Vanessa Million: Changing a Million of Lives One Relationship at a Time <a href="http://s770.photobucket.

com/albums/xx347/vanessamillion/?action=view&am p;current=IMG00510-20091006-1555-1.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i770.ph otobucket.com/albums/xx347/vanessamillion/IMG00510-20091006-1555-1.jpg" border=" 0" alt="Photobucket"></a> <strong>Body Image and Shame - No Body Is Perfect</strong> We often want to believe that shame is reserved for the unfortunate few who have survived terrible traumas, but this is not true. Shame is something we all expe rience. And, while it feels like shame hides in our darkest corners, it actually tends to lurk in all of the familiar places. Interestingly, there are no absolutely universal shame triggers. The issues and situations that I find shaming may not even come up on another wo man's radar. This is because the messages and expectations that drive shame come from a unique combination of places including our families of origin, our own b eliefs, the media and our culture. One place where women find themselves surroun ded by unattainable and conflicting expectations is body image. <a href="http://photobucket.com/images/body%20image" target="_blank"><img src="h ttp://i115.photobucket.com/albums/n310/xxfaerybubblesxx/Crap%20Purpose/startarel volution.jpg" border="0" alt="Body Image Pictures, Images and Photos" /></a> While some of us might have quieted the tapes about "not being intelligent enoug h" or "not being thin enough" -- it seems that almost all women continue to wage battle with looking "beautiful, cool, sexy, stylish, young and thin enough." Wi th more than 90% of the participants experiencing shame about their bodies, body image is the one issue that comes closest to being a "universal trigger." In fa ct, body shame is so powerful and often so deeply rooted in women's psyches that it actually affects why and how we feel shame in many of the other categories, including sexuality, motherhood, parenting, health, aging and a woman's ability to speak out with confidence. Our body image is how we think and feel about our bodies. It is the mental pictu re we have of our physical bodies. Unfortunately, our pictures, thoughts and feelings may have little to do with ou r actual appearance. It is our image of what our bodies are, often held up to ou r image of what they should be. <a href="http://photobucket.com/images/body%20image" target="_blank"><img src="h ttp://i253.photobucket.com/albums/hh69/aml125/badbi.jpg" border="0" alt="Bad Bod y Image Pictures, Images and Photos"/></a> While we normally talk about body image as a general reflection of what we look like, we can't ignore the specifics -- the body parts that come together to crea te this image. If we work from the understanding that women most often experienc e shame when we become trapped in a web of layered, conflicting and competing ex pectations of who, what and how we should be, we can't ignore that there are soc ial-community expectations for every single, tiny part of us -- literally from o ur heads to our toes. I'm going to list our body parts because I think they are important: head, hair, neck, face, ears, skin, nose, eyes, lips, chin, teeth, shoulders, ba ck, breasts, waist, hips, stomach, abdomen, buttocks, vulva, anus, arms, wrists, hands, fingers, fingernails, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, feet, toes, body ha ir, body fluids, pimples, scars, freckles, stretch marks and moles.

I bet if you look at each of these areas, you have specific body part images for each one -- not to mention a mental list of what you'd like it to look like and what you'd hate to have a specific part look like. When our very own bodies fill us with shame and feelings of worthlessness, we je opardize the connection we have with ourselves (our authenticity) and the connec tion we have with the important people in our lives. Consider the woman who stay s quiet in public out of the fear that her stained and crooked teeth will make p eople question the value of her contributions. Research demonstrated that body shame either kept women from enjoying sex or pus hed them into having it when they didn't really want to but were desperate for s ome type of physical validation of worthiness. There were also many women who talked about the shame of having their bodies bet ray them. These were women who spoke about physical illness, mental illness and infertility. We often conceptualize "body image" too narrowly -- it's about more than wanting to be thin and attractive. When we begin to blame and hate our bod ies for failing to live up to our expectations, we start splitting ourselves in parts and move away from our wholeness. <a href="http://photobucket.com/images/body%20image" target="_blank"><img src="h ttp://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc151/chefsatplay/Body%20Image%20--%20Through% 20the%20Ages/e350re2.jpg" border="0" alt="contrast Pictures, Images and Photos" /></a> We can't talk about shame and body image without talking about the pregnant body . Has any body image been more exploited in the past few years? Don't get me wro ng. I'm all for exploring the wonders of the pregnant body and removing the stig ma and shame of the pregnant belly. But let's not replace that with one more air brushed, computer-generated, shame-inducing image for women to not be able to li ve up to. Movie stars who gain fifteen pounds and have their stretch marks airbr ushed for their "Look! I'm human too!" portraits do not represent the realities that most of us face while pregnant. <a href="http://photobucket.com/images/pregnant%20belly" target="_blank"><img sr c="http://i859.photobucket.com/albums/ab157/ohsnapitscassandra/Body%20Art/Pierci ngs/IMG_0840.jpg" border="0" alt="Belly Button. Pictures, Images and Photos" />< /a> Parenting is also a shame category affected by body image, because imperfect mot hers get "blamed for everything." Shame creates shame. Mothers have a tremendous amount of influence on their children's body image dev elopment, and girls are still being shamed by their parents -- primarily their m others -- about their weight. When it comes to parenting and body image, I find that parents fall along a cont inuum. On one side of the continuum, there are parents who are keenly aware that they are the most influential role models in their children's lives. They work diligently to model positive body image behaviors (self-acceptance, acceptance o f others, no emphasis placed on the unattainable or ideal, focusing on health ra ther than weight, deconstructing media messages, etc.). On the other side of the continuum are parents who love their children just as m uch as their counterparts, but are so determined to spare their daughters the pa in of being overweight or unattractive (and their sons the pain of being weak) t hat they will do anything to steer their children toward achievement of the idea l -- including belittling and shaming them. Many of these parents struggle with

their own body images and process their shame by shaming. Last, there are the folks in the middle, who really do nothing to counter the ne gative body-image issues but also don't shame their children. Unfortunately, due to societal pressures and the media, most of these kids do not appear to develo p strong shame resilience skills around body image. There just doesn't appear to be any room for neutrality on this issue -- you are either actively working to help your children develop a positive self-concept or, by default, you are sacri ficing them to the media- and society-driven expectations. Power, Courage and Resilience As you can see, what we think, hate, loathe and question about our bodies reache s much further and affects far more than our appearance alone. The long reach of body shame can impact how we live and love. If we are willing to examine the me ssages and practice empathy around body image and appearance, we can start to de velop shame resilience. We can never become completely resistant to shame; howev er, we can develop the resilience we need to recognize shame, move through it co nstructively and grow from our experiences. Women with high levels of shame resilience shared four things in common; these f actors as the four elements of shame resilience. If we are going to confront th e shame we feel about our bodies, it is imperative that we start by exploring ou r vulnerabilities. What is important to us? We must look at each body part and e xplore our expectations and the sources of these expectations. While it often pa inful to acknowledge our secret goals and expectations, it is the first step to building shame resilience. We have to know and explicitly identify what's import ant and why. I believe there is even power in writing it down. Next, we need to develop critical awareness about these expectations and their i mportance to us. One way to develop critical awareness is to run our expectation s through a reality-check. Where do the expectations about my body come from? How realistic are my expectations? Can I be all these things all of the time? Can all of these characteristics exist in one person? Do the expectations conflict with each other? Am I describing who I want to be or who others want me to be? What are my fears? We must also find the courage to share our stories and experiences. We must reac h out to others and speak our shame. If we feed shame the secrecy and silence it craves -- if we keep the struggles with our bodies buried inside -- the shame w ill fester and grow. We must learn to reach out to one another with empathy and understanding. If, in a diverse sample of women ages 18 - 80, over 90% of the women struggled with body image, it is clear not one of us is alone. There is a tremendous amount of freedom that comes with identifyin g and naming common experiences and fears -- this is the foundation of shame res ilience.

You deserve to FEEL GOOD about YOUR self and body! If you are suffering and struggling call a qualified clinical hypnotherapist tod ay. They will help you create a healthy body image. I hope you enjoyed this article, be sure to check my blog for other articles. I look foreword to helping you create the life YOU want. Remember, you're responsible for your life, take control of your negative self t alk about your body. Thanks for following me and all of your e-mails, I love hearing from you. Please feel free to forward this to your friends and family members. Love your coach, Vanessa Million Contact Information: http://twitter.com/VanessaMillion http://www.facebook.com/people/Vanessa-Million/1355454893 http://vanessamillion.wordpress.com

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