How You Are Being Convinced To Hate Your Tummy (And Other Things)
A simple ad, hung in a window on a street in my town.
Any other day, I would have passed right by this ad. On such a day, even if I would have noticed it, I would have had thoughts such as, “Hmm – slim the belly rolls? Perhaps I need to check those pants out. Ugh, I wonder what my tummy looks like now in these pants? Maybe I should just stop in and try those on.”
Not this day.
This day, I thought, “So long tummy? A message that I should want part of me to disappear? How horrible!” This was followed by a cascade of thoughts, as if I had taken the red pill and awoken to a new world around me for the first time.
How often do messages - in advertisements, in our everyday language, in the news we listen to and the books we read - guide us into feeling unworthy, less than, or even plant seeds of hatred for ourselves or one another?
You probably know the answer: All of the time. Yet do you realize how much of an influence they have on YOU?
As proven by research, most of us believe that WE aren’t influenced by advertising. We believe that we are above such manipulation, that it is only other people who fall so mindlessly for such trickery.
The truth is - you aren’t as immune to these messages as you think. Billions of dollars are spent ensuring this. How often do you pause and actually recognize the effects of these influences?
And if you know that these messages are all around you, and you can acknowledge that you are being influenced by them, then what?
Not convinced? Consider this easy-to-read article by Psychology Today.
Or this article and research study, conducted on advertising and perceived immunity (to ads).
Or take a look around your own home - at your clothes, in your pantry, at your kitchen gadgets and all of your electronics. Why did you choose to buy what you did? The deeper you allow yourself to go with your thinking, the more you will realize how you were influenced by countless marketing messages. (Don’t fret - we all are.)
Once you become aware of how easily your thoughts are influenced and manipulated by the world around you, you stand at the opening of a Pandora’s box. You are offered the opportunity to take that red pill, to see how deep the rabbit hole of influence goes.
Let me tell you, it is NOT an easy path.
As much as you want to blame the advertisers, the greedy corporations, the “THEY” that have led you here, a frightening truth starts to emerge:
While those “others” certainly hold blame, the primary responsibility for influence falls within your own mind.
How much you allow yourself to remain asleep or awakened to all of the ways in which you are being influenced by the world around you is largely up to you.
It’s a big practice, but consider the consequences: How free are you actually living? In what ways is your everyday life being directed by unexamined beliefs and influences?
Let’s go back to the disappearing tummy.
These types of advertisements are all around you. Each time that you see one, you process it (usually unconsciously). The input bounces around along the structure of neurons that you’ve created and reinforced over the years, like a ball rolling along a well-worn path.
Example: See an advertisement with “so long tummy”. Tummy = fat = so long = get rid of = bad = need solution = reference advertisement = possible solution = good = feel better.
Like tires taking the same track over and over, thoughts that follow the same patterns tend to create a rut that is hard to maneuver out of. Advertisers take advantage of this.
The more you see this ad and/or the more you ignore your thoughts about it, the stronger the associations come between tummy = bad = need to slim = find solution = slimming pants.
Advertisers know that most of us follow a rut of thoughts - for example, those that circle around rejection of our own body / physical appearance. Those paid to influence you - even if not maliciously - actually enhance those negative feelings by their ads. They immediately provide a solution to make you feel better: their product or service.
So as you are driving down the street to work, thoughts playing happily in some other field, all an ad needs to do is to bump a thought to the edge of that familiar thought-rut and you will fall right in. (Tummy? Bad! Good bye tummy? Good! Need to buy the fix!)
Even if those thoughts pass within a split second and you move quickly back to pondering what type of donuts are going to be available at the meeting, the seed has been planted and the rut, deepened.
Again: The next time you think about your tummy – even if that sign is nowhere to be seen – you’ll have those same thoughts of rejection, the same desire to make that discomfort go away. And hey … wasn’t there some solution that you saw the other day, some way to say good bye to that all??
So what to do?
It all begins with awareness.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again.
Every thought that you have is another opportunity to follow the same path you’ve been following (which may be desirable or not) or to dance onto a new one. Every single thought of your day. The one you are having right now, for example.
When I bring attention to the weight of your body, the position in which it is in, any fat or bones or aches that you might feel – pay very close attention to where your thoughts run. How quickly do they turn negative? How much power do you feel in playing with those thoughts – redirecting them, or at least being able to notice them without sinking into negative emotions?
What IF you had some innate power to fully control your own thoughts? What might happen to the effectiveness of an ad such as “hide your tummy”?
I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a world where no one ever feels the need to hide a part of themselves. I want to live in a world where tummies are loved and embraced and hugged and snuggled into. Flat tummies with well-worked muscles, flabby tummies with rolls, soft and shapely tummies – every single tummy, loved.
So if I happen to have full control over my thoughts, such an ad would actually create the opposite effect that the company had intended: I would immediately not align with that ad, that store, and would want to avoid shopping there. Not out of hate, but simply because I recognized (through being aware of my own thoughts and true desires) that that isn’t the type of person that I want to be nor the type of world in which I want to live.
The good news: You have more control over your thoughts than you think you do.
The difficult news: There is no quick fix.
If you are itching to try a little something, you can start here:
Meditate. There are countless resources on getting started with this. There is no better way to get in touch with your own mind.
Read this article I wrote on thinking, feeling, and being.
Try finding one ad today and checking in with your thoughts that spin from it. Don’t stay in the same thought rut - really challenge yourself to notice what influence it has on your beliefs, emotions, etc.
Release judgment of any thoughts that arise. Try to pull yourself out of that typical rut. Replace any judgments with thoughts of, “Huh, that’s interesting” or “How curious”.
And one last practice, in honor of the advertisement that started this all:
Place your hands on your tummy. Breathe deeply into them. Recognize those thoughts that arise, and breathe. Be grateful for all that you are.