Your Relationship With Your Body – Reader’s Request Fridays
Welcome to Reader’s Request Fridays. As a reminder, I’ll be addressing one reader email per week, so if you have a specific question you’d like answered or a topic you’d like covered, please email me at email@example.com. If you’re interested in counseling, call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to schedule a consultation.
This week’s question comes from Katie.* She writes,
“Can you write more about improving your feelings about your body?”
This is a very, very big question. Your relationship with your body is likely to be one of the most complex, and probably one of the longest, relationships you will ever have. Your relationship with your body can include dynamics around your weight, your appearance, your self-esteem, your aliveness, your sexuality, your strength, your culture, and more. Entire books have been written on the subject, so I can’t do it complete justice in a single blog post. If Katie or any other readers have more specific questions, please feel free to email me!
In thinking about how to respond to this question, I decided that what I would like to offer is a suggestion for a brief experiment to try with your body. I am a big fan of experimentation in the context of therapy because it offers you the opportunity to try something new without having to make a huge commitment. For this experiment, find a time when you can be alone and enjoy a relative amount of quiet. Take a few moments to get as relaxed as possible. Focus on taking a few deep breaths and checking in to see how you are feeling. When you feel ready, think about a part of your body that you feel curious about. It can be a part that has been subject to injury or illness, or a part that you have felt self-conscious about. Take a few moments to look at that part of your body and examine it. Notice what feelings or sensations come up as you do this. Next, try telling a story about the history of that part of your body, but speaking as if you are the part. If you can, tell the story out loud. It may feel silly at first, but try not to judge yourself and let the story simply flow. Don’t worry about getting all the details right, just let yourself be creative. If you can’t think of anything, that’s OK too. The important thing is to try to think of yourself as becoming that part and taking on its point of view. You may be surprised by how different it feels to speak from your body’s perspective.
I asked a few friends to try out this exercise, and one reported a really interesting story about her thighs (which she gave me permission to share on this blog, as long as I didn’t include any identifying information). Like many women in this country, this woman has had a long battle with the size of her thighs. She always thought that her thighs were too fat and flabby. She suffered from an eating disorder throughout much of her college years, and went through long phases of overexerting herself through exercise. Put simply, this woman hates her thighs. She told me that when she sat down to try the experiment, it was hard to break away from her negative thoughts about her thighs. She started picturing herself sitting inside of her thighs. It took some effort, but eventually she was able to start talking as if she were her thighs. She started telling a story of how much she longed to just be accepted for who she was and how she looked. As her thighs, she talked about how hard it had been to be starved and exercised into exhaustion. She talked about being able to feel the hatred that was directed towards her. This friend caught herself off guard by how emotional she became while telling the story. She hadn’t thought she would be able to connect with her body in that way, and she was surprised by what she learned. Her story is a truly touching example of the possibilities of this experiment.
Thank you for your question Katie. I hope this simple exercise can help you get one step closer to a deeper relationship with your body.