On my blog entry entitled Issues with Body Image after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:
It must be hard to have more than one part who is not happy with your body. That is something I would have never considered till you described it. I have enough trouble with just a single part that is frustrated with my body.
Could you speak to how you got these parts to be more accepting of your physicality and how you got to the place where you could be more in control and integrated in a physical sense? Does that question make sense? ~Mia
From the perspective of a multiple, I do have parts that reject my body. Sometimes I will experience a child alter part that views my adult thighs as fat because that part still feels like it lives in the body of a skinny little girl. The physical difference between a woman’s body and a little girl’s body is jarring to that part of myself.
However, you don’t have to have dissociative identity disorder (DID) to reject or hate your body. Many child abuse survivors who never “split” hate or reject their bodies for a number of reasons. Some reject their bodies because their abusers harmed their bodies, which in turn led to harming the child emotionally. Others hate their bodies because they physically resemble an abusive family member’s body. Many child abuse survivors find that they can harm their bodies as a way of managing their emotions, such as cutting their pain into their bodies instead of feeling it, “stuffing down” emotions through binge eating instead of feeling them, etc.
As for how to move past this, it all comes from self-love and self-acceptance. Whether you are a multiple or “singleton,” all of your parts are “you,” so you can choose to love your body today just as you have chosen to reject your body in the past. I am not saying that this is easy — nothing about healing from child abuse is easy – but you really can “choose” your way toward loving and accepting your body.
The first step is to stop putting energy into hating your body. If you have been thinking negative thoughts about your body every day for decades, you are not going to be able to snap your fingers and simply love your body in an instant. Before you can turn the ship around, you have to start changing course.
You do this by choosing to stop beating yourself up. Whenever you feel tempted to think, “I’m fat,” or “I’m ugly,” replace that negative thought with something positive or, if you cannot do that, at least with a different thought, such as, “I wonder if the Braves won the game today.”
As you stop fueling your negative thoughts about your body (stop feeding the evil wolf), you can start throwing some morsels to your good wolf. Look for things to like about your body – your eye or hair color, etc. I now marvel that my body could endure so much punishment – first from my abusers and then from me through an eating disorder and self-injury – and still be in as good of shape as it is. Keep feeding that good wolf, and you will gradually begin to love and accept your body.
Photo credit: Hekatekris