SHHH… DID YOU HEAR THAT? It was your body speaking to you. Maybe you missed it this time. There’s a lot of noise in the world that is distracting. It can be hard to hear what your body is saying. Just because you missed it this time, doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying. The voice is always there.
Our surface, or outside body, tends to be where we focus most of our attention. We try to fix our surface bodies–clear up acne, erase stretch marks, change our size, shape, or weight. However, it’s actually our intuitive body, or inside body that we should be listening to as close as we can. Because oftentimes, we are trying to distract ourselves from the truth of the intuitive body by focusing on our outside body. Afterall, isn’t it easier to focus on what you look like rather than how you feel inside?
I’m not suggesting that we pay no attention to our outside body. However, I believe we will lead our most peaceful and authentic life when our outside body is an expression of what our intuitive body believes, instead of an attempt to conform to the “ideal body image” that society has created for us (read: slim, flat stomach, clear complexion, large breasts, long straight blond hair, etc).
We do this by listening deeply to our intuitive body. To do this we must slow down and reduce the noise around us.Take moments to reflect, listen, and be with your body. None of us were born hating our bodies. This is learned, which means it can be unlearned. It also means that how we feel about and treat our bodies starts in changing our mind set, not our bodies.
Our bodies are our informants. They are feeding us information everyday about what they need – nutrients, movements, rest, fresh air, intimacy, connection, creativity, and more. When we only focus on fitting our surface body into a societal mold, it’s hard to hear our thoughts on these things.
When we spend more time in our surface body, we tend to compare ourselves more. When we are in this mindset, we tend to judge others and ourselves much more. We start to attach to these thoughts and appear to be real and believable, rather than actually the way things really are. For example, you might have left the house feeling good about yourself, but then upon seeing a friend and making a comparison, you suddenly don’t feel so great about yourself. And yet, absolutely nothing has changed about who you were when you left the house and that moment of seeing your friend! Try labeling this for exactly what it is. Think to yourself, I’m comparing myself and making a judgement.
Once you’re able to do that, you can create a more compassionate and realistic thought. The new thought might be, I really liked the way my friend looked and I can still feel good about myself today. Those two thoughts can exist simultaneously. They don’t have to be pitted against each other. This is honoring your intuitive body (the feelings you had about your body) and acknowledging how you felt about seeing your friend. This allows us to pay attention to our internal cues instead of just an external judgement – your feelings not just your thoughts.
It’s important for us get in touch with the physical sensations of our feelings. We don’t have any control over our feelings. They can come out of nowhere. We do however, with enough awareness, have some control over how we react to them – what the thought or behavior is after we have a feeling. For example, if the feeling is frustration, the physical sensations might be a tightening in the shoulders or stomach, a clenched jaw, holding in our breath, or a warming in our face. If we can identify these sensations as frustration, we can deal with them instead of attributing them to something else or mistaking them for something else like hunger and then turning to food.
Next time you experience a feeling, see if you can sit with it. See if you can give it the time and space it needs to fully process. Your body will help you do this. Trying to escape it by focusing on controlling your outside body won’t fix it (i.e I’m frustrated with my life, so I’ll start a diet tomorrow and at least I can control that). Feelings that arise in our bodies need to be met with compassion and processed through. Perhaps the next time your body speaks to you, you will be able to hear it a little more clearly and honor what it is telling you.
Emily Betros is a licensed clinical social worker, certified health coach, and owner of Reclaiming Health, LLC. She specializes in body image support, eating disorders, anxiety, life transitions, mindfulness, and women’s issues. More info: www.reclaiminghealth.net.