Updated: Mar 20
I’ve noticed some patterns among my avatars…
While doing some writing for my upcoming program The Avatars Project, I realized something interesting– each avatar has their own pattern for how they soothe their nervous systems when they get upset, triggered, or dysregulated.
Every individual is unique of course, but Self Objectifiers (ie: those with the Hidden Body Image Plan of being attractive enough to motivate others to meet their needs) tend to be pretty good at co-regulation, which means they can use connection with others to calm their nervous systems down when they’re freaking out and scrambled.
If a partner or loved one offers a Self Objectifier some kind of attachment-based comfort or soothing (whether through hugs, holding, sex, words of affirmation, gifts, eye gazing, or similar) they will typically understand it’s value, be able to accept it, and feel better after receiving it. Not everyone, of course, but an interesting pattern nonetheless.
It’s also totally different than, say, a lot of Runners, who tend to push that kind of comfort away (consciously or not), avoid it, find it threatening, or just don’t have a positive response to it.
It’s wonderful to be able to let someone else calm you down of course, but the issue for a lot of Self Objectifiers is that they find themselves over-relying on the power of co-regulation, and then struggling with self-regulation– meaning, they’re not as good at calming themselves down alone!
As a result, many Self Objectifiers find themselves needing to cultivate coping tools and skills to self-soothe and regulate their nervous systems when they get out of whack, whereas a lot of Runners have to do the exact opposite, learning to let people in and ask for support.
A lot of Outsiders struggle with something similar to the Self Objectifier, either relying on other people to help them calm back down when they’re upset, or just wishing for someone to help calm them down when they’re upset. (That can be the result of not having enough access to people to co-regulate with, either now or in their past.)
Outsiders also sometimes devalue their own ability to calm themselves down, because it feels like a sort of… consolation prize.
One client told me she’s great at self-soothing, but that she feels like only losers need to self-soothe, because everyone else has people to offer them comfort and support instead. Of course this perspective totally misunderstands our nervous systems, and how we regulate our energy (everyone needs both self-regulation and co-regulation to thrive) but it’s not an uncommon perspective among Outsiders.
As you can imagine, both Self Objectifiers and Outsiders who feel this way may find themselves displaying an anxious attachment style, falling into co-dependent relationships, or feeling excessively needy, because in many ways they are– they literally require other people to feel grounded and safe.
Many Runners on the other hand– and High Achievers as well– have the exact opposite issue, and struggle to let people comfort and support them.
For High Achievers this is often because they see a need for co-regulation as a sort of weakness of character, while simultaneously seeking external validation and approval in the hopes that getting it will make them feel whole and worthy. For Runners, it’s often because letting themselves be that vulnerable feels too dangerous, despite the fact that deep down they crave connection too.
These two avatars tend to be so practiced at watching their own backs that they don’t know how to let anyone else do it for them. Which can lead to a fierce and admirable independence, but also a deep loneliness, and feeling of being unworthy of that kind of connection. After all, a lot of these folks are coming from childhoods in which secure attachment and adequate care and comfort wasn’t available to them when they needed it.
They were left to handle their needs alone, and now that’s what they know how to do.
Whether someone learned to over-function alone in the absence of adequate attachment, or feels overly needy and reliant on others to feel ok, everyone suffering with body image issues is coping with something, and how they cope can give us information about how their path to body neutrality needs to look.
If you feel like the only person you can trust and rely on is YOU, you won’t be able to receive the comfort or soothing being offered to you in a hug, cuddle, conversation, or moment of intimacy… so you’ll instead need to find that comfort and soothing in the bottom of a bowl of ice cream, a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes, a new diet or exercise plan, or just one more purchased item.
And if you rely on other people to do the labor of re-regulating your nervous system when it gets scrambled, you’re always going to feel extraordinarily exposed, vulnerable, and helpless– especially whenever there is even the tiniest hint of interpersonal friction.
As you can imagine, this kind of pattern impacts a person’s relationships as well as their body image and self-worth. Luckily, learning to cope alone and learning to let other people in are both skills that can be improved with practice!
Which skill is easier for you, and which one is harder? What would change in your life and body image if you felt equally able to do both?
PS: I have 3 VIP spots and 5 pay-what-you-can spots still available in my upcoming round of The Avatars Project! Click the link to sign up, or hit reply if you want to claim one of those pay-what-you-can spots. 🙂
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