Women of all ages are lightning-quick to point out the so-called problem areas on their bodies. The degree of scrutiny, even loathing, can be alarming. Yet our bodies carry us around all day, every day -- our whole lives. When is the last time you checked in with yours? The following exercises, done regularly, will help you forge a stronger relationship with your body.
1. Become aware of your judgments
Stand naked in front of a full-length mirror. If being naked makes you feel uncomfortable, wear whatever you feel comfortable in, with the intention of working up to nudity. Let your eyes fall on all your body parts -- face, shoulders, breasts, stomach, arms, legs, knees. Turn around and look over your shoulder at your back and buttocks. As you do this, notice (but don't try to control) your running commentary. Is your voice critical? Loving? Don't judge the voice -- just notice it. Write in your journal about this experience. Do this exercise once a week.
2. Do a body scan
At least once a day, preferably in the morning, sit down and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Turn your attention to the top of your head. Do you feel any tension or pain? Any other sensation? Now continue to mentally scan your whole body, muscle by muscle, all the way down to your toes. As you go along, just notice what you notice. Your goal is to pay attention to what is going on with your body, right now, from the inside.
3. Talk with your body image
Sit in a comfortable position, and relax with long, deep breathing. As you relax, invite an image that represents your body to appear. Be patient; this can take time. Accept the first image you see, even if it doesn't seem to make sense. Squelch the voice in your brain that says "That's dumb" or "I'm not doing this right." Next, notice every detail of this image. What does it look like? Can you touch it? Is there a smell associated with it?
Then begin a conversation with your body image. Ask the image why it's there. Does it have anything to say? Does it need or want anything from you? Wait for it to respond, and ask follow-up questions if they occur to you. Do you have anything you wish to say to the image? Is there anything you want or need from it? Write in your journal about this experience. Did the image surprise you? Did it tell you something you weren't expecting? Do you feel willing to do what it asked of you? Repeat this exercise every two weeks.
Why do women struggle with body image? Find out more from Dr. Gaudet.
Text by Dr. Tracy Gaudet