Skip to content

Why Body Image Has Nothing To Do With How Your Body Looks

Body Image Nothing To Do With Body Looks

When I told this story to one of my woo-woo friends, she responded by saying those old earrings were filled with bad juju, and that I should have just smudged them with sage. As sweet of a suggestion as I found this to be, I can say with confidence that all the sage in the world still would not have been enough. I could never love them.

Luckily, I didn’t have to try; throwing them away was an easy choice.

It’s important to remember that all the negative associations I felt about those earrings were totally subconscious; all I thought about them at the time was “ugh they’re so ugly.” Those subconscious associations are always informing what we think about stuff though, even when we have absolutely no idea it’s happening.

Related: Grief Work & Body Image: How Grief Helps In Your Journey of Body Neutrality

My recent trip to Peru was an absolutely amazing one; the kind of deeply special experience that I will carry with me forever. Is it any wonder that I have glowingly positive associations with everything I bought there?

Most people don’t realize how subjective their idea of beauty is, because we’re taught to believe that there is some non-existent “objective” standard of beauty.

Chalking any differences up to “different tastes,” we believe that for the most part, some things and people are objectively more beautiful than others. The truth though is that our understanding of what is beautiful, the way our brains perceive beauty, depends entirely on how we feel about the subject emotionally, and what associations we have with that subject.

The big problem arises when the subject you’ve attached negative associations to isn’t something you can get rid of, like your own body.

We call that “negative body image.”

Unfortunately, the term “negative body image” doesn’t do justice to the level of revulsion that many of us have felt about parts of our own bodies, however. When parts of our bodies become subconsciously associated with rejection, or infused with responsibility for our shame, or become a kind of representative for our self-loathing, we don’t necessarily realize what’s going on. Often, when we look at those body parts all we think is “ugh– so hideous.”

If you don’t think you have any negative associations, and that your thighs really are just objectively hideous, I humbly suggest that you just haven’t gone deep enough yet.

And hey, maybe you’re not ready to go deeper yet. That’s ok, too.

Being born into a human body means you’re going to suffer some extraordinary losses, pain, fear, and rejection. “Body image issues” often serve as a valuable cover-up for the deeper, more painful stuff. Thinking that your thighs are fat and disgusting might just be your mind’s way of protecting you from the sea of emotional pain underneath until you’re ready to handle such body image issues.

The secret that nobody tells you about body image issues is that you’ll never go from thinking your thighs are disgusting to that they’re beautiful– not as long as you still believe beauty is objective.

Related: What It REALLY Means When Your Man Looks At Other Women (Says a Man)

Start by acknowledging that your body image issues aren’t really about your body. If you hate the way your body looks, then you have hatred toward something your body represents or is associated with.

I hate to oversimplify a topic which is so incredibly vast and complex, but at the ends of articles like this I am always asked to explain “how.” So here you go: a greatly oversimplified “how.”

4 Steps to Heal Your Body Image Issues

1. Recognize your story of your body.

Become aware of the story you tell yourself about the parts of your body you find “ugly.” Start to gently bring consciousness to your self-talk about your body— what do you say about this part of your body? What do you believe is true about it?

Pages: 1 2 3

Jessi Kneeland

Jessi is a TEDx speaker, body image coach, iPEC certified life coach and fitness expert. She now spends most of her time blogging and coaching clients to break through barriers to optimal health and self-love. Her mission is to help women like you identify, work through, heal, and release your “body image issues,” using a unique process of combining mindset shifts and emotional healing, along with tapping into the innate wisdom of the physical body through movement. She has written for and been featured in many major publications, including Women's Health Magazine, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine, Health Magazine, Greatist, and Buzzfeed.View Author posts