exposing body image issues's picture

by Colette Coughlin

If we don’t like our bodies, there’s a good chance there’s something deeper about ourselves that is not quite in line with who we truly are and how we really need to live our lives.

We think it’s all up to us… we think we make all the choices… but do we? Just how much control do you think you really have over your existence, your talents, your circumstances… and over your looks? Do you think it was up to you whether you’d be black or white, male or female, homosexual or heterosexual, tall or short, big-busted or flat-chested? Even for your parents, most of these things about you came as complete surprise!

When I was in high-school, I thought my older sister was just the coolest person I’d ever seen… the fairest of them all. I didn’t only want to be just like her, I wanted to BE her, because her life, from an outside perspective, looked so much better than mine, which, from my inside perspective, was always messy and dissatisfying. I remember one of my friends saying to me: “Don’t you realize how wonderful you are, too, for a thousand different reasons?... Yeah, your sister is pretty special, but so are you!” But I didn’t get it. I kept on wanting to be someone else.


Later, when I was first married, I loved my husband SO much that I didn’t just want to be more like him, I wanted to BE him too! I placed him so high up on a pedestal that it made me pretty damn small and unimportant, and finally, after some years of growing up and learning taking a stand on my own views, I pulled him down off the mental pedestal I’d had him on and challenged him with my own power and desire for equality… in fact, for a while there, I tried to overcompensate by stepping on his head to climb up on the pedestal myself to see what the view was like from there. That was a hard period for both of us!


When I read the stories on this site, and elsewhere, about the struggles people have with gender identity, coming out about sexual orientation, or simply discovering that the relationships, the jobs or the bodies they’re in don’t seem fit with their deepest hopes or dreams, I recognize that in my life too, I sometimes get in trouble for trying to be something else on the outside, but the worst is when I’m unable to hear what I most need to be or do from inside. And I suspect that a lot of my rather extreme body image issues and subsequent eating disorders were just outer manifestations of a much deeper uneasiness with “being” than the actual physical traits I took fault with, and literally, allowed to run, and ruin, my life. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone – only each of us can really know – but I think my obsession with “image” was a lot more about fearing what others thought of me than any failings of my outwardly perfectly acceptable physique.


The worst thing about not accepting to be who we are from the inside-out is the self-destructiveness that results from the pent-up energy of non-expression. Personally, I suspect most uncelebrated artists and actors, addicts, trannies and other apparent social ‘misfits’ are exceptionally brilliant souls who unconsciously choose to live in the darkness because to shine their light is too great a risk to take. And finding fault with ourselves is a guarantee that we will nip outrageous creative energies in the bud and maintain a politically-correct profile. Fortunately a large number find the courage to say “FUCK THAT!!!” and embrace and proclaim their uniqueness instead of waiting for the world to recognize them. Life is too short, and everyone is SO unique, that if we don’t learn to love ourselves and our particularities, how can we expect anyone else to do it for us?
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well stated

arvan's picture


both of you are bringing a wonderful addition of perspective, questions and experience to this site.  I look forward to each of your posts and this one is a delight to read, in particular.

Thanks for looking, listening, asking, and touching the subject of body image in all the ways that you do.  I have only ever grown skills at anything by practicing.  With your writing, I think that you present a great practice in the consideration of living in one's own skin.  I experience your work in this way.  I will predict and hope that others do as well.


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