If you haven’t heard Ed Sheeran’s song “Shape of You” then seriously, what rock have you been hiding under? I fell in love with it the first time I heard it; it helped that it was being used as music for some amazing choreography. Check it out! Music and dance are definitely two of my most favourite things. While lockdown has put a stop to the dancing (thought much kitchen dancing has taken place), music has helped me stay grounded throughout. I’m one of those people whose airpods practically live in their ears.
When it was first released (back in early 2017 I think) I used to listen to it and hope that one day someone would feel that way about me. But how could that happen if I still didn’t really love and accept me (and not just my body but all of me)? Which brings me to my topic for today. Our Values and Beliefs. Do you know what yours are? And did anyone ever tell you that you can consciously choose them? When I first started studying Counselling I had no clue.
In short, Values are things you believe to be important, and Beliefs are what you think is true, even if it can’t be proven. And the reason these are both so important, is they ultimately impact our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Most of us develop these core values and beliefs through childhood and that’s why it’s so important that we take time to examine them in adulthood. What you’ll find is some serve you well but others just aren’t part of who you really are.
I grew up in a home where how you looked, and the size of your body was evaluated daily. I learned that to be loved, or even loveable, my body had to look a certain way, and I knew I was straying from the ideal by age 10. It made me feel awkward in my skin. Why did I get the short legs? Why did I get the big boobs? while my sisters were taller, long legged and slim. It would be years before I realised comparison is the mother of misery. To compensate for the pain I experienced at not being what my father deemed beautiful, I ate more! Then, as happens for many of us, my father’s critical voice (and mother’s to a certain extent; she was fighting her own demons) eventually became my own.
Only when I was much older (ok, so recently) did I come to understand that “a slim body is best” is a core value I carry. It’s pretty hard to change this. Many of us have received this message, it’s part of our western culture. In my 20’s, being a size zero (UK 4) was all the rage, something to aspire to! At my slimmest I was still a 12. Even when I succeeded in loving myself enough to achieve this (because it only happens when I am able to accept myself as I am, otherwise it’s a battle I never win), after a while I would live in fear of gaining weight again.
About five years ago, I said screw it. I’m not fighting this fight anymore. But then my life blew up in divorce and I experienced the greatest abandonment I thought I’d ever know (turns out the real abandonment is the one I committed of myself). Unsurprisingly, I fed the pain once again; I’ll always be a chocoholic.
When I wrote a blog about this song three years ago, I was unaware that I was still carrying a deeply help belief (what I interpret from my Value to be true) that I am deeply unloveable as I am. As I became more aware of this, I struggled with how to change it. The problem is, trying to un-think a thought is pretty impossible, and unlikely to change a core value or a deeply embedded belief. You’ve got to come up with new ones.
I recently completed a course of EMDR focusing on the abandoned me, and through this I had a breakthrough session where I told myself “it’s just a body”. I don’t mean I stopped caring about it, in fact I became more grateful for this human existence. What I felt was a separation of my identify from the physical form my spirit has taken in this life. This is the body I have been given and it’s my job to care for it while I’m in it, but there is little point in judging it and demeaning it. It’s a vessel, it’s not me.
Meditation has also been critical in helping to change my attachment to my thoughts and beliefs, and I’m working on consciously choosing values that I are important to the real me.
If you struggle with accepting and loving your body and see all around you images of “perfect” bodies, please do yourself a favour and check out Danae Mercer. She does an epic job of showing us what a real body looks like, and how we cannot and should not be comparing ourselves to images of “supposed perfection” on social media.