This week’s quest post is by Mara. Mara blogs at Medicinal Marzipan is a blog about body image and unconditional self love, as well as learning to lead a positive and authentic life. Contact her on twitter @mmarzipan or by email: medicinalmarzipan[at]gmail.com.
Everyday there is more buzz about building positive body image in the healthy living blogosphere. It has been the hot topic in blog conferences, on twitter, and is the ultimate goal for many bloggers. We strive daily to utilize our blogs to record our personal journeys of becoming our best selves, whether that be losing weight, implementing exercise routines, or working to love ourselves each day a little bit more than the day before. As a community, we are building networks around these goals, supporting one another, and reaching out as a means of keeping ourselves honest to our personal struggles and obstacles that we work to overcome – in front of a live audience.
Having an impaired body image negatively impacts our lives in a myriad of ways, such as: getting dressed in the morning, our ability to find (and keep) healthy relationships and positive sexual experiences, having the confidence to excel professionally, and raise happy, healthy children. When you suffer from a negative body image, it is though a rock is thrown into a pond, and there is no aspect of our lives that the ripples do not touch. If this personal issue remains unrecognized, we suffer, very personally, on a daily basis in both small, large, and complicated ways.
Often, negative body image is a result of having learned at some point in our lives that we are imperfect. This traumatic incident can come from almost anywhere, and can range in severity, but the effect is the same – we have learned somewhere along the way that we are: worthless, unlovable, fat, stupid, slow, [insert painful experience here], and we have internalized that message, allowing it to fester shamefully somewhere deep in our hearts. We have learned to make our bodies the ultimate scapegoat for all of our subsequent failures, and have fixated on it as a catalyst – Someday when I am [thinner, prettier, married, in a relationship, in better shape, a size six, etc. etc.] I will be happy. My life will be perfect.
Writing therapy has long been touted by mental health professionals as a tool for sexual trauma and domestic violence victims, as it allows the victim to recreate the experience in their own words, thereby increasing their agency, and their ability to regain control of what is often a very out-of-control experience. How can we take these tools and implement them in our own body image recovery? That is exactly what many bloggers are quickly finding out, as they use their blogs to slowly reinforce their negative self perception and body image, instilling confidence, and reaching out around the globe to find others that sympathize and are strengthened by the similarities in their own personal struggles.
How can you use online writing to reinforce and mend your body image?
- Above all else – be honest. When you are honest about your experiences, you inspire honesty and strength in others. You never know who are you are going to impact with your blog – or who is reading it from far away that might be struggling with the same issues that you are. Honesty is community building. Honesty is refreshing. Not ready to be publicly honest? Write about your body and your emotions in the privacy of your own house. Dedicate a journal to it. Tell yourself that you are safe to unleash all of the negativity that you’ve been storing up in your heart. Bottom line – get it out of your head and onto a piece of paper.
- Find some writing prompts to get you started. Did you love a post that you read? Did it inspire you to write your own version of the story? Do it! Contact that the writer of the post and let them know how much you loved it and identified with it. Create a post on your own blog linking it back to the original. Doing this will generate a community around the issue that you are grappling with, and you never know what kinds of supportive comments your post will garner. Looking for some prompts to write about in your private body image journal? Check out my Body Loving Homework, these prompts are easy, accessible, and can be done in the privacy of your own home.
- Become friends with other body positive bloggers on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networking sites. Build relationships with them. Generally people are happy to help, share their experiences, and support you as you work to overcome some of your personal obstacles. Extend yourself. Ask questions.There are plenty of people out there that have had similarly heartbreaking experiences! Band together and support one another as you pledge to love your body a little bit more everyday.
- Elicit support and love from your readers. Was a post that your wrote particularly painful or difficult for you? Say so. Again, be honest about your personal experiences. Likely when you extend yourself to your readers or blogging community, you will receive that love and trust back ten fold. Do you want to know what others think? Ask them. I’m sure they will be more than happy to comply.
- Do not be intimidated by the smallness of your blog, or your position on the weight/fitness spectrum. We all have to start somewhere, and what I’ve found is that when it comes to damaged body image or perceptions of self worth – the number on the scale is not a good indicator. You will be surprised by how many people identify with your struggle. Damaged body image knows no boundaries, it can be as strong within someone who is a size 2 as someone who weight 450 pounds – pain is pain, so reach out to other bloggers within your community and do not be fooled into thinking that someone has it all figured out just because they have a huge following or are the perfect example of fitness and health. We are all working to love ourselves more, and this is a struggle that deserves all of the tenderness, support, and strength that we can collectively muster.