In my practice I see a lot of people who have a poor body image. Most of them lack confidence and don’t take the space they need. They make themselves smaller, sometimes literally. They try to please everyone. They commonly have a critical voice that says things as “ you are not worth it ”, “It doesn’t matter what you think or how feel about it”, “ you are bad” , “others are better than you” etc.
This inner critic rises during your life time. It is a sort of summery of all things that important others have said to you. Often the important others are your father, mother, teachers, brothers, sisters or grandparents. Most of the things were probably said with good intentions, to protect you from disappointments, danger and harm. At this point in life the inner critic is a pain in the ass. Instead of helping you, it is kind of disabling. What was previously said about your body has stuck in your mind and it now causes stress, depressive feelings and it may lead, for example, to withdrawal from social situations.
Several interventions can be used to get rid of this critic, raise self-confidence and enable you to express your own needs in the right time and in an acceptable way. First, pay attention to your inner critical voice: What does he or she say? Does this voice remind you of someone in your past? If you have identified the voice we speak about, how true is his or her message? Do you agree with this message or can you qualify it as nonsense? Sometimes this insight is enough. It is frequently very useful to reply to your inner critic here and now. This is often a hard and an emotional thing to do. But once it is done, it brings you relief and you have proven to yourself that you are capable of standing up to your inner critic. The inner critic is then moved more to the background. He or she might try to come back during stressful situations, but then you could thank him or her and say that you don’t need him or her anymore and that you’re OK. You ‘re good as you are.
Voice dialogue is another very useful intervention. As a part of you is saying to you, you are not OK, speaking with this part is interesting. What is his or her goal? Where is s/he protecting you for? What are the intentions behind it? Does this part gets what s/he wants? In a dialogue you can also, for example, thank this part for his or her concern. It was probably of great use in the past, but now you don’t need it anymore. You can do it by yourself.
The last strategy I want to give you is to focus on your body. Focus first on the position that your body has now. How does your body feel? Are there parts that need your attention? Which parts need more attention in stressful situations? Do you have a kind of armor build within your body? What does this armor look like? Can you show it? Then we take step by step and try to find movements that make your body feel more comfortable . If your body is starting to relax, repeat the steps several times. Your body knows how to relax. After that we practice how you want your body to feel. In what position it should be to take the space you need and to feel more confident.You need to experience these interventions for yourself to realize their impact and effectiveness.
In conclusion, when there is a strong influence of the body image on your life, the best tip is to pay attention and seek the body image’s intentions. If you don’t do that the feeling or thoughts might flee away for a short while, but their themes will keep returning until you will pay the necessary attention to it.
Nienke Hoogstraten (1978) is a Holistic Life Coach and neuropsychologist, specialized in the treatment of people who lack self-confidence, who take more care of others than themselves, who are on a turning point in their lives or who what to have more energy, relaxation or pleasure in daily life. Furthermore she is specialized in giving psychological aid to the elderly.