What if we can't control our body's size? An exercise in serenity.
Before you keep reading, let's do a little exercise together.
Take a piece of paper and draw 3 columns, wide enough to write within.
In the first column, consider the tasks you might do in a typical day. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. It might be a long list so feel free to be as detailed or vague as you have capacity for. Go ahead and write them down.
In the second column, consider the thoughts you might have during those tasks. Write them down.
In the third column, consider how those thoughts make you feel. Write them down too.
Now I'll invite you to set the paper aside. If you'd like to skip the thoughts below and get to the next step, do so here. Head's up, we'll do this 2 more times.
Allow me to now segues to a prayer that comes up a lot in my work with people in recovery from dieting and eating disorders: the serenity prayer.
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Spoiler: our body size is one of those things we cannot change.
Before we move onto anything else, I want you to pause and notice how this makes you feel. Notice the thoughts or feelings that arise in your mind. Now bring your awareness below your neck, what sensations surface and where? What is the quality of the sensation? Is there texture, temperature, color?
Once you've taken some time to be-with the response, can we bring curiosity to it? Take a moment to just be with your reaction to this idea that we cannot change our body size. Can we consider this reaction one of a myriad of responses a person could experience?
Hopefully this exercise allowed some space in yourself for curiosity. Next, I'll invite you to take that curiosity a step further: what would it be like to accept our body's size? How might our daily tasks change? (Another approach a person could take to this is The Work by Byron Katie that I explore further in a previous blog post.)
Let's come back to that list we set aside before and do a little thought-exercise.
Consider the tasks in the first column in a reality where we cannot control the size of our body. What tasks would change?
Consider the thoughts you might have within the paradigm that we cannot control our body size. What thoughts would change?
You can probably guess the third task; how would the belief that we cannot control our body size change the feelings we have?
I understand there are a lot of things that keep us from accepting the idea that we can't control our body size. One of which is a billion dollar industry espousing the opposite. But it might also be more personal than that. It might be disheartening to feel like our ability to protect ourselves from the discrimination from the workplace, dating scene, or other areas of life that people in large bodies face in this world is limited. And societal discrimination, my friends, is absolutely outside of our individual control.
All that said, we can control the way we treat ourselves and the treatment we accept from others.
One last time, let's revisit that list of tasks, thoughts, and feelings one more time and repeat the last 3 activities holding the thought of what we can control: I treat myself with respect and care (regardless of my body size). How do the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings change? What stays the same?
Thank you for exploring these themes with me and taking this moment to be curious about yourself! Please consider sharing how this exercise went for you in an email to me or the comments below.
If you're tired of living by old beliefs that are based in fear and not fact, I would love to work with you! Consider booking a consultation today.
And for those interested, the full serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
− Reinhold Niebuhr