Body Positivity in a Sea of Skinny
Looking out from the eyes of a young girl, everyone was thin and beautiful. It was a ‘sea of skinny,’ for young Jodi Guber Brufsky growing up in the limelight of her powerful father. A uniquely challenging environment for a little girl whose natural body set point was not the norm in her environment.
“Self esteem and body image had been a challenge since high school. Growing up in the entertainment business as I did, I felt pressure,” said Jodi on last week’s Mastering Adulthood LIVE webcast.
Jodi and I chatted a bit about her journey to self-acceptance when it seems like everyone around you is ‘perfect’.
The Journey to Self-Acceptance
In our conversation Jodi shared an essential point from which we may all learn. Self-acceptance is a journey. There will always be days when the old comparisons creep up together with feelings of “FOMO” or insecurity.
Being different naturally exacerbates feelings of isolation. It’s important to for us to recognize that we all struggle with these feelings of body image dissatisfaction from time to time through out life, said our guest psychology expert, Dr. Adria Pearson.
We can take action on our self-acceptance journey in simple ways. Jodi told us a story about wearing a sexy bathing suit one day to the beach, and the reaction she got from others:
“Its not about body size, I have friends who are much smaller than me who don’t celebrate who they are. It’s about loving who you are…. When you truly own whatever it is, other people own it. When you have dissatisfaction with it, other people have a problem with it.”
So maybe there is something in the way we present ourselves to others that sets us up to either move towards acceptance or continue the cycle of dissatisfaction.
Finding a Place of Belonging
But for Jodi, finding a place of belonging was equally important in building her self-acceptance. “I let go of the need to have everybody like me,” she said. So, rather than forcing unrealistic expectations of herself to fit in, she began listening to her own feelings.
“I started paying attention to how I felt around other people.” You know that part of you, sometimes very faint, that guides you? This is what Jodi was noticing! She started listening to that warm feeling of connection we experience when we belong.
Jodi also found inspiration from reading the work of Brene Brown, whom she cites: Belong doesn’t require you to fit yourself in. It asks nothing but for you to be yourself, and so attract where you belong.
Self-acceptance is a journey, which begins with an action that helps you find your place of belonging. We will all default at times to the old self criticism. The key is to remember to re-commit over and over again to actively practice self acceptance as a new way of being.
Research suggests that self-acceptance is an essential part of our happiness, and our ability to be mindful. This exercise, adapted from Dr. Pearson’s (2010) clinician manual on body image dissatisfaction, is an excellent way to begin practicing!
The Mindful Mirror:
Step I: Identify the Challenge. Pick something about your body, with which you are dissatisfied. This may be a small area (e.g. a muffin top) or a general shape, or coloring of an area.
Step II: Expose Yourself to the Challenge: Ideally, find a time and place where you may look into a mirror at this area of your body. For an actionable move right now, you may bring this area of your body into your minds eye to practice where you are as you read this.
Step III: Mindfully and Non-Judgmentally Practice: In your minds eye, or the mirror, bring full attention to the factual aspects of the body part or shape you are currently dissatisfied with. Maintain this engagement for at least 5 minutes.
Right away, notice if you hesitate, withdraw, or in some way automatically avoid doing bringing your attention to it. This is a signal of need for practice.
• Observe without judgment each component of your reaction to the facts:
o What are the thoughts? Are you judging? Comparing to another time in your life or another person?
o What are the emotions? This is the tough one. Find the verbal label for the emotion the body part or shape elicits. Is it shame? Anger? Disgust? Disappointment? Sadness?
o What physical sensations do you feel as you observe this area of your body?
o Can you feel yourself wanting to move away in your attention or actions?
• Was there a particular automatic reaction? In thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations? Can you see how each affects the other?
Step IV: Shift from Judgment to Loving Kindness: As best you can, maybe after several practices, see if you can find a place of kindness and compassion for this part of you.
This practice, like any skill, may not be easy at first. It can be very difficult to let go of well learned patterns of self judgment. Over time, the goal is to loosen those automatic connections of judgment and avoidance. With practice and willingness you will build a better relationship with that amazing Mind-Body Vehicle in which you are spending this life. So that you may make room for the belonging we all seek.
If you found this skill helpful, I hope you will share it with other’s who might benefit. If you have questions about how to be skillful in your life, I hope you will send me a message in the comments section! Or sign up for the SKILL WEEKLY newsletter, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.