Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with an ulcer and acid reflux. I was in so much pain—always bloated and tired. I gained 18 pounds and no diet or exercise could help me get rid of the unwanted fat.
I was devastated. I could not recognize my body. I was did not like the way I looked. I didn’t even want to socialize because the most comfortable clothes I had were my baggy pants and loose PJs.
I searched the internet for help and found many websites recommending the use of positive affirmations in order to help me feel better about my body. According to these so-called experts, the most powerful and effective method was to stare at my body in the mirror while repeating these affirmations out loud to my reflected image.
And so I did. I forced myself to stare at my body in the mirror day after day — but it only caused me to feel worse and worse about myself. My eyes always found that extra fat on my belly and that newly developed cellulite on my thighs. I did this for over a month — until not only did I feel worse but now I was frustrated at all the time I had wasted talking to myself in the mirror!
We women tend to be the worst critics of our own body. So if you feel bad about your legs, belly, breasts, arms — I hear you. I was there. Unfortunately, it is a normal feeling for us females.
In one experiment, six women were asked to describe themselves to an artist by phone. The artist (who worked for the FBI) made their portraits based on their descriptions. Then six men who saw the same women described them to the same artist. The artist created the second version of the portrait of these women (thinking these are different models).
You can see some of the results below. The portraits on the left are created based on each woman’s description of herself and the portraits on the right are based on the men’s descriptions of the same women.
These women were not unusual. We all look at ourselves critically when we look in the mirror and the face we see looking back at us is not the same one the world sees.
So, if you look in the mirror and see a face and body you don’t like, you are clearly not alone. But although it might be comforting that the world probably sees you as more attractive than you do, it is painful to see a face and a body that you don’t like staring back at you from every mirror. So what can we do about it?
Many of the so-called experts out there will tell you to stand in the mirror and look at your yourself: your face and your body. Some of them will actually advise you to do this naked. They then tell you to repeat a number of positive affirmations: “I am beautiful. I am sexy. I love my body…” and so on. Well, it’s an idea. But does it work? In most cases, no. And, as you can see in my case, it only made matters worse.
Positive self-talk can work, but not when you are full of negativity. When you are full of negativity, there is no room in your energetic field or in your psyche to put in any new concepts! You need to remove the negative thoughts and beliefs in order to make room for new, more positive ones.
Positive self-talk is actually the third step in the process of changing your body image, not the first.
There are two important steps that are missing in the process recommended by those so-called experts:
- understanding the reason for negative self-image;
- creating space for the new patterns of thoughts by eradicating negative thinking.
Step #1: Understanding the Reason
In my coaching, biofeedback sessions, and energy work, my patients with negative body-image issues are usually feeling shame. Over time, unresolved shame not only leads to suffering, it can lead to other health problems.
It is important not to judge your feelings. But over the long term, if you feel shame, it can lead to anxiety whenever you see yourself in the mirror or in a photograph. This can get so bad that it can cause your body to go into “toxic stress.”
These repeated experiences of the “fight or flight” response historically helped us to escape predators like lions or tigers. In that state, your body shuts down every system not related to fleeing or fighting. That includes your digestive system. If this is triggered every time you see a reflection or a photograph of yourself, then there will also be repeated stress on you digestive system which can lead to digestive problems that can last a lifetime.
On the energetic level, the feeling of shame blocks the third chakra (your center for self-worth and self-concept). Therefore, the energy does not flow through your body and gets “stuck” in your tummy.
Shame can sit in your body for years without you ever noticing it. It also calibrates at the lowest frequency. Every emotion has its own frequency. For example the feeling of love calibrates at 500, but shame’s frequency is only 20! Imagine how hard it is to jump from 20 to 500!
That is why pure affirmations DO NOT WORK!
Radical negativity needs radical extraction! You need to jump to the next “better feeling,” even if it is still a negative one.
I invite you to jump to another negative emotion… anger. Anger is not as damaging to the body as shame, and is ultimately easier to process and let go. Shame will just stew until you take action to address it.
Anger actually calibrates at 100. (So much closer to 500, huh?). Anger also can be productive—we say, “get mad” when we want someone to win! Anger also has a tendency to end, as opposed to shame which can last forever and ever.
So what I want you to do is to convert the energy of shame into the energy of anger. Then exhaust this new anger to free some space in your heart and only then pour some new positive thoughts into it!
Warning: Do this exercise alone at the safety of your house. Complete ALL steps. Do not stop halfway. If you are experiencing rage or uncontrollable anger, consult a professional clinical psychologist.
Step #2: The Pillow Technique
What you need to have is a big pillow and a bat. (If you don’t have a bat, you can use a frying pan, any stick, or just your fists will do.)
- Sit comfortably on the floor with the pillow in front of you.
- Now start thinking of yourself, your body, and all those feelings of shame.
- Start beating the pillow. Scream any thoughts that come to mind (that is why you need to be alone), cry, swear — let yourself go. You will be surprised how much emotion there is. Don’t be afraid of this process. This is how passive shame turns into active anger.
- Keep checking if you cleared everything or not — but also keep bringing your thoughts again and again to your what bothers you the most. At some point you will get exhausted—you will feel the open space in the area of your stomach and your heart. This is how anger exhausts itself.
- You can repeat this process at different times until you get to the feeling of emptiness.
Step #3: Positive Affirmations
Read about how to use positive affirmations in the right way in the next article.
In the meantime, please share your experiences to inspire other people in the comments below!