My thoughts were to write this months blog in the first person and share what it can like be living in the head of someone hates the way they look, to both the outside world and themselves.
The information shared is a combination of academic sources and an understanding that I have gleaned over the years. Any resemblance to anyone is purely by chance.
“So, body dystrophic symptoms.What did that mean? Sounds like some sinister lurgi. But that’s what she said I had. I just knew how I felt and that wasn’t good. Body image issues. A total feeling of my worth being based on my appearance. But weirdly it was nice having a label, I might not like it but I knew then, that I had a real choice. I could choose to carry on as I was or choose to seek help. And that's just what I did.
My symptoms first started at primary school, the typical age is teenage years. For me it was physical and mental bullying. I was different, I was an early developer, wore glasses and told that my face looked like broccoli. As I say, different.
I just knew that I didn’t like the way I looked, it seemed that, to me, everyone around me was thin, beautiful, confident and wore the latest fashions with style. I couldn’t. I was different. On the rare occasion that I looked in the mirror, it was as though the only reflection I could see, was like the fun house mirrors at the circus. All wobbly and out of shape. I didn’t see what others could see and I didn’t ask because I assumed that it would be bad. I’m unlovable and different, right?
What do people fixate on? Face, hair, breast size and shape, muscle size and genitalia. I fixated on the size of my perceived muffin top, to me it was huge, I could pinch inches not just an inch. Twist it and turn it hard.
Hating my body meant that I didn’t want to go swimming, changing rooms were a nightmare and as for wearing a swimsuit?! I’d wear old baggy clothes, nothing that fitted and rarely buy new because everyone would know how huge I was and that was a shame too far. Another thing would be to hide in family photos, or anyone’s photo’s. It was easier to stay in rather than go out. And if I did go out, my room would be strewn with so many different outfits, all discarded and considered to be wrong. Or rather I looked wrong.”
Cash, (ED Journal of Treatment and Prevention 2002), defines Body Image as a multifaceted construct that refers to individuals perceptions of and attitudes toward their own body, especially in appearance. A complex set of ideas, judgements, attitudes and feelings of the self which give a picture of oneself in one mind’s eye and a sense of space we occupy in the world.
It’s worth saying, that some people with body dysmorphia, will spend hours in front of the mirror, making sure that they feel right. Seeking reassurance from what they see in the mirror. Fixating on one tiny flaw, that no one else can see. Makes terrible time keeping. Disrupting daily functioning. Causes more distress and anxiety.
I’ve often been asked, why? Research talks about Critical Experiences, women tend to report more than men and more negative ones. What does that mean?
* Social comparison
* Family values and attitudes
* Peer or familial competition
* Eating disorder experiences
* Physical activity
* Verbal feedback
Both men and women are effected, the BBC have recently published an article about Christopher Eccleston I’m a life long body hater
Body Dysmorphia is often linked with Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders but thats a different blog!
Where’s the way forward?
* Finding someone who can trust and feel comfortable with and begin sharing how you feel.
* Changing from hate to acceptance and love
* Learning to separate people’s feeing from reality, such as asking them if their body is the problem or their experience of it.
* Mindfulness techniques
* Building up positive body sensations such as, massage, yoga, Pilates and tai-chi.
If you feel that I can help, please get in touch.