Body Image is the New Glass Ceiling

 

Written by: Gracie who is a friend, spiritual and recovery warrior, and contributing writer to those at Unpolished Journey.

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I would like to invite you back to your middle school gymnasium.

You remember…the smells, the hormones; the walls covered in motivational sports posters reading, “Just Do it” and “Never Give Up” and “If you think you can do it, you CAN”.

Ok, I know that these memories are not the most pleasant to recall, so before we regress to far and start checking our chins for the ever-feared new zit, let me explain why I took us all the way back.

I have been reflecting lately on my fears to propel my life into the great unknown of brilliance, success, dreams and goals.  I suddenly had flashbacks to all of the motivational “Just Do it” posters and I thought…why can’t I just do it?  Why can’t I charge forward and grab my life by the reigns?  I decided to take stock of where my thoughts and energy were going because maybe this would give me insight into why I am so stuck.  So I decided…just for the day, to follow my thoughts.  The day would start off ok.  I would wake up and stretch in bed…I would roll over, pull the covers back up, roll over again, check my phone…

And then the war would begin.

“You should get up and exercise”

I’m so tired.

“It’s time to get up, are you going to exercise now…or later in the day?”

I’m so tired.

“Are you going to eat breakfast or not?”

I’m so tired.

“Are you hungry? Just ignore it, don’t think about it.  You should just go work out.”

I’m so tired.

I pull myself out of bed to go about my day, but not more than two seconds after I swing my feet onto the ground, the war continues.

“Don’t look in the mirror”

I’m so uncomfortable in my body.

“Look in the mirror, look at your body”

I’m so uncomfortable in my body.

“You’re not good enough, you’re not happy”

I’m so uncomfortable in my body.

The day continued and the war continued.  Of course I had moments with friends, in classes, or at work where I was so distracted by the company of others that I could experience moments of rest from the war inside.  These moments talking with others and keeping busy seemed to offer the only cease-fire inside my head.  Suddenly I understood why I couldn’t “just do it”. Body image and all consuming thoughts from my eating disorder were stunting my potential to simply interact with my world.  This seems to be the theme of my eating disorder.  The minute my strong, resilient, vibrant spirit begins to sing and chase a dream my eating disorder starts firing…enticing me, distracting me and doing everything in its power to consume all of my thoughts so that I cannot fulfill the true callings of my soul.

I began to think about all of the people I know who struggle with body image.  I thought of those friends I know with eating disorders and those friends I know without eating disorders.  The common denominator of negative body image seems to bring everyone together.  Someone without an eating disorder may not understand the madness of a constant war or the intrusive battle with food, self-destruction, and body image that can’t be simply “turned off”.  However, most people can relate to a dysfunctional relationship to their body.  The media is absolutely rampant with images of the ideal, the perfect…the photo shopped.  Men can never be ripped or muscular enough.  Women can never be thin or toned enough.  I began to think of the hours I spend each day uncomfortable in my own skin, wishing to change, alter or perfect my appearance.  This always baffles me because physical appearance NEVER makes my list when reflecting on my values or spiritual priorities.  However I find myself consumed daily.  Then I thought about the millions of hours other women and men have wasted looking at magazines, sifting Google for diets, joining a diet program, looking in the mirror, taking selfies, or slaving away at the elliptical.  It’s no wonder dreams are dying.  It’s a no wonder people are not living their highest potential.  There is a new glass ceiling separating us from the true yearnings of our soul.  Body Image is the new glass ceiling.  The negative body thoughts are preventing me and I would guess many other people from chasing what we really want.

I can personally say that fighting the body image war daily is preventing me from giving my time and attention to the things that really matter to me.  And even when I do begin to pursue these dreams, those negative thoughts and comparisons creep back in.  My negative body thoughts whisper…you can’t do that, when you look like this.  Or, don’t go to that interview looking like that.

What could we all do if we didn’t have to fight our bodies?  What could we achieve in a world without mirrors and cameras?  What would you do?  What chances would you take?  Where would your energy go if you were simply a soul without a body?

The glass ceiling can be broken, but first one must recognize the true calling of their soul.  One must choose to consciously redirect the consuming distractions to perfect a body that in reality will always be changing.  I don’t want body image to be the obstacle that keeps me from achieving my full potential and I refuse to let body image dictate where I put my time and energy.  I can see through that glass ceiling, now I just have to break it.

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