When you look at her, so much information is registering. With openness and curiosity you ask, `Who is this new person in my office and what is driving her to seek help today?’
And then it happens in the span of about three seconds, before you even move out of the waiting room.
Most of the time we do not even realize–the glance up and down, a quick once over that sizes her up and lets the jury of one respond–guilty or not? What offense was committed? Which body parts are up for scrutiny? The judgment hangs in the air. Is her body better than mine or do I have the “one up” as the saying goes?
We are not supposed to be in competition with those we serve. It is never really openly discussed. But, it’s there.
The irony is that the warmth of summer, symbolizing joy and freedom, can quickly turn into increased negative, shaming self-talk and competition focused on your body. The emotional toll of the negative competition focused on your body increases discomfort so quickly that you may not know when it happens.
That person sitting across from you…do you treat her differently based on the verdict?
You and I can see more of each other. The shields are down. In the therapy room, they should be.
Our challenge is to be clear and non-judgmental even when we may be uncomfortable. It is the ultimate example of sustained affect regulation.
A calm guide toward a more peaceful place-moment by moment.
When it comes to the relationship with your own body just how clear are you?
The sad reality is that, even as a therapist, the more self-loathing you express, aloud or silently to yourself about your body, the more entrenched in the narrative you become: We are women and we feel badly about our bodies. It’s all unspoken, of course. It’s just the way we have done it for a very long time.
Have We Had Enough?
As unofficial cultural change agents, it is our call to heal our own body dissatisfaction as well as those we help.
We know that negative descriptions are destructive to self-esteem and much of our work as therapists is to help heal wounds caused by put-downs.
This is not to say that we should, “turn that frown upside down,” in a pejorative sense. Just like other parts of your life that you may be unhappy with, it’s okay to be right where you are because you cannot be anywhere else.
The challenge is to embody a non-judgmental point of view, especially focused toward yourself first. We must break out of the negative body focus.
Wound healing includes addressing the etiology, in this case the culture of dieting and body surveillance.
As an eating disorder and emotional eating specialist, perhaps, I am more attuned to the subtitles of body surveillance. It is just part of the vernacular.
Frequently, clients ask me how or why I chose my specialty. The real question is not, `Did you have an eating disorder/emotional eating problem and will you understand me?’ It is more subtle, more intimate, more about, `How authentic will you be in our therapeutic relationship?’
The client wants to know: `Are you clear with who you are and the body you inhabit?’
The bottom line is: Can I trust you to guide me to peace?
It is not about body size, diet, meal plans or identification of a diagnosis. It is about the human to human connection and the consciousness of mind, body and heart that the client is seeking in her life and you are her guide.
You can develop a respectful relationship with your body.
In all fulfilling relationships, there are things that we love about the relationship and other things we do not love very much. When there is an over focus on the negative aspects, we tend to see the relationship as a problem.
When we see the relationship as more beneficial, we tend to look for the goodness and view challenges with the possibility of a positive outcome. These are relationship basics we all know, but often do not apply to our relationship with ourselves.
Creating a loving, kind and accepting relationship is not an all or nothing process. You can think about nurturing the relationship as evolving and you will continue to move yourself in the direction of growth.
Maybe your body is not where you want it to be right now and that is okay. Being conscious of where you are right now is authenticity and is the goal to keep at the forefront.
You do not have to be perfect.
Knowing who you are in this moment allows you the freedom to be an imperfect guide who is real, relatable and human instead of a perfect guru.
Woman with magnifying glass photo available from Shutterstock