“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” Sophia Loren
A reader from Western Africa is struggling with body image issues, she asked me on some tips on how to improve body image. I find it very sad, when I hear girls saying ‘I hate my self’, ‘I hate my body’, ‘I am so ugly’. It’s shocking how some people are locked in their own personal jail, full of self-loathing, desperately wanting to get out, but not believing they can. This is not a call for attention, but a very honest evaluation of how miserable someone feels about himself or herself. A broken view of the body results in a preoccupation with the body. Every time a woman turns on the television, strolls past a magazine aisle, watches the numbers rise on the scale, or spots that first gray hair, the battle wages on and is reinforced all over again. We know how surgical and non-cosmetic surgical industry in Middle East is flourishing. People are using painful methods to alter their body’s natural makeup. This is a cause for alarm.Wouldn’t it be great to know the pressure to look good doesn’t have to rule your life? Celebrating rather than debasing your body is a wonderful way to live.
Unhealthy Body Image vs. Healthy Body image
An unhealthy body image is thinking your body is disgusting, unsightly or not good enough. For example, thinking that you look too fat even thought others tell you this is not true, thinking that you’re not pretty enough or muscular enough. It can also mean believing what you look like determines your value as a person. Someone with negative body image can become fixated on trying to change their actual body shape.
A healthy body image is being comfortable in your own skin, being happy most of the time with the way you look, and feeling good with yourself. It’s about valuing who you are not what you look like.
How do people get unhealthy body image?
The media has a lot to do with unhealthy body image. We are bombarded daily with pictures of photo shopped bodies that are unrealistic and unobtainable and basically fake – and these can make you feel bad about your body in comparison.
Other things that can influence body image include…
- friends or family
- cultural background
Our Body Image and Islam- What Matters Most?
Rather than live a life oriented toward God, many people are oriented toward their appearances. Many women—and even some men—are starving themselves and mutilating their bodies to conform to a particular standard of beauty. The cause for alarm is health and spirituality. When one is preoccupied with their bodies, it inhibits their worship. The spiritual root of all body image struggles is disapproving of the way God made you. When you feel defeated and ugly, it holds you back from living your life and performing your daily duties. That is why it is important to see how your negative body image developed and for you to work through those emotions and thoughts . Then you can recognize the true beauty of life.
If you don’t realize Allah’s beauty, you will remain at your level of self-loathing. You’ll keep trying endless ways to fix your body flaws or continue to build up new reasons to hate your body. And until that view of the body is healed, one will forever struggle to focus on anything else.
The Most Ugly Companion of the Prophet (saw)- A tale of Love and Mercy
I came across this great video on Youtube which was a real eye opener for me- The “Ugly” Sahabi – low self esteem Youre priceless in The Sight of Allah’ . The video talks about one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (saw), Julaybib. He was small and short and disfigured. He had a hunched back and his face was described as being ugly.
One day he met the Messenger of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and asked: “O Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa salam), would I be able to enter Paradise even though my face is disfigured?” Yes, replied the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa salam). He then asked: “O Messenger of Allah, why will no one marry me to one of their daughters?”
Prophet Muhammad (saw) arranged for Julaybib to marry one of the most eligible women of the Ansar tribe. When Julaybab was killed in a battle, Prophet Muhammad (saw) cried and said ‘Julaybeeb is a part of me and I am a part of him, he was an orphan and so am I.’ The Prophet was then seen smiling and then he turned his face. The companions asked the Prophet: “O Messenger of Allah, we have seen you do something today which we have never seen you do before. You cried, then smiled and then you turned away.” The Prophet replied: “I cried out of the love that I have for our beloved brother, Julaybeeb. I smiled because I saw Julaybeeb in Paradise.”
Indeed Allah Gives Grace to the Humble.
The message here is Julaybib was born this way, he was an outcast, a reject and he could not change some aspects of his appearance, but at the end, it was his heart and his humbleness that mattered most and not his outer looks . Prophet Muhammad (saw) loved him for who he was and not for his outer looks. Julaybib did not waste his time on self-pity and fretting over things he could not change, instead he focused on getting on with his life despite all the trials and tribulations. What we really need to remember here is that we too cannot change some aspects of our appearance. Our height, muscle and bone structure are determined by our genes; this is the way we are born. There is no right or wrong when it comes to body shape or appearance. Everybody is different in body size and shape and appearance and we can celebrate this diversity and individuality.
We are fooling ourselves if we believe having the perfect looks will make us happy inside. Some of the world’s most beautiful people are the ones most torn by heartache, broken relationships and even poor body image. The secret to true beauty is being at peace with who you are. We should be grateful for what Allah has given us.
Our striving for acceptance and recognition—and resulting failure—is the cause of body loathing. We see where we fall short in the “looks department” and blame God for making us the way we are.
Watch the Video below:
Body Image Thoughts- Our Ego/Pride
These thoughts on body image are whispers of the Demon of Eating Disorder and we should not pay any heed to them. The quest for perfection goes back to the time before the first man and woman were created. The true roots of a poor body image are found in the same source as misinformation and self-deception: Satan.
Someone once told me that Self-hatred is Ego/pride. It’s a me-focused pity party and an attempt to get right with God through our own actions. With self-hatred, we challenge faith, we challenge Allah, self-hatred leads to negative emotions and with these negative thoughts we astray from the right path, we forget to devote ourselves to Allah and we forget how blessed we are.
Perfection isn’t achieved through having flat abs or ideal body image. In fact, we can never achieve perfection when it comes to our bodies. So why do we strive so hard to attain it?
Is your Body Image getting you Down?
It’s critical for you to acknowledge how often your negative body image has been reinforced during your lifetime. When a statement is reinforced over and over, it takes on a sense of truth, even if it is not true. Negative feelings, experiences and comments together act as blinders to prevent you from seeing who you really are. But you are not bound to the wrong image you have of yourself. You might need to talk to someone more in-depth about it. So Please do Seek Help.
Celebrating rather than debasing one’s body is a wonderful way to live.
Prayer is a powerful tool in getting free from the trap of negative body image. Right now, commit your heart through prayer to finding and doing what Allah says is best. Pray to Allah to Heal your Mind, Body and Soul:
Dear Allah, Creator of my body, I accept that I struggle to know and live out what is truly perfect. I can see how my heart is drawn to Demon’s message that perfect body and unhealthy weight is the answer.
I can easily get focused on wanting perfect beauty rather than wanting what you have decreed for me. I stand against the world of advertising, diet, the beauty industry, and the demon himself that tell me time and time again that perfect body and beauty is a key to happiness.
I resist every force that would seek to distract me from who I really am and what You desire for me to do in and through this body You gave me. I reject the distorted concepts and ideas that make body perfection sound plausible and desirable.
I oppose every attempt to keep me from connecting with You. I open my heart for healing and I open my heart to let go off this fictional concept of beauty. Amen.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Body Image Taken from NEDA
- Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
- Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you–as a whole person.
- Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
- Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
- Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message
- Do something nice for yourself–something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
- Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha
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