Tag Archives: body dimorphic disorder

me drawing me, you drawing you

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!

shame-flipI 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: mybodyisloved@yahoo.ca. 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.

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with loving eyes

belle3831Marc Vella, whose mission in life has been, for the past 20 years, to travel around the world with a baby grand piano, park it in the wildest of places, play, and then encourage others with absolutely no musical training to play, too, simply by connecting to their hearts. His message is one of love, and the importance of looking at everyone and everything with loving eyes. What a wonderfully crazy thing to do!

I think his message is exactly what we need most to learn, in every aspect of our lives. To look with loving eyes. This is, after all, simply an attitude applied from the inside-out… requiring only a change of perspective and resulting in the kind of non-judgemental acceptance that frees us from what separates us from ourselves and each other.

Apply this to body image issues and it’s a no-brainer, right? Maybe, maybe not, but changing our perspectives is a practice, not a pill. It struck me today that by chosing to take my own self-portraits to draw from,  (to avoid having someone else look at me through the camera lens) something could be missing. In many cases the photos taken by others seemed more gentle than mine, because the people closest to me who took the pictures (a few close girlfriends and my male partner) were ALREADY looking at me with love. So then the translation into a drawing was not so harsh, because I could already see the beauty in the photograph.

I suppose by starting out on my own it helped to break down the pride, the resistance, the need to APPEAR perfect. I have always had a complex about my weight, even when I was stick-thin I thought I could somehow be better. This drawing was done almost 6 years after the photograph was taken by a female friend of mine. I thought, at the time, that I was huge (good example of body dimorphic or dysmorphic disorder), as I had gone from being stick-thin due to anexoric behaviours to having a little meat on my bones because of eating more compulsively. But this extra weight, in my mind, made me unattractive. Since I didn’t get around to drawing this one until I was 25 pounds heavier, in hindsight, I can see how ridiculously off my vision was. From my new viewpoint, suddenly the “offensive overweight” picture had become the “when I was thin and lovely” picture”.

When I look at all the suffering going in the world, be it the devastation from natural disasters and wars in the less developed countries, to apparently healthy, young people around me dying of cancer or the many people chained to addictions or living, hungry, on city streets, it embarrasses me to be plagued with such a dis-ease as being obsessed with my looks, when in fact, I am healthy and beautiful!  Then again, if it pushes me to look at myself and all people with love rather than maintaining the separateness of the human condition that leads to loneliness and wars, perhaps it is not such a bad thing…