Updated: Jun 27, 2022
When we are young and healthy, we often go hard on ourselves and focus just on our physical appearance. We try to meet someone’s or society’s expectation of a body image. We don’t pay attention to our body signals, telling us about its discomfort.
It starts with just a little tiny voice at the beginning.
Most of us ignore it. With time, we start hearing our body screaming for help when it’s being ignored for a long time.
Our Body is our personal “Relationship Manager” communicating between our psychic/soul/ and life/external events and people. Both ways. It is expressed via our body language (e.g. open or closed body poses) OR body reactions (e.g., goosebumps, blushing, butterflies in the stomach, or… stomach pain/discomfort, rashes and allergies, or… serious diseases).
Our body is also our soul’s “Personal Bodyguard”, taking the first strike and all the pressure from the external events to itself, protecting our psychic from the direct damage.
But it has its own limited capacity. If we keep ignoring it, it starts failing.
Our body is an open book. This book tells us, and others, our STORY.
But we actually have to learn to understand its own language.
As a psychologist who turned my passion for photography into a full time “what do I do”, I meet different people nearly every day. I photograph them, I listen to their stories, but sometimes what I see through the lens are those stories that were untold.
Among such an obvious difference between younger and older, childfree and motherhood, sporty and let-it-be-as-it-is, there are less obvious stories our bodies carry and tell.
For example, let’s see what our teeth represent?
Teeth are about contact with your animal wild side. They represent a built-in aggressive expression of having to look after ourselves. It is about “getting our teeth into things” and a willingness to stand up and fight.
Problems with teeth send us a signal about our fears, about suppressing our aggression, about problems with self-confidence, about the inability to take on challenges and responsibility of an adult (giving up our role of a dependent child).
Taking care of our teeth is taking control and responsibility into our hands, accepting our aggressive part, and it's positive role in our lives.
Another sound body signal is our weight – either it is over or under our natural one.
Our basic instinct to survive gives us 3 possible reactions to danger:
- To fight (we gain weight to protect ourselves in the fight)
- To run (we lose weight to be able run faster)
- To pretend being dead (we retain water)
When we suddenly start gaining weight, it could be that our body is trying to tell us something. It can be cry - “Notice me!”, or “Stay outside my personal space!”, or “I need protection!”, “I need comforting!”. Sometimes, guilt and shame are the reasons for proper digestion of food.
Underweight is the other side of the coin. Our body chooses this strategy when it wants “to stay unnoticeable”; pretend being weak, asking for care, it is a chance to escape hard work or responsibility; it is suppression of femininity (not to be attractive as a woman, to be a subject of sexual desire).
This subject of psychosomatic reasons behind our body reactions is well researched and information on it is widely available.
But do we hear our body before it’s too late? How can we hear and understand the language our body is using to tell its story?
There are many ways to learn it, and one of them is very simple.
I find it useful and interesting to look through my old photos to see what I did not see then, but my body itself was telling my story. Take a look at all your old photos from your childhood to 1 year ago. Try to remember how you felt that period of your life when the photo was taken. What is your body language and shape telling you? Then look at your body in the mirror, don’t judge it, just imagine it is a map of your life adventures, trials, failures and rewards. Have you read it?
Another fun exercise can be, is to organise a paparazzi style “photo day”. Ask your friend/s or family member to help you. Spend a day with them and ask them to take your photos (it can be even your phone camera) as if they were a paparazzi, just documenting whatever you do (shopping, exercising, doing housework, chatting with friends, etc.). Take as many shots as possible. Then look through all the photos. What do you see?
Since I started doing photography professionally, I don’t delete my “bad” photos, I keep them all. When you come back to photos in 5-10-20 years, you may get a useful insight or you may find out that those “bad” photos are actually pretty good!
Your Body tells your STORY and photographs can help you to highlight, recognise it and take needed actions.
That is why I believe in the therapeutic power of photography and its power to change our lives!