Brene Brown is a (or THE) leading researcher in vulnerability and shame. She has a Netflix special titled Call to Courage. She is also a best-selling author of several books on the topic.
Why is this so important? Because shame and blame are 2 of the most significant ways in which a low level of emotional intelligence shows up and we need the awareness and then the skills to be able to work through this in order to break free and through shaming and blaming.
In Brene’s special, Call to Courage, she mentions that women’s #1 shaming target is their body image. When in difficult emotional situations, women go directly to shaming or blaming their bodies as the root cause or reason for the situation.
My spouse isn’t in a great mood = I don’t look good in these jeans.
I didn’t get that promotion = I’ve gained some weight and likely my boss thinks I’m not capable anymore.
And so many other similar statements such as these.
WHY we have these beliefs is an exploration into the messages we received throughout our lives and the confirmation of those messages year over year.
For example, the messages I received from a young age included:
a. Cellulite isn’t attractive. You need to use cellulite cream to get rid of that, so you’ll be attractive.
b. You’d be prettier if you wore more lipstick.
c. You need to keep your hair longer and blonde so that people will find you attractive and want to get to know you.
d. Wearing a dress is more feminine and you need to be feminine because you’re a girl.
These messages were reinforced in my exposure to television, movies, magazines, romantic relationships, etc. My self-esteem was tangled in the opinions of others.
Emotional intelligence under the Self-Perception realm, provides us exercises to explore and understand these messages and change the narrative that is preventing us from succeeding, preventing us from being authentic, preventing us from showing up in life.
Self-perception realm concerns the inner self and regulates how in touch with our feelings we are, how good we feel about ourselves and what we’re doing in life, and our willingness to pursue our life goals. It includes the following 3 skills:
1. Self-regard. Respecting and accepting ourselves appreciating our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing our limitations and consenting to the fact that our limitations do not make us less worthy. General feelings of security with self, and self-assuredness.
2. Self-actualization. Realization of your potential and willingness to pursue relevant experiences that strive toward maximum development. Life-long effort and enthusiasm toward achievement of personal goals.
3. Emotional self-awareness. Recognizing our emotions, distinguishing between them, knowing why we experience them, identify their impact on ourselves and those around us, and the triggers to our emotions.
One of the best exercises to BUST through body image shaming is challenging AND life changing. It involves 2 things.
A full body length mirror.
I know, it’s already sounding intimidating. Trust me. I can tell you from personal experience that the first 5-6 times are difficult. This is normal. Everyone I have given this exercise to has said the same thing. And then it gets easier. And then it gets better. And then it becomes empowering. And then its life changing.
Maybe your first 1-2 times you can’t be fully naked. Perhaps you need to keep under garments on. That’s okay. One step in front of the other.
Stand in front of the mirror.
First time notice where your eyes go first. The most critical part? The most favorite part?
Then begin a full body assessment. Start from the top.
Acknowledge each body part and thank it for the service it gives you, the things this body part allows you to do. This is gratitude in action for our body.
Take your time. Give yourself time. If you experience moments of discomfort that are overwhelming, close your eyes and breathe. Deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel the emotion, let it be with you, and continue to breathe until the emotion subsides. When you are ready, open your eyes and continued.
Your first time may not be a full body scan. That’s okay. The goal is progress toward acceptance and acknowledgement of the purpose and strength that each part of your body provides for you.
This exercise has nothing to do with HOW or WHAT the body part appears. Has nothing to do with comparison to anyone else. Our bodies are the vessels through which we DO.
The purpose of this exercise, done daily, is to build your awareness of the narrative that plays over and over about your body image. The goal is to then change that narrative by focusing on function over form. Because every body type and shape can do. Health and fitness and success comes in all shapes and sizes.
When you do this exercise, you may find yourself thinking about your health and fitness. You may become inspired to do things that will allow your body to perform better; because you need it to in order to achieve your goals. That’s GREAT! This is the most solid form of motivation for physical fitness endeavours you can find. Spurred by your desire to achieve YOUR goals rather than spurred by negative narratives to conform to inaccurate definitions of worth or beauty.
Women with children that are female. Feel free to share this exercise with them. To do it together. To lead by example is of incredible importance. They are watching you ALL. THE. TIME. They are learning the definition of worth and value from you. And when they see that your worth is not connected to your external beauty, and instead is only your internal beauty, the cycle of body shaming will end.