Whom do you see looking back at you when you look in the mirror? Is your body as you would like it to be, or do you always find fault with it? If not, you are in good company, as most people feel somewhat ashamed of their appearance.
This article discusses body shaming, ACEs, and how the two interact with dissociative identity disorder.
Many people feel deep-seated shame over how they look. We spend billions each year on spa treatments and beauty products. A driving force in how we respond to our bodies is the existence of body shaming.
Body shaming is saying something negative about your or someone else’s body. The comment may be about your size, hair, eating habits, clothing, or age. It only takes one of the negative statements said to a person who has experienced complex trauma to ruin their day or leave an indelible scar.
Indeed, body shaming causes several negative consequences to your mental health. Below are only a few adverse effects that occur because of body shaming.
Significantly elevated risk of depression
Eating disorders forming
Worsens the outcome for people who are trying to lose weight
Causes immense dissatisfaction in your body
Body dysmorphic disorder
Risk of self-harm or suicide
To reverse body shaming, you must learn to speak positively about your body. Try noticing qualities you like, such as the color of your eyes or the shape of your lips. Practicing speaking positively about your body will reconnect you to your body and deepen your compassion, care, and connection to yourself.
ACEs and Obesity
In the 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente conducted research using 17,000 participants who were asked about childhood maltreatment. They assumed that there was a direct link between obesity in adulthood and childhood trauma.
The childhood trauma they examined included the following categories before age 18.
Physical abuse by a parent
Emotional abuse a parent
Sexual abuse by anyone
Growing up with an alcohol or drug user in the household
Experiencing someone in the immediate family being incarcerated
Loss of a parent
The study found that people who experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences had the following.
An increased risk for smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse
An increased risk of forming depression and suicide attempts
Poor self-related health
50 or more sexual partners
A greater likelihood of STDs
Challenges with physical inactivity
It should be evident that adverse childhood experiences break the healthy vision of one’s body, causing you to loathe it and go out of your way not to look at it in the mirror.
The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Bad Body Image
The development of a healthy and positive body image is severely challenged by continued violations of body boundaries, such as in childhood trauma. The trauma includes all forms of maltreatment, including sexual, physical, narcissistic, and emotional abuse.
Children learn how to respect themselves and their bodies by reading their caregivers’ messages. Abuse of any sort taints children’s body images by sending signals that tell the child they are not good and that their bodies are dirty or evil.
Having been exposed to severe childhood trauma often leaves survivors with symptoms of body dissatisfaction and sometimes self-harm. (It is critical for anyone who feels like self-harm to seek professional help to receive therapy and treatment).
A study conducted in 2021 reviewed 40 studies, 37 of which show evidence for a significant link between childhood maltreatment and body image and four on body esteem. In the results of the review, the theorists argue for the relevance of body image disturbances in participants who were maltreated as children.
The researchers also stated that body image alterations were seen among evidence-based and trauma-focused psychotherapy symptoms. They also suggested that it is critical to include body image work in therapeutic approaches focusing on childhood trauma survivors.
Unfortunately, the studies reviewed by these researchers include only female participants. Much more research needs to be done on male survivors. This fact does not in any way lessen the horrible impact that childhood trauma has on men well into their adulthood.
Methods to Learn to Accept Your Body
Learning to accept your body is crucial because it is an essential part of you. People like us tend to ignore our bodies, choosing to pretend they don’t exist except to clothe and feed them. It is as though the abuse we endured disconnected us from our bodies.
Reconnecting to our physical selves is a crucial part of healing because we need to commit to better self-care, and you cannot accomplish that if you see your body as something foreign and to be ignored.
It is vital first to know that while body positivity encourages you to love your body, there will always be flaws, and it is harmful to set up unreachable or unrealistic expectations because that promotes body shaming.
There are healthy methods to reconnecting yourself to your body.
Contest thoughts that are not helpful. Replace negative thoughts about your body with positive ones. However, not all thoughts about oneself should be changed through positive thoughts as they lead to body shaming. Instead, it is suggested that you think of your body in neutral terms as neither lovely nor horrid. Challenge your hate-filled thought about your body, remembering that no one’s body is perfect, and you need not reach for perfection.
Practice realistic affirmations. Positive comments about our bodies may seem unnatural initially; however, the more you practice telling yourself positive things you observe about your body, the more you will feel connected. It is critical to note that you need not use positive affirmations; instead, you should use relatable affirmations, meaning the affirmation should resonate with something deep within you.
Use self-care to benefit your health. Often, changes in your body are wrapped up in a desire to look better. Believing you must lose weight to look better, for example, leaves you struggling with success and failure, which is unsuitable for your psyche. Instead, base your decision to change your body on good self-care and wanting to feel better. Practicing self-care should always be the main focus of changes you make to your body.
These are only a few suggestions to help you with your body image. Don’t place so much pressure on yourself to have a perfect body because you will always fail. Instead, focus your energy on being healthy and happy, whatever that means for you.
Ending Our Time Together
Childhood trauma leaves indelible scars that tragically often go unnoticed or are ignored. One of the adverse outcomes of childhood abuse is damage to our self-image.
Studies have proven a direct link between adverse medical conditions and body shame to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
However, there is no reason to give up or to panic. You are in charge of your life and completely control your body and how you treat it. If you want to feel good about yourself, look within and keep reaffirming that you are worthwhile and valuable.
Go ahead and work on your physique, but do so for your health, not because you wish to attain an unattainable goal of being a perfect ten. That, my friend, is an illusion. Your worth does not depend on how you look but on who you are as a person.
You are beautiful.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” – Dalai Lama XIV
“Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball
Bödicker, C., Reinckens, J., Höfler, M., & Hoyer, J. (2022). Is childhood maltreatment associated with body image disturbances in adulthood? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 15(3), 523-538.
Felitti, V. J. (2019). Origins of the ACE Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 56(6), 787-789.
Guiney, H., Caspi, A., Ambler, A., Belsky, J., Kokaua, J., Broadbent, J., … & Poulton, R. (2022). Childhood sexual abuse and pervasive problems across multiple life domains: Findings from a five-decade study. Development and Psychopathology, 1-17.