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It’s Not Your Body’s Fault

Monte Nido Manhattan Primary Therapist Kelsey Fisher, LMSW
approaches each new therapeutic relationship with hope and the belief that full recovery is a genuine possibility for every person who embarks on the journey to wellness. In her writing, Kelsey discusses her work with clients in identifying and challenging their negative body image.

Bad body image is not your body’s fault. In fact, it is not even about your body. Your body’s shape, its marks, dimples and folds, its sensations, pressures and pulses, are not to blame.

Whatever happened to your body, or was said about your body, was also not your body’s fault.

If your body is big or small it is not an accomplishment or a failure.

It is incredibly easy, however, to get confused because we are indoctrinated into a culture of “thin is in” that privileges some bodies over others, a culture in which women and other marginalized people, in particular, are subjected to intense body scrutiny at best and horrific boundary violations at worst.

Our clients often come in with skepticism, despite the well-established assertion (see below for further reading) that it is not your body’s fault. I hear the familiar refrain from people of all sizes, “If I could just lose some weight I would be more of this good thing, less of that bad thing.” In an instant, a glimpse of yourself in a shop window is translated into the litany of ways you could be better, which is often conflated with the newest diet plan. And it’s gratifying for an instant to think that whatever was so objectionable is fixable, but we’re so far off the target that it’s soul crushing. Thinness makes so many promises on which it could never deliver.

When we trash our bodies, we are actually trying to avoid or manage difficult emotions and painful, oppressive social realities.

When I ask my clients to be curious, to consider what they were feeling or thinking right before they hated on their bodies, they might be able to observe for themselves how the thought pattern or feeling associated with hating their body is separate from their actual body.

When we are curious, mindful observers of our bad body image we are developing skills for critical consciousness. By perceiving our painful automatic thoughts or reactions in their full context, we make breathing room for our souls.

“Culture is the way of seeing and speaking that is so much a part of everyday living that it never has to be articulated. Fish don’t know they are swimming in water, until they are a fish out of water.” –Carol Gilligan

Further reading:

The 8 Keys to Recovery from and Eating Disorder By Carolyn Costin

Overcoming Overeating: When women stop hating their bodies By Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter

The Beauty Myth By Naomi Wolf

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