I thought I would share with you today a story about one of my clients, Sarah (note, Sarah is not the one pictured in this post).
I never miss a chance to use my self love and body image coaching certifications to have a a deeper impact on my clients.
One day, Sarah was getting ready for a fancy event and was struggling to fit into the dress she wanted to wear. Her daughter, who was 12 at the time, came into the room to help her get dressed. Sarah was struggling to get into the dress, the zipper wouldn’t come up, she did all the tricks we try when we struggle to get into our clothes – laid down, couldn’t zip it up; sucked in, the dress wouldn’t zip up; put on some shapeware, and her daughter still couldn’t zip up the dress. She got so upset and said, “Ugh. I am so disgusting. My body is so gross. I have to change, I am so fed up with looking this way and feeling terrible about myself.”
I am sure we’ve all done the same thing – we can’t fit into our clothes and then start to talk badly about ourselves, which then causes us to feel badly about ourselves.
So Sarah went down the rabbithole of dieting and weight loss in an effort to feel more confortable with herself and to be confident. She thought “looking good” was going to help her feel better about herself. She quickly dropped 50 pounds in 4 months, and felt great and confident. Then, as most of us do, she gained some of the weight back and lost all that confidence.
That’s when she entered my world. She got fed up with the cycle of always trying to lose weight or look a certain way in order to feel confident. She saw me feeling confident regardless of how I looked and wanted what I had.
When she told me this story, I immediately illuminated something critical to her. While she was at the mirror trying to put the dress on and it didn’t fit, she made her body the problem – she immediately started to berate her body and make negative comments about the way she looked. Not her clothes, truthfully maybe it was her clothes that were the problem, not her body. No, her thoughts weren’t the problem – she didn’t even consider that the way she was thinking was an issue. She made her body the problem and her body took the brunt of her anger and disgust.
I asked her a critical question: When you fail to fit into clothes and you blame your body, what message does that send to yourself? Now, I know the answer but I needed her to identify the message she sends to herself so that she can begin to make the shift in her thoughts.
Her response was this: The message is that my body is the problem. I am only worthy of confidence when I look a certain way. My body needs to be thin, to feel confident; otherwise, I am gross and disgusting.
Exactly. This is why you try to change your body whenever you don’t feel confident. All that does is perpetuates the negative cycle with our body image and why we can’t be confident with the way we look right now.
Then I had to ask her the hardest question: What message did this send to your daughter? Remember, her daughter was there, heard what Sarah was saying to herself and watched her go through this cycle to change her body.
Her response, through tears: My daughter believes her body will be the problem whenever her clothes don’t fit. She saw that the solution to not feeling good and confident was to change her body. That I only felt good about myself when I lost weight.
Exactly. Those thoughts and the words you use, send the message that your body is the problem. Therein lies the issue. You have to stop focusing on the body being the problem, you have to focus on that maybe JUST MAYBE the thoughts are the problem, the words you speak are the problem, the inner mean girl that controls your thinking is going into overdrive. Your body isn’t the problem, how you treat it, how you act, how you talk to your body IS the problem, and that has a direct impact on the level of confidence you feel.
I will say this until the cows come home – your body will ALWAYS change and fluctuate in your life. As much as you try to force your body to be a certain way, it’s going to adjust to your life, the situations and experiences you deal with, the stress you feel, all of these things have an impact on your body. What you look like at 20 or 30 will never be what you look like at 50 or 60, but we all live in a society that celebrates youth and thinness, and you believe that you need to maintain a certain look in order to feel good about yourself. Ultimately, your goal should be that your confidence should not be built on the foundation of what you look like. When you hold your confidence in the balance of your appearance, you have built your confidence on the wrong foundation.
When you build on the wrong foundation, the story you have told yourself is that you need to look a certain way in order to be confident, and that any deviation from that ideal look you have made up in your mind is a failure to you and destroys your confidence. All you do in this case is put even more pressure on yourself to look a certain way.
The biggest problem you make is by giving far too much weight to your outward appearance, and when that doesn’t meet what you have defined as acceptable, your confidence (and body) bears the brunt of your anger, hurt and negativity.
Would you love to have confidence regardless of how your body fluctuates? No matter how much weight you gain or lose, do you want confidence in yourself? Listen, I am not against you doing what is right for you and your body; however, if your confidence leaves you based on changes to your body, you DO NOT have true confidence. When your confidence disappears as your body fluctuates, it means that your confidence is NOT built on the correct foundation. In order to have lasting confidence, you need create an indestructible foundation and let your body off the hook. It’s about time you give your body a break.