Have you or anyone you know ever been in a relationship of any sort which was affected by someone’s negative or unhealthy body image? If you have, then you know how much of a downer it is and how it can affect every aspect of that person’s daily life.

A lot of the women who have contacted me recently in response to my blog have shared about their struggles throughout their entire lives with their own body image as it relates to their sense of self worth. Many of these women are unsuspecting: seemingly healthy, fit and confident people. But the truth is that no matter her shape, size or weight, many women are trained from a very young age to learn to hide these “imperfections”.

And so the point is that it’s not actually about the body so much as about the fact that we are MISSING OUT ON LIFE by being obsessed with our bodies, our weight, and our appearance. The truth is that it is simply a huge time suck be forever worried about the size of various parts of one’s body. This is time that could be otherwise allocated to doing AWESOME THINGS and to utilizing one’s talents and energy to create and be engaged in life.

Many readers said they experienced body shame because so many of us feel or have felt as if we are weaker-spirited or weaker-minded if we feel bad about our bodies…Strangely this is NOT often a function of body fat percentage or pant size. In many cases, women feel ashamed and self-conscious regardless of how our bodies actually look or feel. This is interesting isn’t it?

This is what I call a social epidemic. And we are 100% able to change and heal it. It begins with letting go of the shame and guilt by using your intelligence and heart to understand that this way of thinking is learned, it is not natural, and it is not YOU.

The other fascinating aspect of the feedback I’ve received is that so many women used words like “courage” and “bravery” when commenting about the images of me. Yes, I suppose it is brave to put pictures of oneself showing some skin online in front of peer, family, and public groups. Totally. I agree. But that’s not actually what most people were referring. See, it has become very normalized for thin women and models to be in our faces in the media with very little clothing on, but when a bigger voluptuous woman does so, it is DARING, a bit taboo and totally courageous!

The reality is, I’m just another woman posing in front of a camera! My waist is thicker and cheeks are fuller. So it’s really not about the amount of skin being shown, for we see hundreds of images every day in the media showing equivalent amounts of skin. The fine print in what some readers are really saying (perhaps only subconsciously) is: “It isn’t culturally accepted to have curves, (weight in the areas where most women naturally do) and so the bigger curvy woman is less attractive, less sexy.” And so, for a curvy woman to celebrate and show her body, instead of hide, camouflage or reject it is considered… SO BRAVE!

Take a minute to dissect all of this. I encourage any readers who had this response to question the underlying/unconscious belief from where it came. You may find that this is very likely a culturally constructed belief, which was absorbed at some point in your socialization and that maybe it has also affected the way you look at and treat your own body.

I imagine many people felt the dual reaction of both sadness and empowerment from this website, which are both awesome and authentic responses. So yes! -Be sad, grieve, be angry, cry and scream (highly recommended for releasing a bit of rage). And then afterward, forgive, move on…and get fierce. Things are changing fast. And YOU are the agent of this change.

Your grace and sense of self are all you have.

Written by Chantal Peterson
For more on this topic, visit www.thegrandorange.com
Photo by Bettina Norton http://bettinavanessa.com