Pictures of You

When it comes to food and body, it often feels like the grass would be greener if only we had a different body.

But is this really true?

If I look at a picture of myself from a few years ago, I might feel a bit nostalgic for the body that I had  at that time.  My body looks different now. 

However, it's so important to remember, that even when my body was a different size, I was still not happy with it. It's so important not to put the smaller size or different shape or ability on a pedestal and call it better.

When I read back over my journals from when I was getting married, 20+ years ago, I was at the smallest size ever as an adult. And yet - every page of these journals is filled with what I ate and what I didn't eat and what I wanted to eat.

The pages are filled with how much I ran, how much I should have run, and how bad I felt about not running.

The pages were not talking about how much I loved running and how great I felt. And they weren't talking about the wonderful experiences I was having or how fun it was to plan a wedding. 

I missed out on enjoying the experiences I was having because I was hyper focused on my body and food and weight.

I lost weight all right and then I gained it right back. And it took me years until I realized it wasn't my failure, it was the diet's fault.

Fast forward from the wedding 20 years.

These days I put my focus on how I feel and not how I look.

I focus on food that is satisfying, enjoyable and nourishing.

I focus on movement that makes me feel strong and capable and that I enjoy doing.

I focus on what I am contributing to the world and how I want to show up as a person.

I focus on how I treat people around me and whether I am approaching circumstances from a place of fear or love.

The result is a much richer and rewarding perspective of life and a deeper sense of connection.

And yet - I know so many of us still look at those old pictures with pangs of guilt or despair or frustration. It makes perfect sense. Our world tells us that smaller is better and preferable and also that it should be easy to manipulate our bodies to be whatever size we want them to be.

So when the picture makes you uncomfortable, what is the story you are telling yourself? What words are you using? How kind is your voice? Where did this voice come from and where did you get the judgments you might be using against yourself? They did not come from you.

How can you speak to yourself with kindness, respect and self-compassion? Even if you don't like the picture. How can you change how you speak to yourself?

You get to choose how you want to feel and it starts with your thoughts.

Did you feel negatively before you saw the picture? We often feel fine, if not wonderful and great, right before we see the picture. That is very telling don't you think?

And sometimes we feel rotten and we use the picture as "evidence" as to why we feel rotten, whereas if we didn't dislike ourselves so much in the first place we might not feel so triggered by the picture. 

I also like to explore, what were the circumstances around the picture? Was I having a good time? Was it stressful? Was I taking a risk or exposing myself in some way?

When we step out and take risks, it can be uncomfortable. And as dieter's we often translate that discomfort into something about the body. That is why, one minute you may not be thinking about your body at all and the next minute you see a picture and are miserable. 

We often don't realize our discomfort really has nothing to do with the picture or our physical body and everything to do with our emotional discomfort at showing up and being seen.

The parallels in the language of pictures and our discomfort is quite striking - being exposed, being seen, what are we focusing on, what lens are we using, etc. It's like a picture captures our vulnerability and we can't bear to look.

The next time you see a picture you hate, can you stop and put a pause on the judgment and negativity? And can you praise yourself for showing up and being somewhere where you got your picture taken? And can you remember the reasons why you showed up and what you were enjoying or celebrating or honoring?

What we focus on is what becomes more prominent in our lives. So do you want to focus on how much you don't like yourself in some way or what is wonderful, unique and extraordinary about you? What lens does it feel better to view yourself through? 

If you need extra help in this realm, I highly recommend the work of Vivienne McMaster of Be Your Own Beloved. She is a master (pun intended!) at helping us reclaim our bodies through pictures.

Are you ready to reclaim your body?

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you - The Cure

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash