Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Word of Kindness

Leslie Goldman, author of Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth about Women, Body Image and Re-Imagining the “Perfect" Body encourages women to write a letter to their most detested body part, offering an apology for the disdain they’ve habitually directed toward it. It seems that the letter-writing process allows you recognize how aggressive you’ve been toward yourself (there’s something about it that allows said body part to feel more “human”) and to stir up some self-compassion, which is a critical part of restoring a healthy body-image and overall self-esteem. The process calls to mind a famous Jungian quote: "We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”

While it might be easy to identify which body part you’d address, is it clear to you what you would say? And, if you were to engage in this process, what types of feelings would you encounter?

As an example:

Dear Stomach/Butt/Outer Thighs/Upper Arms, Etc.:

I’m sorry for all the blame I’ve cast your way.

I’m sorry for even briefly, and wildly, entertaining the notion that I’d like to be rid of you. . . and, even more so, for imagining hacking you off with a circular saw.

I’m sorry that I look at you with such scorn, and that I’m not willing to accept you for who you are.

I have to admit that I sometimes think you’re cute—you’re dimply and cuddly, and, most important, I realize that if I can’t accept you, there’s really no way I can accept me.


FAT BITCH said...

Hi Dr. Stacey :)

Ok - here's my letter:

My Dear Boobs,

Please forgive me for my years of hatred of you guys and I am deeply ashamed of myself to the point of tears because some women who have had to endure cancer surgery on them would give anything to have you on their bodies.

With this in mind, if you should decide to grow smaller as I lose my weight, I will be ever grateful for this happening but I promise that from today on in, I won't complain about your size because Dr. Stacey woke me up and I will not ever forget this as long as I shall live.

PalmTreeChick said...

I had to do an assignment sort of like this for my life coach. She had me write what I would say to one of my body parts to make it feel better about itself. I, of course, turned it around and did it my own way. For example, my stomach...I said "you'd be much happier if you had a 6-pack." Not really what she was looking for. ;)

I think everyone who reads your post should try that exercise. :)

I love your blog!! You must be sick of my nonsense posts though!

allisonsky said...

Dear stretched out yucky skin and stretch marks on belly,
I try to avoid looking at you at all costs because I feel you are to ugly to look at. I cover you with my panties as quickly as I can, and hide you in a one piece bathing suit. You are a constant reminder that I am not a youngster anymore and also a reminder of my 2 pregnancies......when you were stretched to the limit so that my babies could have room in there and not be premature. You housed my most beautiful treasures for a combination of a year and a half (9 months + 9 months, for those that can't do the math). You made me feel like a blossoming beautiful woman during my two pregnancies, and I will never forget it. Thank you gross saggy belly for giving me the 2 most precious gifts I will ever recieve. For that I love you for it and wil try not to avoid you, but thank you for all that you have done for me. Hopefully, after this letter I will not have any more visions of taking a scissors to you and chopping you off, but look at you lovingly for bring 2 gems into the world.
Thank you Dr. Stacey for helping me accept what I can not change. (unless I go under the knife, which I am to scared to do, and has it's own set of consequences)

Kristi said...

"and, even more so, for imagining hacking you off with a circular saw"

Have you been reading my mind? I think in most scenarios it's more of a machete than a circular saw, but the same thing, essentially : )

I'll have to get back to you on my letter to my most hated "part". Right now, I'm in PMS mode and can't even begin to narrow it down.

meg said...

"and, even more so, for imagining hacking you off with a circular saw"

I didn't realize this was such a common visualization! In my case, though, I imagine hacking it (whatever part) off with a knife and frying it in a pan....um, definitely not a healthy thought : (

My head hurts right now, but I think in a better moment the exercise might be beneficial.

drstaceyny said...

Hi, FB--I'm glad this was helpful. . . It does seem that recognizing how other people suffer sometimes puts things in perspective. I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to post your letter.

drstaceyny said...

PTC--that wasn't the assignment!! ; )

Thanks, as always, for your input.

drstaceyny said...

AS--that's such an interesting way to reframe this--not only did your abdomen give you your babies, but the "stretching" was necessary so that they'd be healthy (and not premature).

drstaceyny said...

Kristi--it seems we can get pretty violent with these images. I think it's helpful to notice that and begin to wonder why. I'm glad this resonated with you.

drstaceyny said...

Meg--maybe not "healthy," but certainly important to recognize and to try to decode--that's a pretty powerful image.

Seems like the "hacking" piece was helpful--I'm glad b/c it felt a little violent to write, but I've heard it before, so I thought it might be good to share.

psychbaby said...

Hi Dr. Stacey,

My first visit here - thanks for your sharing.

Regarding this post - awhile back in Tx for ED, an "assignment" was to caress my own face and talk to myself as I would a baby, someone else.

I smoothed my forehead and my hair away from my face, and soothed that person who I was stroking lovingly. "It's ok, you're ok... I love you"

It was really quite emotional for me - felt kind of weird. Unfortunately, like many such exercises, the feelings don't last.

Thanks Stacey.

drstaceyny said...

PB--that sounds like a pretty powerful exercise--can imagine a lot of tears. Unfortunately, however, I'm not sure doing something like that once can compete with the billion other (opposite) messages we tell ourselves (by the day, hour, or even minute). I think one would have to do that repeatedly over time in order to start to chip away at the other "reality" we've created.

Thanks for reading. . .

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