It seems there is no escaping the onslaught of media and its portrayals of the ‘ideal body.’
The advertisements are everywhere, invading our lives through billboards, radio, TV and even right into our hands. The messages are clear, we should always be striving to achieve the perfect body type. ‘Are you beach body ready?’ ‘Why not try these giant, sucky-in pants so the world doesn’t have to suffer your lumps and bumps!’, ’Here’s a quick hack pill for slimming down fast’, ‘Have you got the perfect silky hair or flawless skin?’ We have to be incredibly resilient people not to be affected by such messages. Our young people especially so. The media and their messages are literally in their hands. Our mobile phones are often the last thing we look at night and the first thing we see in the morning.
Although I did not realise it at the time, I had developed a strategy to re-affirm my worth and take pride in my body (wobbly bits and all) and so be happier in myself. In my late twenties and early thirties I had developed a strong belief that nobody should suffer mentally or physically in the pursuit of someone else’s idea of the perfect body. It made my blood boil to see my friends, peers and colleagues always striving to lose just a few more pounds before they were deemed acceptable in society or for work.
Like many young people I battled with my own unhealthy relationship between my body and mind in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered Bellydance and it was this that turned my world around. For years I would say it was Bellydance that helped me accept and be proud of my body. However it was only when I discovered NLP that I realised I had formed a strategy to get me to that place. When I dissected what it was that I felt, saw, heard during that time I was able to make more sense of it and apply it to other situations when needed.
Going to Bellydance classes was so much more than just attending a class once or twice a week to learn the moves. I had always loved dancing in any form, but now I was going to a class and physically doing something that the media has spent so long trying to suppress – I learned how to jiggle and wobble and shake unapologetically – and it felt good! I was actually celebrating my curves instead of trying to conceal them with giant, sucky-in, control underwear. This was the first step in my Strategy. I was taking part in a physical exercise that celebrated women in all their shapes and sizes – and it felt so liberating!!
As the weeks went on I began to associate this physical activity of wobbling and jiggling with a positive emotion. I took pride in my progress and seeing myself shimmy in time with the beats brought about another positive feeling. The internal voice in my head was telling my body to shimmy and wobble instead of convincing me to lose weight or worrying if my bum looked big. Music has always brought me joy so that was an easy one to slip into this strategy.
So now I knew what I could do for myself if ever I was feeling unsure about my appearance. There was a formula I could follow involving visual, auditory and kinaesthetic prompts.
The kinaesthetic part was the physical movement and the feelings that this brought about. The auditory was the music, the rhythms and beats and also the noise of the coin belts which shook in time with my movements. The visual element was all the beautiful costumes I got to wear, the smiles on my students faces and seeing others dance too. These elements combined brought about such a positive feeling, a pride in my body that I was able to do such a thing. Of course, I repeated this strategy many times over the years and it is now so engrained in me that all I have to think about or say to myself is ‘bellydance’ and I immediately feel better about myself.
So how can you map this strategy across to your life so that it can work for you? Well, of course, you could take up bellydancing, but that’s not for everyone, I understand. However you could ‘try on’ my strategy or parts of my strategy in a different way.
The important things that worked for me were:
- Doing something physical that I enjoyed – this could be any physical activity that brings you joy, perhaps sport, swimming dancing or even walking in the fresh air.
- Seeing myself progress in that activity. I value learning so seeing myself improve over time gave me a great sense of achievement.
- Using music as a queue to stimulate those good feelings. You know what it feels like when a song comes on and you just can’t sit still?
- Self talk – I think this is one of the most important things which can be applied to any situation. Telling myself that it was okay to wobble and shimmy was a revelation for me. It was in direct contrast with what I was trying not to do. And then telling myself I was doing a good job too. I was retraining my mind.
The key for me here was the repetition of all the elements to fully cement that positive emotion into place. But it is a proven strategy that works and it can be called upon in moments of doubt.
We all have strategies for everything we do. We must identify and eliminate the ones that don’t serve us and reinforce and utilise the strategies that enhance our lives and therefore our overall happiness.
I invite you to think back about a time you did something well. What did you see, hear and feel at the time? Can you reproduce that moment in your mind? How can you map that strategy and take it with you into the future to enhance your happiness?