgust. Seeing as trying to get rid of these emotions is more likely to intensify them, I would like to suggest to you a crazy avenue. You can learn to recognize and make your peace with the yucky feelings. I told you it would sound crazy. But you can learn to make room for everything you think and feel without having to change any of it, as if your yucky emotions were baby animals in distress that needed you to comfort them.

Even if it’s at first hard to see, there’s a good chance that your body image problems are obscuring a difficulty in connecting with what’s most important to you in life. It wouldn’t be a surprise when the culture peddles the lie that what matters most are appearances: physical appearance and the appearance of material success. There’s a good chance that your mind baits you with the idea that once you’ll have the body you want, then you’ll have the life you want. That, of course, is BS. If you feed your mind’s addiction to comparisons and evaluations, it will always crave the next hit. And find you wanting the minute it’s put a new comparison in its pipe and smoked it. Meanwhile, your life will rough it on the pavement, making you even more dependent on your mind’s obsession with body image.

What if you sought to identify who and what truly matter to you ? What if, instead of waiting to be, look or feel a certain way, you started with your actions, no matter how small, moving toward who or what matters most? Do you know what would happen? After a while (yes, it does take a bit of perseverance), you’d find yourself on the path to a more satisfying and meaningful life, free from the tyranny of appearances.