I am an average-sized woman, and when I tell people I use self-portrait drawing to work on body image and shame issues, I have often felt like I was being looked at sideways like “What, why you? You’re fine… you’re pretty… what’s the problem?” The problem is in my mind, but it affects the way I feel about myself, the way I act, and the opportunities I allow myself to embrace, or not, in life. This applies to everyone who is unhappy with their bodies – even in extreme cases of anorexia or obesity, the actual body itself is not the root of the problem, it’s the way we perceive or ignore the body that creates so much tension. The invisible suffering makes people feel very disabled. Many women, in particular, find themselves over- or under-weight at various periods in their lives… following pregnancies, when in deep emotional pain, and due to hormonal fluctuations brought on by aging, menopause and metabolism changes. For many people, difficult life experiences can lead to compulsive overeating or a loss of appetite, which have similar effects to yo-yo dieting and bingeing. If all these difficulties are rooted in false beliefs, negative thoughts, and unreal perceptions, no wonder so many outside interventions to make changes are unsuccessful!
I have been practicing self portraiture for ten years, between ages 36 and 46, and I have drawings of me in small, medium and large sizes. But they’re all me. Obviously I prefer to show what I consider the better ones… but for those who share this form of suffering, I promise to share curvier images and the bone-thin drawings of myself too. Because I’m blogging about this does not mean I am free from ego and vanity. Of course I think the prettiest images were drawn when I was healthiest, happiest and medium-sized. But the clincher is: I was more critical, unhappy, and disgusted with my body when I was younger and thinner than I am now, even though I’m getting older and carrying more weight. Drawing the body helps see the beauty in it, just like drawing a flower can be a celebration of beauty.
I invite you to try drawing yourself; your face, your silhouette or your entire body no matter what size or age you are, to experience the shift in perspective that happens when contemplating anything from a new angle. I’ve often been discouraged with my drawings along the way, but if I stayed with the portraits long enough to let judgement about my drawing skills and my body fall away, I began to see something that was and is always there… the simple beauty of every human body just as it is!
You don’t have to be an artist to practice self-portraiture. I will offer as much guidance as I can through this site. You can write to me personally and send drawings, questions, anecdotes… anything you want to share on the subject of self-love or self-hate related to your body image: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will only post what you send with your permission, but it’s very possible that what you have to share can also really help someone else who is suffering.