Thursday, July 24, 2014

Body Image Series: Body Mapping

This is the third installment of the body image series. Read about the importance of Self Talk HERE , and Understanding Influences HERE.

As we grow, age, change and evolve, so does our body and the way we see ourselves. We are given one vessel to enjoy while we explore the vast adventure that is life and sometimes this vessel gets scuffed, stretched, broken and worn. Life can leave us with battle scars, which can sometimes make for epic stories but also play negatively on our self esteem.

Our changing physical forms can also at times conflict with what I like to call our 'mental image of ourselves'. This is how we see ourselves in our own mind, What we think we look like. This image doesn't always reflect what our body actually looks like. Sometimes our mental image reflects how we think we looked or how we did look during our favorite moments. Sometimes we have a very unhealthy mental image of ourselves. In our mental images we can exaggerate or focus in an unhealthy manner on what we perceive to be our flaws. For some these disconnections between their real self and their mental image can become unhealthy and may even be body dismorphia.

To understand how body image and your own mental image of yourself are closely tied, it can be helpful to look back over the years and see how your feelings toward your own body have changed and evolved. Our bodies and our feelings about our bodies are constantly changing. So to get a good understanding on just how much those feelings have changed in your life, we are going to have to make a map to show that self esteem journey.

It's time to Body Map our body image journey!
That's right it's time for another exercise, but don't worry you get to colour for this one ;)

For the purpose of this exercise I will be examining and mapping out my feelings for my body at 3 different points in time. Age 6, age 16 and present time (age 28). This is done to compare how I have felt about my body when I was a child (who was slightly oblivious to the world of body image issues), a teenager (when I was ripe with body image issues) and now (when I am hopefully more self accepting and self loving). You may decide to choose different ages, or more then 3 to compare. However you wish to do this exercise is fine. But I encourage you to try to compare significant times in your life to gain  a good understanding of your body image journey.

For this exercise you will need some crayons/markers/paint/ etc and some sheets of paper. You can either Save and print the pictures I have used in this article, download them and use a art program to digitally colour them, or draw up some quick figures of your own. You are more then welcome to use the templates below with my permission.

Please note that everyone has experienced life differently and for some examining how their bodies felt at different ages can be very difficult and may be triggering to more serious issues. This exercise is designed to help understand how the influences in your life have shaped your body image. Talking about our experiences in body image can bring up negative feelings so please be careful, follow this exercise up with the compliment exercise at the end, and reach out to your supports if needed. <3

Childhood (age 6)

Taking the included picture I want you to think back to when you where a child. How did you feel about your body then, what did you enjoy doing. Really try to get into how you felt about yourself then.
Taking your marker/crayons I want you to look at this drawing of yourself as a child and colour in the following parts:
Red: Those parts you used a lot
Blue: Those parts that you really liked
Green: Those body parts that were the strongest
Orange: Those body parts that were the weakest
Purple: Those parts that you were proud of and gave you confidence
Pink: Those parts that cause you pain
Yellow: Those parts that made you feel embarrassed or ashamed of

Adolescence/ Teens (age 16) 

Next we are going to look our selves during adolescence. Adolescence is a very hard time for many as puberty is happening, your body is changing, peoples reactions to your body change and in general it is a confusing time. For some this can be when you start to experience many body image issues. I will be looking at age 16 for myself but you may pick another age.
Again, taking your marker/crayons I want you to look at this drawing of yourself as a teenager and colour in the following parts:
Red: Those parts you used a lot
Blue: Those parts that you really liked
Green: Those body parts that were the strongest
Orange: Those body parts that were the weakest
Purple: Those parts that you were proud of and gave you confidence
Pink: Those parts that cause you pain
Yellow: Those parts that made you feel embarrassed or ashamed of


Current Day (age 28)

Now we are going to look at the present. Our body today. You  may wish to add in more comparisons around life events such as milestone birthdays, child birth, divorces or other significant life events that you felt impacted your body image. Map them out chronologically ending with a current day experience.
Again, taking your marker/crayons I want you to look at this drawing of yourself in the present day and colour in the following parts:
Red: Those parts you used a lot
Blue: Those parts that you really liked
Green: Those body parts that were the strongest
Orange: Those body parts that were the weakest
Purple: Those parts that you were proud of and gave you confidence
Pink: Those parts that cause you pain
Yellow: Those parts that made you feel embarrassed or ashamed of



6
16
So now that we have our beautiful and abstract looking artwork I want you to compare how things have changed from picture to pictured, starting at the youngest age and working towards the current day. Were their any surprises for you while you did this exercise? Did you learn anything about your body image through mapping? How has your body image changed over the years? What caused those changes? Thinking back to the blog on Understanding Influences, what do you think influences some of the changes in body image?
I know that at 16 I felt shame about parts of my body that I no longer worry about. I have learned to embrace my body and find the beauty that was always there. There will always be part of my body that I feel self conscious about. But I happy knowing that the parts I am proud of seem to grow. I also love that I use my body so much.
28
I know that my body image has changed a fair bit in the past 20 years and I expect it to keep changing. But when I look at where my body image is now I can see how clearly I was affected by my body changing. How I allowed my own disappointments in not achieving certain physical ideals affect how I felt about myself. I know that as I age and explore the journey that is life my body will change again and again. I will gain and lose weight, parts of me will sag, wrinkle and stop working as well. There may even be circumstances that cause my whole body to change. I know that if I let these changes make me feel negatively about myself I am only causing my own journey to become filled with self judgement and self hate.

When I was a 6 year old, I used my body as a tool. It helped me do the fun things I wanted to do. It allowed me to tackle new adventures and explore life. I didn't care what it looked like, just how I could use it to enjoy my surroundings.

As a dancer I think I need to live more like that. I need to work hard at not getting caught up in my own self judgement.We can be our own worse enemies but we can also become our own greatest support systems.

That brings us to our final exercise.... The Compliment Game. and if you did the first exercise, this one is now mandatory but also fantastic. If possible find a way to play this game with you friends and loved ones. Too often we don't take the time to celebrate what makes us and those around us wonderful.

The Compliment Game
If you are in a group, sit in a circle and take turns having one person in the centre. Everyone in the circle then takes the time to say a positive compliment about the person in the centre. This can be about how they look, their style, their personality, what makes them smart, wonderful, sweet, amazing, how talented they are. Really just tell them what you admire. Be honest. Be 100% genuine. Mean what you say. Smile while you say it.
Take turns so that everyone gets a turn in the middle. Do NOT let anyone skip their turn.
It can be hard to hear compliments, especially if you struggle with thinking about yourself positively. Try your best to listen and accept every word as genuine. Hear the positive words, say thank you.

If you are by yourself, It's time to go get a mirror!

Look at yourself in the mirror, thinking back to the first exercise and all the parts that you are proud of and make you feel confident. Smile and give yourself a compliment about your body. Say it out loud. Write it down, say it again until you feel that you can accept the kind words. Then, sit and think about just how fucking fabulous you are. What makes you awesome? What are you talents? What are you really proud of?
Here I will even go first..

I love my legs, eyes and hair. I think I can be absolutely gorgeous, especially when I am happy. I know I can project my own happiness if I let myself and I really love myself when I am. I love my legs as they are strong and shaped with years of hard physical work. I have sexy dancer legs and they look amazing in everything.
I love that I care about others. I think this is a great quality in myself. I love that making others happy makes me happy. Honestly, when I am helping others, I feel the most like myself.

The reality is that we are fucking amazing and we need to let ourselves see it, embrace it and nurture it. Our bodies will change, and they may not always perform how we want them to, but we should never stop loving them or ourselves.

We are each beautiful and amazing in our own way. You are beautiful and amazing.
You are beautiful and amazing.
You are Fucking Beautiful and Fantastically Amazing!!!!

Now go give someone you care about a hug and tell them why they are awesome. Let's keep the positivity flowing.
<3
KiKi





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