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Written on the Body

Is this workshop for me?

  • I’ve been on diets all my life.
  • I have never liked my body.
  • I hate how my body is changing as I age.
  • I am living with an illness.
  • I have low self-esteem.

Research shows 60% of adults report feeling ashamed of the way they look, and ‘70% of adult women and 40% of adult men report that they felt pressure from the media to have a perfect body’ (Centre for Appearance Research 2012).

In another study of 3,452 women, 89% wanted to lose weight. (Garner, 1997). ‘Body image comes closest to being a universal trigger for shame in woman,’ (Brene Brown).

Body image is a problem in our society, with younger and younger children and many adult males and females concerned about their weight and appearance.

The media continues to remind us that the ideal body is healthy, young, thin, fertile and physically active. Unfortunately, while only 5% of women naturally possess the body type portrayed in the media, many of us continue to struggle to obtain ‘the ideal body’ creating disappointment, frustration and shame about our own bodies.

Our relationship with our body is the only relationship that is guaranteed to be with us from birth to death. How we manage and develop a healthy relationship with our body affects how fulfilled and happy we feel in many other areas of our lives – our work, personal relationships and our leisure time.

When our body fills us with shame and feelings of worthlessness, we jeopardise the connection we have with ourselves and with others. An unhealthy relationship with our bodies is linked to shame, eating disorders, addiction and low self-esteem. Personality traits such as perfectionism and self-criticism can also influence the development of a negative internalised image of your body.

Our relationship with our bodies

butterflyWe spend a lot of time fostering and developing good, healthy relationships with family, partners, friends, colleagues, and neighbours, yet many of us treat our own bodies with disdain, neglect and abuse. The very things we look for in all other relationships such as acceptance, consistency, compassion, loyalty and honesty is missing in this lifelong relationship with our bodies.

All relationships change over time and we need to be committed, flexible, accepting and willing to work on them. As we are in a life long relationship with our bodies it is essential to review our goals and priorities as life brings us and our body, new challenges.

The healthier and more accepting our relationship with our own body is, the more connected, open and compassionate we are to others. Our body is a wise teacher if we can listen to it and respond with respect and compassion.

Some of the challenges in this relationship with our bodies concern:

  • Appearance.
  • Sexuality.
  • Weight.
  • Infertility.
  • Health issues.
  • Loss of Function.
  • Ageing.
  • Gender.
  • Ethnicity.
  • Trauma.

The power of expressive writing

James Pennebaker has done years of study on the power of expressive writing and has shown how writing may improve body image in women who have a distorted body image or show early signs of an eating disorder.

In one study he hypothesized that labelling and acknowledging emotional experiences may change the way the person views themselves, especially if they already have a distorted body image.

‘Writing about different experiences, rather than keeping them bottled up inside also makes the person feel better emotionally’. (Smyth and Pennebaker 2008.)

What to expect in the workshop

Through a series of guided writing exercises, we will explore the complexity of our relationship with our bodies, discovering new ways to celebrate and honour this vessel that accompanies us on life’s journey. The workshop is a space to:

* Explore the stories we have about our bodies throughout life.

* To understand how the shamed body limits us.

* To reframe our body stories with self-compassion and joy.

* Identify our ‘body stories’ so we can write healthier narratives and build a more positive, nurturing relationship with our bodies.

This is a writing workshop, not a therapy group. It offers an alternative to therapy – a way to explore issues of self-esteem and negative, unhelpful body images over a life.

It will help you explore old shaming, negative and punishing stories we often have about our bodies. Learn to identify, understand and reframe these stories and discover how writing, self-compassion and mindfulness can help us build a positive narrative about our bodies and ourselves.

Other comments and questions

I have always had a positive body image, but am now frustrated with my body because I am ill, in pain and my movements are restricted.

When our bodies are ill – either chronic, short term, life threatening or non life- threatening, the relationship with our body becomes more difficult and we need to find ways to live differently.

There is often grief, disappointment, anger and frustration when our bodies get ill, are hurt or let us down. We can learn ways to be more compassionate, more accepting, less critical and kinder to our bodies at these times. This workshop gives an opportunity to ‘reframe’ some old stories and create new ones for the future.

I am frustrated with the changes in my body as it ages…. but that’s normal isn’t it?

Yes, our bodies naturally change with age, often including loss of function as well as changes in appearance. While the ageing process is normal, it is our perspective about this process that determines whether we have a healthy relationship with our bodies.

Acceptance and self-compassion about these changes are essential if we are to live a full and happy life. It becomes even more critical as we age to monitor our sleep, our diet and exercise to ensure that our body is well cared for.

I have always had issues with weight and I’ve given up trying to do anything.

This workshop isn’t about how we can lose weight, gain weight or change our bodies. The focus is on how to develop a healthy, happy relationship with our bodies in this moment, exactly how they are.

You will be encouraged to explore old stories that may no longer be useful and look at creating a new future for you and your body. Many of us are not even aware that we carry around a shame or anger story about our appearance.

This workshop will help shift the focus on how we can change our emotional reaction to our bodies rather than try to reshape them to fit an unachievable ideal.

Explore how the power of writing can help you be better friend to your own body

If you are interested in joining this workshop contact me.

This workshop provides writing tools to explore shaming, negative and punishing stories about our bodies. It is for anyone who has struggled to find a healthy positive relationship with themselves and their body. Learn how to identify how these old stories which are holding us back and build a life with a positive narrative about our bodies/ourselves.

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