Oak City Psychology

Serving the City of Raleigh and Surrounding Areas

Category: recovery

Love Your Body

When I practiced in Atlanta a local charity group focused on raising eating disorder awareness sponsored Love Your Body Month every February.  I got used to thinking of February as a time to not just honor relationships that we value but to also work on valuing our relationship with our own bodies.  As a female in our society, and more often as a male as well, it can be hard to love the body you’ve been given.  We receive messages from the media about how our bodies are toned enough, aren’t wrinkle free enough, aren’t young enough, aren’t beautiful enough, aren’t sexy enough, and on, and on, and on.  As busy professional women, wives, mothers, daughters, and friends (and in some cases all of or a combination of those) our own self-care can get lost in the shuffle.  Time alone, time to exercise, time to prepare delicious food, and time to relax all take a back seat to work projects, house projects, kids projects, and friend projects.  All of those identities scramble for attention and we forget to take care of the vessel that carries us from place to place and interacts in a physical way with the world.

In Baroque art the female body was beautiful.  And the more curves you could see the more beautiful the body.  As women moved from being only a prop for art and into a more active role in society, the image of a beautiful woman’s body also began to change.  We have hit extremes in these areas – Twiggy in the 60s and Kate Moss in the 90s – but it seems that at least some areas of society are finally starting to recognize the damage we have done to women and girls by placing unrealistic expectations on their bodies.  We are starting to see that deadly eating disorders are wreaking havoc on the lives of girls as young as 8 and 9 years old.  We are starting to see that women’s hatred of their bodies leads them to over exercise, restrict their foods, and stop enjoying life.  We are starting to notice the woman who has been punishing herself on the elliptical for over an hour.  And it’s about time.  I work with so many women and girls who’s desire to be thin has outweighed their desire to be alive.  Women who see themselves only as a number on the scale or on the tag in the back of some clothes.  Women who measure their worth by the width of their waist.

It’s time we moved past those incomplete measurements.  It’s time we started measuring a woman by her intelligence, her kindness, and her wisdom, and not by her waistline, her weight, and her BMI.  My wish for every girl is that she is able to say with confidence that she loves her body.  My wish for every woman is that she is able to say with confidence that she is learning to love a body that has been abused by our society for too long.  It’s time we all loved our bodies, our round, curvy, thin, lean, overweight, pregnant, infertile, scarred, and unscarred bodies.  They are beautiful as they are.  They are perfectly imperfect, just as they are.  This February, I hope you focus on building a healthy relationship with your own body and learn to truly love the body you have.

Simple vs. Easy

I had a client say to me recently, “Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy.” This hit me as such a profound statement. I think it’s probably something we are all aware of on some level, but never actually verbalize. Some of you reading this might be thinking, “Wait a second, I learned about synonyms in elementary school and simple and easy definitely have the same meaning. So I got a little curious and looked up the definitions of each word.

Let’s start with simple. Dictionary.com provides 29 definitions for this seemingly simple word. For our purposes the two best definitions are “not complicated” and “easy to understand, deal with, use.” To me this implies something that has minimal steps and can be explained in about 3 words. Comparatively, easy had much fewer definitions, with a grand total of 17. Again, two stand out as the best for psychological purposes, 1)not hard or difficult, requiring no great labor or effort and 2)free from pain, discomfort, worry, or care. So, while we may have learned that simple and easy were synonyms in elementary school, when we really look at the meanings, simple seems to refer to the plan or the steps involved in a process while easy applies more to the effort required to carry out the plan.

OK, so now that we’ve had our grammar lesson for the day, what could this possibly have to do with psychology? It comes back to my client’s observation that while something may be simple, it most certainly will not be easy. This seems to be an innate understanding that anyone who has ever had therapy has. Anyone who has sat with their therapist discussing their depression will at some point express shame or guilt about not being able to follow through on the steps they know are necessary to feel better. And for the most part they are not difficult steps. The steps tend to be along the lines of get out of bed every morning, take a shower, eat breakfast, and participate in one activity that you enjoy. Simple? Yes. Ease? No. Being depressed is similar to having the worst flu you’ve ever experienced except no one seems to believe that you’re really sick. Can you imagine having the flu and getting the message from loved ones that you are weak because you became sick?

The same thing occurs for almost every psychological concern. Friends and loved ones become frustrated with the person who is depressed or anxious or addicted because they can’t seem to follow the simple steps to recovery. It is similar to people who blame battered women for staying in abusive relationships. While the steps are simply – pack your bags, grab your kids, and run like hell – they are far from easy. Wouldn’t it be more useful to help the person discover what keeps them from taking the steps, rather than to blame them for not making it look easy? Sometimes it is necessary to understand the system that keeps the simple steps from being easy. Nothing in life is easy; anyone who has walked out their door recognizes that. However, when it comes to psychological issues, the shame and guilt attached to messages that recovery should be easy keep people stuck.

So,the next time you’re tempted to tell your friend how easy it would be for her to just dump her scummy boyfriend or to tell you dad that if he would just leave the house he wouldn’t feel so depressed, think about the message you’re really sending. You’re probably confusing something that is simple with something that will never be easy. Maybe a better way to show your love, caring, and support would be to sit with your friend or your dad and listen, cry, or just hold her/his hand. What could be easier?

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