Today on the Body Image Series we welcome Torie Jochims who describes herself as Owner & Over-caffeinated wordsmith at Wild Spark Creative. She knows what it feels like when no one believes your struggle with body hate, and as an entrepreneur, she recognizes how self-doubt is sometimes experienced as body image struggles.
Hi Torie! Thanks so much for being a part of the Body Image Series. I’m so excited you’re here to talk about your body image experiences. How do you define body image?
To me, body image is the way you see yourself when you look in the mirror, but also when you look at your body in any situation. It’s how you feel about your body as you go about your daily life. It’s also that voice in your head that tells you maybe you shouldn’t wear that thing today because you’re too bloated, or it doesn’t look flattering on you “anymore.” Body image is in a state of constant flux, but it’s been my experience that it tends to err on either the positive or negative side of the spectrum, though it’s also been my experience that, if you err on the negative end of the spectrum, that is not an irreversible fate.
Recognizing body image as a continuum is such a realistic point of view. So, what do you think about body acceptance?
I think body acceptance is something everyone should strive for. Perfection is unattainable, and it’s not the path to happiness. Looking like a model in a magazine is unrealistic, those models don’t even look that way. Photoshop makes them that way. I think body acceptance is so important, but it’s a process that requires a LOT of mental and emotional retraining. We are spoon-fed one ideal of body from the time we were born, and the fact that literally NO ONE’S body lives up to that ideal isn’t something we’re trained to think about.
So, when we realize we feel like crap about our own bodies and can’t figure out how to change that, we have to dig into what we’ve spent our entire lives taking in, and how we think about the bodies of others as well as our own. I know I had to, and still have to, daily, see the beauty in others FIRST.
When I am exposed to loads of different body types and can look into their eyes and see how beautiful they are, and appreciate their beauty as unique and completely separate from their weight or stretch marks or whatever the hell else we’ve been told makes you ugly instead of beautiful (which is all crap, by the way, another thing I have to tell myself daily), that helps in beginning the process of mending your relationship with your own body and being able to accept it.
But accepting your body is also a daily act. You can’t just feel really good and at home in this skin you have one day and expect it to continue on like that, ad infinitum. You have to consciously choose to stop negative thoughts about your body just like you would choose to consciously stop negative thoughts about any other part of your life. But it’s harder, because everyone just seems to accept when we say negative things about our bodies. Everyone chimes in and complains about theirs as well. It’s more rare to say positive things about your body in today’s society, and that makes the struggle even more uphill. You have to, though, you have to say good things about your body and about the bodies of others. Because that’s the only way body acceptance becomes a regular, attainable thing.
What was your body image like while growing up? Were there any body parts you have struggled with but now accept and/or love? How did you learn to love these parts of you?
My smile, though I still occasionally struggle with it. I have a gap in my front teeth. And when I was younger, I used to use those tiny elastic hair bands and put it around my two front teeth because it sort of pushed them closer together and temporarily at least I’d have a smaller gap. It was ridiculous (though truth be told it felt kind of cool), and I’ve slowly learned to love that part of me and to realize that it doesn’t detract from my beauty, it just makes me unique. I stopped with the rubber bands, and I stopped staring at the gap every time I was in front of a mirror. I told myself not to focus on it because focusing on it was making it seem much bigger than it was.
All in all, in my life, body image has been a battle. I’ve always been small. This was a blessing and a curse, because when the body hate feelings started, no one believed me. I was told so many times that I was just fishing for compliments, or that I should just get over it. Those conversations were not helpful, and often just made me draw further into myself, allowing the thoughts to run rampant until I felt like there was a huge weight just sitting on top of me.
It took years, and some time with a therapist, to move past the serious body hate thoughts. It took talking with someone who let me feel those feelings freely and didn’t tell me I was crazy for thinking them, but rather helped me work through them (I am eternally grateful to the wonderful therapist who saw me at that time in my life). Now, even though I still am not 110% in love with my body and I don’t fully accept it some days, I am armed with a toolkit that can help me combat those thoughts, and more importantly, I know that they are false.
I know that when I eat well and view my body as a beautiful tool that is capable of so much, I have less negative thoughts about it. I know that when I exercise regularly, and use my body to do things like kayak and climb mountains, I feel alive and full and whole in my body. I know that when I tell myself repeatedly the truth that I am beautiful just as I am, that any “imperfections” just prove that I’ve lived life, that I feel better. And I know that when I am honest with people I trust wholly about the days where the thoughts are still bad, the days tend to stay bad for shorter time periods. So I’ve developed this set of tools that I know helps my relationship with my body, and I know it’s a daily choice, and those two things are what make the biggest difference.
That is tough, I’m so glad that despite people not believing your struggle, that you were able to seek the professional help you needed. What role does body image play for you now?
Ooooh, what role HASN’T it played in my life, really? It’s been my best friend and my worst enemy and all the places in between. But one of the more interesting things I’ve noticed in this new season of my life as an entrepreneur, is how, even though most days I have a decent (not good or great yet, but decent) handle on keeping my body hate under control, the negativity creeps in when business stress and doubts crop up.
As I started my writing business, I would find that every few days, no matter how much progress was made, I would wake up one day feeling horrible. Without fail, that negativity would transfer to my body view. I would feel fat and gross and I would catch myself falling into negative habits of lifting my shirt up and looking at my stomach in the mirror at least 20 times a day, every time I passed a mirror. I hadn’t changed my eating habits, I wasn’t doing anything that would cause a change to my body, but my self-doubt was manifesting itself in a way that was familiar to it.
It was awful the first few days, but then I realized the pattern, and was able to start combating it. That was huge. Running your own business is extremely tough. Every day there’s a new challenge to face. I don’t want negative body image issues to be the thing that determines how my business is handled on any given day. But that takes purposely looking myself in the eyes in the mirror and saying positive things to myself, and telling the negative thoughts that, while it’s great they are piping up to let me know what I’m doing is important enough to try to sabotage, I will not be listening to them today.
How do you encourage body acceptance or positivity amongst others?
Part of this is just taking the time to compliment people whenever I can. But it’s about more than just complimenting their bodies, because I think a huge part of my journey has been realizing that all my worth is not tied up in how I look or what my body is like. So I absolutely tell people they are beautiful, because they are and they should know that, but I also tell them the things I admire about their brain and their spirit and their personality and their creativity. Because when people feel like they are worth what they really are worth (which is ALWAYS a whole heck of a lot), it makes mending the relationship they have with their body so much easier.
The change won’t come overnight, so don’t expect it to. For me, it took years. And even once you’re in a better space with it, it will never be completely gone, so don’t expect that either. Spend a lot of time listening to yourself, what you need, what you’re saying internally about yourself and others, and take time to reflect on how you feel about that. Then adjust.
If body positivity was a recipe, what would the ingredients be?
3 parts self-discovery
2 parts daily decisions
2 parts finding the beauty in others
2 parts loving dialogue with yourself
1 part exercise that excites you and doesn’t feel like punishment
1 part changing your relationship with food
1 heaping handful of focusing intently on love and light
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
Self-care for me is best when I’m opting out of things. I’m a very social person, but at the same time, I’m introverted in that I recharge best when I get some alone time to not think about or worry about anyone else’s expectations or needs. So that means watching my favorite show on Netflix, dedicating time to journaling, throwing on a face mask and drawing a bath with a bath bomb, curling up with a good book, listening to my favorite music, throwing myself a dance party, cooking up something delicious and good for me, baking, coloring. Honestly it changes every time depending on what feels right, but to me that’s the biggest thing about self-care. Do what feels right – what relaxes you and makes you feel safe and sound in that moment.
Do you have a body image role model? Who is it and why?
My body image role models are never pinned down to one person. And they tend to be more general attitude and personality role models than anything else, but right now I’m loving Adele, Gala Darling, Taylor Swift, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Melissa McCarthy because they aren’t afraid to love their bodies or talk about the hell women especially go through when it comes to loving their bodies, and they aren’t afraid of the strength that comes from working through their issues and fighting that good fight every single day.
What are your favorite resources for body image?
If you’re struggling, really struggling with body image and can’t stop yourself from spewing hateful thoughts about your body, the biggest resource I can recommend is to find a therapist who you click with and who will listen to you open-heartedly. Having someone professionally trained to help you unpack your issues is the most beautiful thing, and then, after unpacking the issues, to be able to create a set of tools to help you when the dark and twisty stuff comes back up again, it’s priceless. But also, Gala Darling’s teachings in Radical Self Love have been instrumental to my journey, as has surrounding myself with body positive people. It sucks because sometimes you lose people you once considered close, but if they aren’t body positive and are promoting judgment over anything else, you really shouldn’t have time or space for that. Read body positive blogs, like effyourbeautystandards, and books like Big Magic by Liz Gilbert and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler and Bossypants by Tina Fey. Consume positivity every chance you get and you will find that being positive about your body is a much easier battle.
Thank you Torie for being so open with your story!
Torie Jochims is a writer specializing in getting entrepreneurs and small business owners fired up about the words that paint the picture of their business. She creates content that ignites her clients’ brands and connects with their ideal customers. It’s about the right words, with the right emotion fueling them, in the right place to make a splash. You can keep in touch with Torie via her Website, Facebook, and Instagram.