Oct. 14, 2021, 9:07 p.m.
Many of us have had the privilege of working or attending school remotely over the past year. For those of us who have, September might have meant a return to the office/school, and therefore a return to seeing people in person rather than from the shoulders and up on Zoom. It can certainly be an adjustment, and may present unique challenges for many folks who have a history of eating disorders or feeling uncomfortable with their bodies. We surveyed the NEDIC team to get their best tips for a return to being perceived in real life again.
It’s important to remember that you’re not the only person whose body has changed in the past year! You’re certainly allowed to have complex feelings about the way your body has changed, but remember that it’s more likely people are just happy to see you again, not waiting to critique your body again.
Remind yourself that feeling self-conscious about your appearance or out of practice at socializing is completely normal, and many others are feeling it too. Small talk will start to feel normal again, but it might take time to adjust back to that level of socialization and the level of comfort you previously had with it.
You might want to practice setting boundaries around scheduling – for example “I’m only available for 1 hour, but if you would like to try another time, I’m free on Thursday.” Try to schedule alone time as well as activities that fill your cup, whether those are social or involve doing nothing at all. You can label it if you’re having a hard time: “I’m having a tough time right now adjusting to this transition. Do you mind if we sit in silence for X minutes so I can collect my thoughts/ground a bit more?” or “I’m going to go get a coffee and take some space. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and need to take 10 minutes to clear my head a bit. Thank you for your patience.” Finding a balance is important!
You can also set boundaries around body talk. Remind yourself that these comments are probably coming from the other person’s discomfort with the way their own body has changed, and aren’t a reflection on you as a person. You can also redirect the conversation: “I want to remind you that I still care about you regardless of how your body has shifted during this time. You are still the same person regardless of any physical changes you may have experienced. I would like to ask that we steer away from discussing food/weight/body changes. How is (their pet/child) doing?” If someone persists in talking about bodies in a way that makes you uncomfortable, try reminding them that “Our bodies just endured a global pandemic. I hope you’ll join me in thanking our bodies for taking care of us during this time, and treating them with the compassion and respect they deserve.”
Going through a pandemic has been incredibly traumatic and taxing for many folks. Because of that, it's so important to have compassion for ourselves and others - we survived as best we could in a pandemic, and that's so incredible. We all deserve more than to be viewed based on our appearance, shape, body, or weight because truly, those things don't dictate our worth. What better time to challenge body shaming and embrace our bodies for how amazing they are for getting us through such tough times.
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