We are extremely critical of our bodies. If you are in a group of people for any period of time, it is pretty common for people to start criticizing their bodies or talking about what they need to do to improve their bodies (i.e. go on a diet, exercise, etc.). Sometimes these conversations take an especially dark turn, and people start saying things like “I’m so fat. My legs look horrible. I have the biggest butt in the world”, etc. You know the kinds of conversations I am talking about. It seems like body hatred and body loathing is extremely common and even, perhaps, a national past time. Do you know what is really uncommon? It is really uncommon to find people saying, simply and sincerely, “I love my body. It’s beautiful.” I believe when we even think about these words, our first instinct is to start listing all of the reasons our body is not beautiful. Maybe our first reaction is, “I can’t say that. My body is so gross and flawed.” I want to tell you that your body is beautiful right now, no matter what.
Your body is beautiful right now, no matter what because your body is a record of your amazing unique life—a life full of both really difficult and wonderful things. Your body is the record of the bike rides you went on when you were little and the scars you received from falling off your bike. Your body is a record of the beautiful food you have eaten and the times you were feeling scared and overwhelmed and ate extra food in an attempt to soothe or protect yourself from people or the world around you. Your body is a record of the love you have made and the times when you treated yourself less than kindly because you didn’t know how to do better. Your body is a record of the pregnancies, miscarriages, and births you have experienced and the car accidents you suffered. Your body is a record of your decision not to have children, and your body is a record of the late nights you stayed up studying or the nights you stayed up talking to friends who needed your help. Your body is both an amazing, unique landscape and a fascinating historical record. There is no other landscape and historical record like it. That is why you are beautiful right now, no matter what. It is your landscape. It is your record.
This painting is “Ariadne” by John William Waterhouse
I would like to point out that rather than learning to think of our bodies as being a unique record of our lived experiences, we are usually trained instead to view our bodies in terms of how they look to someone else or whether or not someone else approves of them. We are trained to judge our bodies in terms of whether or not others think they are sexually desirable. We are trained to judge our bodies according to how narrow and arbitrary media standards judge them. Of course, it is normal for us to consider how our bodies appear to others, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying when people find us attractive, sexually or otherwise. Nevertheless, it is important to note that our bodies are not primarily for other people; they are primarily for us. They are our vessels. The primary goal of our body is not to meet other peoples’ standards of sexual desirability. The purpose of our bodies is to allow us to live our unique life and to give us feedback about that life. Our bodies are not for the purpose of living up to arbitrary and unrealistic media standards of what our bodies should look like. The purpose of our bodies is to fully express themselves in their radical originality, even if they look quite different from everyone else. Remember, your body is an amazing landscape, and the amazing thing about landscapes is their variety and originality.
Of course it is true that sometimes we decide we need to change something related to our body. For instance, perhaps our body is telling us that we are eating too little or too much and that it is having problems working properly. Sometimes our body tells us that we need to drink more water. Sometimes our body tells us that we have been sitting a little too much working or watching TV, and we need to dance and run and hula hoop more. Sometimes our body tells us that we have a medical problem and that it is time to go to the doctor. But in all of these cases, whether we decide we need to eat more or less, or exercises more or less, or go to the doctor, etc., our body is not our enemy. It hasn’t lost its amazingness. Rather, in these instances our body is being its amazing self. As a historical record and landscape, our body is always giving us feedback about our how thoughts and actions and choices affect it. And the more we listen to it and become its friend, the more we understand it and can make any changes it is asking us to make.
So Friend, whatever your body is like today, it is amazing and beautiful right now. You just need to be present with your body in this moment. You need to appreciate it for the beautiful landscape and record it is, and everything will unfold well from there. You absolutely deserve right now to say, “I love my body. It’s amazing.”