I was beyond excited when I had my first photo shoot for a project I am passionate about: Wisdom, Experience and Emotions in the Digital Age. A friend and colleague, who is a photographer, came over with his beautiful daughter, and we took some fantastic shots. When he showed me the photos, I was blown away by the quality compared to previous pictures I had of myself. I was filled with adrenaline because of a special moment captured in images that soon would be mine.
Then the big day came, and I received access to my gallery. I remember sitting on the floor, and I had this intense urge to look at my phone before my morning meditation practice. I usually avoid looking at any electronic device before my mediation as starting your day with a calm and rested mind is critical to setting yourself up for success!
Anyway, I did not listen to my intuition!
I saw the photos on my mobile screen while my visiting mother was sleeping in my bedroom.
The first thought that popped up was: She is going to kill me if she sees my boobs on these pictures. Yes, I have been blessed by God, and I am forever grateful, but I grew up in a conservative family where anything between the neck and feet had best stay covered. Unfortunately for my mother, I am always one who defies the status quo, and I love feeling feminine.
My second thought was: OMG — look at my belly. I am going to find a graphic designer on Fiverr who will photoshop my stomach and belly in all the pictures! Ever since I gained over 20 kilos (45–50 pounds) during my pregnancy and then had an emergency C-section because my baby boy could not find his way through the normal route, my belly has never been the same. The relationship I had with my belly was damaged for a long time and repressed memories returned.
My last thought was: The trick of swallowing so my jaw line goes up and I avoid the effect of a double chin did not turn out so well. I remember when I was at my lowest weight point, I had a beautiful jaw line and the double chin magically disappeared for a while.
Needless to say, I failed to see the beautiful person I am through the fantastic pictures taken by my friend and colleague.
In reality, it had nothing to do with the photos and everything to do with my body image.
Why I Hated My Body Image
Body image is a topic which is timeless across generations. As long as we can remember, women all over the world and across generations have struggled with body image. It certainly was a personal struggle I dealt with since childhood. I grew up with a mother who struggled with with the woman she became after giving birth to five children.
Before childbirth, she was a drop-dead gorgeous Moroccan model with long hair as soft as silk. After giving birth to five children with less than two years between deliveries, she became obese and suffered from diabetes. Because she believed her appearance was her true worth as a woman, her femininity was destroyed while she suffered in silence.
I know she loved us more than anything on this planet and she gave up everything for us to have a better future.
This future, in her mind, included having a body like a model. So my sister and I heard over and over how our chubbiness would make us less successful in life. In fact, when we overate we got the look . . . Don’t you dare take another biscuit! My relationship with my family was a pure love-hate one; we would call each other names. We never meant to hurt each other, but we were incapable of saying nice and affectionate things. For this reason, the only words I remember from my childhood and teenage years, pertaining to my body were:
You have a fat butt and a big nose!
These two criticisms were with me every minute of the day; it was a burden I carried for years. As I write this, repressed memories emerge, and tears flow down my cheeks.
I aspire to share my personal struggles with other women who feel trapped in beliefs that were imposed on them as children. I hope that many of you will free yourself from beliefs that bring only pain and suffering. I have a long list of embarrassing moments pertaining to my body image and if I shared all of them, this piece would take twenty-four hours to read. Instead, I will share how I transformed my body image through my mind and not through changing my body.
Why Flying Across the World from Brussels to Bali Changed My Body Image
Last November, I attended the Global NLP Training in Bali (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). After two weeks in Bali, I came back a different person. Having become fascinated by the training, I learned more online and registered for the course in Amsterdam. However, my intuition kept telling me to go to Bali! I changed my registration, booked my tickets and flew across the world alone to be with a bunch of strangers in yogi land for a total of sixteen days. As an introvert, I was scared!
During the training I learned to recognize my thought processes and my belief systems, which were the same as that little girl whose body image was a fat butt and a big nose. It also did not help that almost all of the students were less than a size 10 and I was reminded of my own fat bulging belly. The others were beautiful human beings inside, so I could not be jealous for long, but I was reminded of my own shortcomings.
One woman had a voluptuous body and she was shining on the outside. She carried herself with pride. I struggled to grasp how she did it. Every time I looked in the mirror or when I saw myself in pictures, I teared up. I felt a big knob in my chest, just next to my heart, and above my stomach. I ran away from the classroom when I could, so I could be alone and cry my eyes out. That’s how bad my body image was.
During the course, one fellow student overheard me when I said that I hated the way I looked. She looked at me and said:
You need a theta healing . . .”
“Excuse me…A what?
“A theta healing session. No worries, habibti (Arabic for dear). Tomorrow we will change your belief systems.”
When you are in Bali, you are moved by the healing energy of the island. The energy is unexplainable. You must experience it for yourself. At this point, I had nothing to lose and I said: “Sure, theta the hell out of me, please!”
So the next day, Sarah Nur, a Lebanese yoga teacher and theta practitioner, explained the process of theta: “Remember habibti . It is important that you trust me.”
And off we went. She wrote down my negative self-beliefs which perpetuated my body image and challenged each of them by asking: “What is the worst that can happen if you belief this? And what then? And what then? I was forced to go deep into my subconscious, a place I tried desperately to avoid.
When we finished, she showed me how to test my subconscious beliefs. I stood up straight. When I stated my beliefs, I would fall forward if my subconscious believed them and go backwards if it did not.
This was one of the most revealing moments in my life. Some of the beliefs we tested:
I don’t feel loved, which was not true. I don’t love myself, which was true.
I need attention in my life, which was not true. I like to have attention, which was true.
I am lonely, which was not true. I feel lonely sometimes, which was true.
I need a man in my life who loves me, which was not true. I enjoy having a partner who loves me, which was true.
And so on. We focused on self-love as that belief was one across the conscious and subconscious parts of the mind! At the end of the session, she took my hand; we closed our eyes and we meditated. We sat quietly as I absorbed her energy. When we were done, I felt light as if I had finally emptied a suitcase full of rocks that I had carried my entire life. I went to my room and spent fifteen minutes alone. I could not explain this feeling of self-love, nor could I explain the glow on my face after this session.
In the evening, I looked at a photo of myself which had triggered feelings of disgust and repulsion the previous day. To my surprise I felt beautiful. I saw the divine person instead of the fat butt and big nose. Throughout the training we continued to practice and work on changing old belief patterns about ourselves. We worked alone and with fellow students.
I left this training a new person, not in body but in mind. I finally learned how to observe my belief systems and change my internal narrative when I catch myself telling a horror story.
We would never talk to anyone, not even our worst enemy, the way we sometimes talk to ourselves.
During my Global NLP Training I learned the power of our beliefs. We truly are what we believe we are. My whole life I had believed I had a fat butt and a big nose. That’s all I could see, everything that was wrong with my body.
Changing Your Body Image Starts in the Mind, Not Through the Body
So how I did I stop my self-pity that day sitting sobbing on the floor when I received my photos? I became aware of my belief system which was falling back into a trap of a negative body image. I changed my narrative into an empowering one.
As I looked again through the pictures, I realized how beautiful they were and that I am proud of my imperfections:
Of my big nose which can smell bullshit from miles away
Of my rounded and soft belly which carried and gave birth to a miracle
Of my big brown eyes which see people’s essence
Of my entire divine body which has sustained me all these years and is the host of a fighting and brave spirit in the digital age
Replacing your belief systems is an everyday practice. It is easy to fall back into old belief patterns as our mind teaches us to stay safe and believe what we are used to believing. Anything new is threatening to the mind and takes a while to replace with new beliefs, healthier ones and beliefs which are more empowering.
The next time you catch yourself telling a horror story, become aware of your thought process. Choose not to dwell on it and let it pass by like a cloud. Replace the bad thought with a beautiful thought, a thought that lifts you up and empowers you to believe your divine being.
That’s how I freed myself from a long-life, self-inflicted cage. I changed my internal narrative. That’s why I choose a career of purpose and helping others change their belief systems — beliefs which are holding them back — so they can live a life free from suffering and pain inflicted through the mind.
I hope my story inspires you to do the same and change your body image in the mind instead of through the body.
Stories from the heart
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