Dressing rooms are excellent places to witness just how mean we are to ourselves. I recently overheard an exchange between two women at a T.J. Maxx that went something like this:
“Ew, I can’t wear this. My arms look disgusting.”
“Yuck, look at all my gross stomach pudge.”
“I look like a whale in this dress.”
“Ugh…I hate my body.”
As I shimmied in and out of tank tops and shorts, I listened from my stall, observing how ruthless the ladies were being toward their bodies. As they continued to verbally abuse themselves, I said a silent prayer, asking that all people learn to love and appreciate their bodies unconditionally.
Saying that prayer was as much for myself as it was for them and all women who don’t always give love to the sacred vessel that is their body.
Why is it so hard to love our bodies?
We’ve been conditioned to be unhappy with our bodies by outside influences that benefit from our insecurities and lack of self-acceptance. We grow up around media that says we aren’t the shape or the weight or the age or the fitness level we should be…so buy/do/eat/have this thing we’re selling to make yourself better and more liked! We live in a society of comparison and unrealistic and unnecessary standards of body perfection.
I didn’t evade this messaging while growing up, so I understand why those women were slamming their supposed body flaws.
Many times I’ve criticized the way my body looks in front of that not-at-all flattering full-length mirror with wretched fluorescent overhead lighting. But for me, judging my body hasn’t only been about the way it looks on the outside.
For years I felt like my body was always working against me, keeping me trapped in a cage of anxiety, stress, and fear. I was angry at my body’s inability to relax and frustrated by the patterns I couldn’t seem to break.
As a result, I was a major bitch to my body. I’d say cruel, belittling things to her that I would never imagine saying to my friends, family, or even strangers. But for some reason, treating my body with hatred and disdain was somehow acceptable.
In the months following my miscarriage, something shifted in my psyche.
One day I simply decided that I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of abuse any more.
I realized I am not at war with my body. We are partners. And I am responsible for cherishing her like I would my own child.
Without my body, I am not here. Without my body, I can’t contribute what I want to the world. Without my body, I can’t connect with the people I treasure so much in my life.
My body may not always do what I want or look how I want, but she is an essential part of my experience that deserves the utmost respect and appreciation, always.
Now, when I find myself in a moment of self-judgment, I pause and redirect my thoughts to something more loving, kind, and true.
When I see the cellulite on my legs that’s gotten more pronounced as I age, I feel grateful that I have strong, healthy legs that let me hike through the woods, play with my niece and nephew, and carry me forward.
When I look at my bloated belly as I step out of the shower, I smile and am thankful for the fun I had the night before drinking beer and scarfing nachos with my sister while we watched Disney movies for the bazillionth time.
When I spot the deepening wrinkles around my eyes, I reflect on the experiences—both happy and sad—that led to them and to the person I am today.
These things are not flaws. They are aspects of a body that I have been gifted with to live my life. So what if I’m near-translucent pasty, have big pores, under eye circles, a bloat-prone belly, and that one resilient rogue chin hair? Would not having those things make me a kinder person, a better friend, or a more creative entrepreneur?
Bodies are weird, flawed, glorious creations that digest food, pump blood, breathe air, grow babies, provide us with a voice, move us around, and give us the means to live a creative, fulfilling life. I choose to be grateful for my body because I know (all too well) how it feels to choose the opposite.
When you neglect, attack, shame, or hate your body, you do yourself a huge disservice. You waste so much energy fighting against a part of you that’s only here to support your growth, be your teacher, and help you create what you want in this life. Let’s stop bashing our bodies, ladies. Your body is perfectly imperfect and it deserves loving kindness.
I invite you to break through your conditioning and do your best to love your body exactly as it is.