Body image is a topic that always comes up with my clients. They are paying me to get in shape which comes with an assumption that when the goals are achieved they will feel great about themselves. This usually occurs but it is also very common that the feelings they desire are more to do with body image beliefs than actual body shape.
Body positivity grew rapidly in recent times, with the premise behind the philosophy being that everyone deserves to have a positive body image regardless of what shape they are in, all bodies are acceptable and a pathway to good self-esteem. The movement looks to break free from the narrow cultural classifications of ‘Good’ vs ‘Bad’ body shapes. It is also closely linked to the intuitive eating movement which looks to break free from dieting rules and attitudes.
Body Positivity vs Goals
The body positivity movement created controversy as on-going argument broke out between people who believe you should change your body and those who feel you should love yourself as you are. This shined a light on a bigger question really, how should you feel about area any area of your life you could change? Should you try to improve it or focus on feeling content? There are no right or wrong answers to these.
I do not believe there is any reason to make this an either / or issue. There is no reason to hate yourself, you can love yourself as you are yet there is also nothing wrong with being excited about wanting to achieve something in the area of your body shape. This shows itself all across our lives, for example, you do not have to hate your job to want to progress your career and change roles within it. Likewise, you do not have to hate where you live to want to go on holiday somewhere nice.
Body Positivity Vs Your Subconscious
It is also important to clarify the difference between what you say and what you subconsciously believe. There is a difference in what you would like to believe and what you actually do believe at an emotional / behavioural level. The simplest way to look into this is through examining your emotions. For example, you could say, “Anyone should be able to eat whatever they want and enjoy food” yet when you eat chocolate you feel guilty about it. In this case your subconscious has a different rule set to what you would like to consciously believe. The same can happen with your body image. You say that you feel fine exactly how you are, yet emotionally feel unhappy or are not confident enough to wear a certain outfit, take your top off on the beach or be naked around a partner etc.
Body Positivity vs The Best For You
If you make “Doing the best for you as a person” as the basis for making decisions the traditional views of goal setting align perfectly with the body positivity movement. What is best for you is a balance between “What feels good for you now” vs “What are the consequences in the future?” This debate has been going since ancient Greece with the Epicurean vs Stoic Philosophical points of view.
What Feels Good?
Underneath much of the body positivity debate is the basic question of how you define feeling good and honouring your feelings now vs the long term. For example, If you enjoy shopping, then buying as much as possible would satisfy feeling good yet if you spent all of your money that will no doubt result in stress and unhappiness. Staying in bed feels good but being sacked for not going to work would bring negative consequences.
One contributing factor to this is to understand being comfortable vs feeling good. They are not the same, yet feel very similar. Being comfortable comes from avoiding things due to fear or perceived uncomfortable feelings. For example, to an alcoholic it is much more comfortable to drink than to not drink. The same applies across many situations, it is more comfortable to eat junk food than not, it is easier to not move than to exercise. None of these situations answer the bigger question of what provides the deeper good feeling?
The Body Positivity Balance Scales
Perhaps this whole debate can be summed up if you view the two sides of the debate as a counterbalance. For a solid foundation to positive body image you would look to ensure you are balanced between the two views. If you lean too far in either direction, be it towards a goals centred approach or a body positivity view it will bring undue consequences for ‘You’ as a person by either putting too much or too little emphasis on the short vs long term.
Goals Centred Approach Body Positivity Approach
-Must change NOW -Change Nothing
-Hate myself until succeed -Love Myself As I am
-Focus on long term -Goals are bad
-Goals Are Everything -Focus on short term
-Resist short term desires -Follow my desires
-Lower Confidence -Higher Perceived confidence
-Leads to being less happy -Leads to being happier
-Compare yourself to the best -Compare yourself to no one
-Keep raising the bar -Keep the bar the same
-Leads to Higher standards -Leads to lower Standards
I have created a new and powerful programme for addressing Body Image issues, I am looking for a few people to go through the process. If you would like to do this then drop me a message
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