|Photo from the Walt Whitman archive|
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.I realize that a lot of my posts have been dancing around the idea of body image and how I feel, think I should feel, or how people seem to be telling me to feel, about my body. You can see a bunch of them if you click on the body image label.
There was yesterday's post about the friend who brushed off my suggestion that losing weight might make me feel better. There were the posts about HAES and the idea that weight loss is not a good goal. There is the eternal question of how self-love fits in with a desire to change. It's not just me -- this is one of the central issues, if not the central issue of weight-loss blogland.
All of this discussion about how we feel, how people think we should feel, how we should feel, etc., are missing one big major thing: we don't feel one way all of the time. The other thing that seems to get left out of body image discussions is that we don't feel a certain way because we decide to feel that way. Emotions aren't logical. As humans our "feeling brain" is a completely separate system from our "reasoning brain," one that is not accessible to it.
I guess I shouldn't drag everyone else into this, because I can only definitively talk about myself. I don't feel one way all of the time. I can be feeling great about the way I look, and seeing an unflattering photo can throw me into self-doubt. I can be feeling bad about myself and someone can compliment me and brighten my outlook. What doesn't seem to work well for me is telling myself how I should feel. I can try to look for evidence that my gloomy outlook is unrealistic, but I can't change my body image by sheer force of will.
I'm sure I've quoted this before, but I was deeply delighted when I read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and realized I wasn't the only one listening to the kind of craziness she calls "KFKD:"
f you are not careful, station KFKD (K-F*****) will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime.I think it's wrong to expect that a perfectly consistent rosy self-image is the norm and the rest of us are all screwed up. I would really be uncomfortable around a person who never, ever experienced a moment of self-doubt. I would probably suspect that person of being a psychopath. Or at least, it would make it hard for me to be my real, flawed, human self around them.