You must let that imagined version of yourself die, in order to live fully as the person you are.
You must mourn the loss of your perfect life in order to find peace and joy in this one.
Grieve for the loss of her, and for everything her existence ever promised or represented.
- Grieve for the fantasy of being a “tiny, perfect bride” on your wedding day, or the fantasy that by looking thin and pretty enough you won’t have to work as hard to get your connection and intimacy needs met.
- Grieve for the fantasy in which your body was the key to feeling confident, happy, peaceful, present, and worthy.
- Grieve for the fantasy in which looking “good enough” meant your partner would never cheat or leave you, suffering would disappear, sex would be amazing, and your mother would finally be proud of you.
Let your heart break. The world you’ve been inventing sounds beautiful, but it’s not real. That’s worth letting your heart break over.
I wish your body really had that much power, for your sake. I wish finding the right exercise routine really would make you safe and happy and in control; I wish the way to fight fatphobic oppression was to get thin enough; I wish all your problems really did come from the way you look.
That would be a lot easier. But that’s now how it works. Instead, all we have if the grief-shuttle from there to here. Let your heart break until you get to the other shore, and acceptance becomes possible.
If you’re new to grief work and body image, here’s where you can start.
1. Recognize and identify
Recognize and identify any areas in which you’ve been harbouring fantasies or magical thinking when it comes to your body or appearance.
What lies have you been telling yourself? What alternative realities have you been living in? Name who or what needs to die for you to let go of that fantasy and move on. That’s the first step in grief work and body image!
Related: 12 Tips To Self-Love And Compassion
2. Grieve the loss
Grieve the loss of that fantasy, reality, idea, person, place, or thing the same way you would a beloved person
Let your heart break and feel it all. Note that this step can require a lot of time, energy, and support.
3. Find joy and acceptance on the other side.
Without that fantasy version of yourself haunting you, you are now free to look in the mirror and be good enough as you are. Without that alternative reality haunting you, you are now free to notice, accept, embrace, enjoy, and engage in this one.
4. Repeat as needed forever.
Life is sad and messy and for those of us who are highly sensitive, we may need to be constantly dipping in and out of grief work. When the pandemic hit I grieved for weeks the loss of my plans with my boyfriend, my idea of how life should be, my life in Los Angeles. I just bought a new computer and I’m still grieving the loss of my old one. You may need to go through a new phase of grief as you age and mourn the body you once had, or as you go through a transition like pregnancy, injury, illness, or menopause. That’s ok.
Grief is a skill, and an ongoing conversion with reality.
Learn it, use it well, and use it often in your body image journey.
Are you ready to engage in grief work and body image?