Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)—struggling with body image issues—can be a life-long challenge.
BY BRENT HEINZE
One of the aspects of queer life is how we relate to our bodies. Some of us may feel we’re too chubby or too skinny, or that we do not have enough muscle, lacking the beach-ready body sculpted from hours at the gym. These feelings can have some significant negative impacts on our lives and may lead us into some dark places.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)—struggling with body image issues—can be a life-long challenge. Often people avoid looking at their own reflections or limit social activities based on how they feel about their appearance. When taken to extremes, eating disorders or obsessions with working out can develop. Most of us are familiar with anorexia or bulimia where calories are restricted, cardiovascular exercise increases, and binging on food can be rapidly followed by getting it out of the body as quickly as possible. Body dysmorphia is a common phenomenon in our society where a person’s perception of their own physical image is significantly flawed. What they see in the mirror or in pictures can depress or horrify themselves and individuals can spend in exorbitant amount of time, energy, and money trying to make their outside appearance more acceptable. Unfortunately, these efforts are rarely successful enough.
It doesn’t seem to matter if you grew up heavy or scrawny. Once you develop a discomfort or distain for your own body, it can follow you throughout your life regardless of how your body changes over time. The effects of body dysmorphia can reach far beyond simply not liking how you look. Most often a person’s body image is highly inaccurate and that hateful perception of their own body can lead into emotional pain causing depression or anxiety while limiting social opportunities to connect with others. People may develop concerning feelings including shame, loneliness, isolation, or despair.
Jordan Deifik, who holds a master’s degree in medical sciences, identifies the importance of working to address these perceived imperfections. He feels that “although it is difficult to change how we see the image of our body, we can modify what we may tell ourselves about that reflection.”
It is important to continue working to improve our lives in many ways, not just physically. We can also remind ourselves that we are attractive, important, and deserve good people in our lives. There can also be a healthy dose of tough love delivered to that vile internal voice that tells us negative things about ourselves. With enough practice and perseverance, we can become less susceptible to the negative perception of ourselves.
It doesn’t matter if we have ripped abs or a gorgeous bubble butt. We need to work on not allowing these types of issues to stop us from creating the relationships that make life wonderful and engaging in activities we enjoy. Instead of busting our asses to achieve some unattainable goal of perfection, we need to focus on loving and accepting ourselves so we can create a life we love living. These efforts will not guarantee that people like us more, but having confidence that our charisma, confidence, and a warm smile can get us farther than having a perfect body. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with striving to create an image of ourselves that we want. Just don’t let it get in the way of living your life.
Brent Heinze has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and works as a life coach in Southern California (Brent@BeginTheShift.org).