Body Image and Boundaries
We reject our bodies because we don’t believe we meet social standards for beauty, and we feel bad for not looking pretty enough. But how safe would we actually feel looking any different?
According to Anodea Judith in her book Eastern Body Western Mind, “when our personal boundaries have been violated as children and have not been reinstated in adulthood, we might find safety in making our bodies bigger in defense.”
Boundaries are what define all of who we are. They represent our birthrights, which include the right to feel safe in our own body (safe from being hurt physically or sexually), but it is not limited to that.
Our natural rights include our right to feel; to make choices; to love and be loved; to hear the truth; say our truth and see beauty. It also includes the right to our own spiritual beliefs, and choosing and seeking our own path towards God.
This definition of rights is based on the seven Chakra system, which relates each energy center in the body to a layer of our energy that surrounds our body (auric layer). This aura is believed to extend to around half a meter around our body, and any intrusion on it, whether physically or by being denied its related basic right is experienced as a boundary invasion.
When we grow up with weaker boundaries, we feel bad and ashamed every time we try to make our own decisions and thus feel stuck in a life we haven’t chosen, which perpetuates anger and other emotions that fuel negative addictions and eating habits.
To help you redefine your boundaries, implement these two exercises from bioenergetics* that help you channel your suppressed emotions safely, which in turn helps create personal power and strengthens your self-esteem. Don’t under-estimate their power—they look simple but are not.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says (about anger) “We feel it and we want to do something. Hit someone, break something, throw a fit, smash a fist into the wall, tell off those b……. But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it, lie about it, medicate it, muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it.”
The following exercise, when done daily for a period of time (or at least 3 times a week), helps release old anger safely. You will start to notice the released tension in your upper back as it is being freed from this heavy emotion.
Begin by holding a cushion or a tennis bat with both hands, and hit a safe target (use the bed, the couch, or a hitting bag). The movement should start from behind the neck and end in front of you, with the legs next to each other and firmly grounded. You can also do this exercise while sitting down on your knees to ground yourself better.
Be specific about the person and situation that brings up this anger (you are not hitting the person, you are reminding yourself of the memory that brings up the anger, just like we did last month with the EFT exercise).
Shout, curse, or make angry noises while hitting, find the safe space to do this.
It is normal to find this exercise difficult at first, and you will have many excuses for NOT doing it. It is also normal to feel the emotions of guilt or shame that we attach to anger even when we consciously know they are uncalled for here. Do the tapping exercise I showed you in last month’s article to handle those feelings if they surface.
Stand arm’s length away from a wall, and just like you would do wall push-ups, press and then push away the wall.
This exercise should be done with a clear intention to find and assert your boundaries, so think about pushing away people and everyone crowding your space.
When I watch clients do this exercise, many automatically pull back their arms instead of pushing, which symbolizes what they do in life-they leave their own space when others intrude on it instead of asserting their power. So watch out for this.
Give those exercises a try and if you think you don’t have the time or free space for them, remember your boundaries, and create that space 😉
*A form of mind-body psychotherapy developed by Alexander Lowen.