Feeling Myself: On Touch + Body Image
Jessica Rabbit once famously said, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” Self-talk isn’t inherently good or bad, positive or negative – it’s all information. It’s how we view that self-talk that determines if it’s on Team Positive or Team Negative.
And for many of us, our self-appointed negative self-talk flares up the biggest when it comes to talking about our BODIES.
My thighs are _____.
My hips are _____.
My arms are _____.
My skin is _____.
Pick your body part and pick your adjective, and I’m sure you’ve got at least one area you tend to beat up and call mean names on the regular.
But just like our self-talk, none of our body parts are inherently good or bad – we just name them that way. And way too often, we lump them into the bad category instead of the good.
Seeing a reflection you’d prefer looked different, or noticing your clothes fit differently than usual, can instantly morph your response from neutral sensations to negatively charged emotions.
And what do we do when those emotions bubble up?
We distract ourselves and immediately blame our bodies for merely existing.
My body must be the problem.
My thighs are _____.
My hips are _____.
My arms are _____.
My skin is _____.None of our parts are inherently good or bad - we just name them that way. Click To Tweet
So often we don’t bat a lash at being mean to ourselves – not because we’re inadequate, but because we’re removed.
When we feel things we don’t want to feel, we try to distract ourselves. Scared? Procrastinate the day away. Uncomfortable? Check every app on your phone (twice). Angry? Play the blame game and point out everything wrong with someone else.
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When we distract, we dissociate. But something else happens, too.
When we dissociate from whatever’s happening instead of facing it head-on, we don’t learn how to navigate the full spectrum of our human experience. And what’s more, we start to shut down OTHER sensations, too. We don’t just become removed from the things we don’t like, we start to numb out to the things we do, too, because what affects one aspect of our lives usually affects the rest of it, too. It’s no different with our bodies.
We detach, place blame, and dissociate – instead of trying to figure out where those pent-up emotions are actually coming from.
Just like Ghost Worries hijack your thoughts and make you forget the reality of your situation, body-related negative self-talk steals your sensations and makes you forget what your body actually feels like.
The pattern is simple, and mirrors the kinds of patterns we’re often prone to when a relationship on the rocks. See the thing. Notice the fault. Blame the Other. Withdraw attachment. Withdraw kindness. Withdraw touch.
But instead of the Other being a partner, the Other is our body.
Touch is vital. As U.C. Berkely explains, touch “activates feelings of reward and compassion. reinforces cooperation, and cultivates a sense of safety and trust.”
If you apply that logic to touch between two humans…it might behoove you to stop and consider if the same is true with self-inflicted touch.
The second you dissociate from the actual feel of your body, the second you start to dissociate from your body itself. And when you dissociate from your body for too long, you become afraid (or at least resentful) of it. This thing you call your body seems entirely out of your control.
Your skin becomes something to pick at and prod.
Your muscles become bulk.
Your rolls become flab.
Your fat becomes forbidden.
The only time you touch your body is when you’re zeroing in to fix something.
The solution is simple:
like Beyoncé and Nicki, you must literally start feeling yourself.
No, I don’t mean in the sexual sense (but hey, if you’d like to discuss that, listen to two episodes about sex education on the WANTcast here or here). I mean actually TOUCH yourself.
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Your arms. Your legs. Your stomach. Your hips.
Feel what your body feels like.
Sound awkward? It might be at first. But it’s a weird yet effective trick I always come back to when I’m really feeling low about my bod. And I find the longer I go without putting TOUCH into practice, the quicker I slip into old body-loathing tendencies and self-talk.
It takes a matter of minutes, doesn’t involve spending money, and doesn’t require you to recite a mantra or do anything too hippie-dippie. It’s as easy as applying lotion after you get out of the shower or giving yourself a mini massage. There is NOTHING fancy about this practice, but it’s powerful beyond belief.
Take the time to actually feel what your skin feels like in your hands, the way your muscles curve and your thighs dimple (yes, everyone’s do). Notice the micro-dips in your collarbone as you press in, or the soft area under your armpits that is so often shielded from the sun. Get curious about your lines and shapes – ALL of your lines and shapes.
How does this thing I call My Body fit together?
How does my back hold me upright?
How does the weight I put on my feet each day affect their sensitivity?
How does the constant texting and typing my hands do affect them from the inside out?
How do my hips center my whole body?When we notice how our skin feels, we become a creature to admire instead of an object to critique Click To Tweet
Touch is healing, and not just when it comes from another person. Touch can be healing in our relationship with our Self – an aspect of healing that is way too often overlooked.
If you want to take it up a notch, try using creams or oils with your favorite scents. Learn about acupressure points. Maybe even turn it into a journaling exercise by taking a 10-minute ‘touch break’ in your day to explore what the skin you’re in feels like and take notes. The best part is that you don’t need anything fancy to put this self-love-building practice into place. When we can notice the way our skin feels, relieve a tight muscle, feel the way each part of our body miraculously fits together, we become a human to admire instead of a object to critique.
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