How did you get on last week I wonder?
Can we really think ourselves thin? Let me give the short answer first “No”!
Now this might surprise some of you, you might think that because I use NLP that I might believe it is all in the mind. Here’s my take on it. Success comes when we combine thinking the right thoughts and taking the right action. Just thinking about being thin without taking any action is just wishful thinking.
However taking action while creating toxic thinking patterns is just as unhelpful as just thinking alone. Success comes from a combination of thinking positively and acting positively.
Let’s start by considering negative body image and how this manifests. Some of you may have heard of a condition called body dysmorphic disorder. This involves perceived ugliness of self and can include body shape and size as well as perceptions of “defects”.
In clinical cases there can be very serious results for the patient in terms of depression and can even lead to suicide. Many people seem to have a non-clinical version of this. They are unhappy with some part of their body but it doesn’t rule their lives.
Where this is relevant to our explorations is where people perceive themselves in a way that is unhelpful to their sense of self and happiness. For example, many people perceive themselves as bigger than they are.
One interesting study involved showing some women silhouettes of women shapes and asking them to pick which one represented their size. Many of the women picked a body shape that was at least two sizes bigger than their actual size. They were then asked to pick out which shape they thought was the most attractive to men. Again many of the women picked at least two sizes smaller than their actual size.
Interestingly enough their partners were also asked to make some assessments. The men were more likely to pick out their partner’s body accurately and often said a body size larger than their partner was the most attractive.
So here we see self perception and perception by others is not always the same.
On the other end of the scale (pun intended), people who have become overweight in the extreme often under-estimate what they think the scale will read. What I have not found studied anywhere is what is going on for these people in turn of their internal image. The number on a scale is very different to our internal image.
We also know that people suffering from anorexia also have body dysmorphic tendencies, this will include their perception of the external image in the mirror as well as their internal image. I know of one young woman who was dangerously thin who in my presence looked at her self in the mirror and called herself “fat”. She had just eaten an apple and then pointed to her stomach and said she could see where it was poking out. As far as I could see there was no evidence of this.
So what can we learn from all this?
As human beings we are very good at distorting our perception of ourselves including our body shape, size and attractiveness. All of the time that we hold a negative internal picture of ourselves we are likely to be reducing our feelings of happiness and well-being. If we are engaged in a healthy eating and exercise plan we risk sabotaging are motivation.
So how do we make lasting changes to how we think about ourselves?
The first step is to challenge both how you perceive yourself in a mirror and how you represent yourself in your own mind. One way to start is to see yourself through the eyes of someone who love’s you. This idea has been used by so many people in the past I don’t know who to credit it too, I just know it’s a great idea.
If this is something you find challenging to do start by finding one feature that you can accept as being attractive, maybe your eyes or your ears or even your ankles. We all have one feature that we can at least privately acknowledge is attractive. Look at that feature directly if you can or in the mirror (looking directly at one’s eyes might be a challenge!).
Give yourself permission to admire yourself.
Write down in your journal what it is about that feature that is attractive.
Now close your eyes and make a picture of yourself in your mind and see how easy it is to notice that attractive feature. While looking at that picture of yourself make the picture itself bigger, brighter, more colourful and vibrant. Look at the expression on your face in that picture and make sure you look happy and motivated. Notice how good you feel about yourself as you look at that picture.
Work with this technique over the next week or so and let me know how you get on, next week we will extend it further and take you to the next step. If you decide to start noticing other attractive features make a note of those too and know you are already ahead as you make more positive internal pictures of yourself.
Now for some news!
I have just received confirmation that I will be speaking at the NLP Conference, London in November. I will be speaking about how to help clients with self esteem issues. If you want more information click on the conference link below