Illusions of the Body: How Your Thoughts Look On Your Body

Photographer Gracie Hagen

Photo credit: Gracie Hagen

Sex educator and body positive activist, Elle Chase, argues that being unconscious of how our thoughts effect our self-image is like leaving the kitchen faucet running. You can easily ignore the direct physical consequences because it seemingly isn’t affecting your immediate everyday life.

Inspired by the photography project, “Illusions of the Body”, Elle challenges us to ask ourselves, “Does the way in which you carry yourself match how you feel about yourself? Are you physically representing your positive or negative thoughts on a daily basis?

Read this motivational piece and then take a look in the mirror.

This post was originally published here.


Look at this woman’s body.
Look at her in terms of the first picture being one of self-appreciation and confidence.
Then look at the second one being of self-deprecation.
Which one do you relate to?

Chicago photographer Gracie Hagan likes to play with with themes of emotion and perception in her work. In one particular photo series entitled “Illusions of the Body” she makes clear that our bodies can take different forms depending on how we carry ourselves. And in my opinion, shows us how easy it can be for your body to take on how you are feeling.

In this series of paired photos, the subject is a nude model in a complimentary or confident pose while in contrast, the second photo of the set, the same nude model is in an unconfident or awkward pose. The differences are extreme but also telling, in the same way bloggers have recently taken to the netosphere to show how those amazing ‘before and after’ photos from the weight loss ads can be manipulated showing a seeming dramatic change in body shape and firmness with the use of the product they’re shilling when in fact, the photos were most likely taken the same day with the model told to hold her body in such a way that makes her body either look 10 lbs. heavier or 10 lbs. thinner.

Granted Gracie Hagen’s photos are intentionally exaggerated to make a point … but are they really that exaggerated? Next time you catch your reflection in a full-length mirror or a store window, notice your posture, the position your shoulders are in, what your resting face looks and feels like, and see if it matches what you’re feeling. How does noticing how you are unconsciously carrying your body make you feel? What would you assume about you if you were a stranger passing you on the street? Do you seem open? Do you seem closed-off? Are you giving off an impression you don’t want to be approached? Do you seem at peace? Do you seem happy? Could this be how you carry yourself always or has today/this week/this month, etc. or a particular event been influencing you? Could this be representative of how you feel about yourself?

How we feel about ourselves determines (to a great extent) how we carry our body, and therefore project to the world (and back to us) how we feel about ourselves. By being unconscious of how our mindset is affecting our carriage is like leaving the kitchen faucet perpetually running. You don’t see the damage it’s causing because it seemingly isn’t affecting your day to day life … the water just goes down the drain. But oh, when you get the water bill you see the price for ignorance is high. Not only that, but in a drought, that wastefulness is irresponsible and depletes the reserve of water for everything and everyone. This is how your psyche suffers from unexamined negative thought. You know you’re thinking negatively, but don’t do anything about it for whatever reason. Unattended, those negative thoughts can cost you your self-esteem and left unabated will wear you down to the point where you have no stamina or comport to turn it around.

I invite you to take a look at these photos and click on the link to see the whole series. And next time you catch your own reflection or become aware of how your body is holding itself, take in what you notice and consider if it matches how you feel about yourself. Ask yourself if you might be physically representing your negative or positive thoughts about yourself on a daily basis and if that is something you would like to be more aware of. When you begin to pay attention to what you are noticing, you become more aware of cause and effect in your life, mind and body. When you become aware of your actions and thoughts (cause and effect) you can choose whether to change them or not. Choice is the gift here … taking back your freedom of choice in how you think and feel about yourself thereby assuming control of your own power and not letting external factors (media, advertising, judgments of others) make a container for you to exist in. YOU get to choose how YOU feel and that small change can make all the difference in the world.

For more information on Gracie Hagen and her photography check out her…


elle Sex educator, writer and coach, Elle Chase is best known for her award-winning and highly trafficked sites, (NSFW) and, which have both garnered multiple awards, including LA Weekly’s Best Sex Blog 2013. Elle’s focus is on positive body image, reigniting sexual expression and better sex after 40. She speaks nationally at universities, conferences, and teaches workshops about all things “sex.” Currently, she is hard at work on a book based on her popular workshop “Big, Beautiful Sex”. Find Elle on and follow her @TheElleChase or @smutforsmarties.