The text flashed across my screen. One of my good friends was terrified of being intimate with a man she was talking to. She wrote:
“I like my body just fine. I just don’t want to show it to anyone else. Clothed… we good. Naked… I’m a hot mess.” I wanted to understand more. So I asked, “What would help you feel more comfortable being naked? Not just with him, but in general?” She responded, “A tummy tuck, getting rid of all the stretch marks, and extra skin. Truly. I actually had this conversation with myself this past week. But… if I did the tummy tuck, then what would be next? Cellulite on my ass? And following that? The lumps and bumps my thighs? I feel like the race for a perfect body would take me to my grave.”
Her last line stayed with me…
“I feel like the race for the perfect body would take me to my grave.”
The race for the perfect body.
I flipped that phrase around in my mind, sizing it up and stretching it out over my own experience. It was only within the last couple years that I began to take a really hard look at myself in the mirror. I had turned a blind eye toward my body and my health because I started to believe, as a little girl, that I didn’t have a body that would be desired, so what was the point? The images that I saw in the movies, the pictures in all the magazines, the comments that were made by others throughout my life, including my immediate and extended family, all taught me to believe that my body was not a body that anyone would desire. So why should I?
As a child I grew tall very quickly, stretch marks would start to pop up on my inner thighs and arms by the fourth grade. I stopped wearing shorts in public by the time I was in middle school. I didn’t wear or buy a bathing suit for almost two decades. To be completely honest, right now in my early thirties, I’m working on looking at myself in pictures and not searching for ways that my body offends me; my stomach is too big, my face is too round, my double chin is far too noticeable. Can you relate?
So let’s go back to this idea of “the perfect body.” What is the perfect body? How do we know what a body is supposed to look like? Really ask yourself this question. I sought statistics to flesh out the research around women and their satisfaction with their body. Most studies I found said that upwards of 60% of women (with multiple articles claiming almost 95%) are unhappy with their bodies. I guess I wasn’t shocked by the statistics, but what I find so interesting is that we’re not talking about why.
Why do I look at my body with repugnance and disgust? Why do I look at my body and only look for what is wrong, rather than seeing how much is right? Why was my dear friend curled into a ball at the thought of another person seeing her unclothed? I haven’t landed on a fully formulated answer that I can give you just yet, but I do think a lot of the body hate that we have stems from consumerism and being constantly bombarded with visions of bodies that have been digitally altered.
Much of our worth and self confidence gets knocked by these impossible, societal standards, and we become conditioned to believe that if we are different from, we are less than. Although that’s not the case at all, we continue to view our bodies as things to be nipped and tucked, picked apart and beaten down, instead of marveling at the wonder of the fact that we HAVE a human body at all.
If you’re someone who struggles with their image, remember this (because you know it deep down, you really do):
Our bodies are the vehicles with which we experience the pleasures of the world. The sight of a precious newborn baby, the taste of an incredible meal, the sounds of an orchestra blending their instruments together, the hum of connection as we hold the hands of those we love.
You might not love your body—you might never appreciate yours—but can you accept that it’s miraculous? Can you see its magic and extraordinary power?
Now, Christmas-time can be incredibly triggering. As the holidays approach, there can be comments that send us back to a place of disconnection to our bodies. So what I want to encourage you in these moments to do, is to reflect on where you want that conversation to go. Maybe it means that it’s time for you to call out the bad behavior, maybe it means that you’re simply going to be curious about your response to the words that are said to you, or perhaps it’s time to consider how much control you’ve let those words have over you in the past and how you want that to go moving forward.
I don’t have a pretty map laid out for you on how to get back to a place of loving and appreciating our bodies, but I think that a good place to start is rooted in a quote I heard today from the founders of More than a Body, they said, “Positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good. It’s knowing your body is good, regardless of how it looks.”
Your body IS good. I think that’s where we start.
We start by recognizing just how good our bodies are. We start to recognize her for all that she has seen us through and all that she will carry us to.
Something that has been very helpful to me in my own journey of reconnecting with my body and learning how to thank her for the way that she has taken care of me, is to start talking about this with other women in my life and ask about their experiences with their bodies and to surround myself in my social media accounts with people who are showing the truth of their bodies and their stories. One of those accounts is by Sarah Landry (@TheBirdsPapaya). I felt such a resonance with something she shared in October that I wanted to include it here. She wrote:
“Hard truths: I liked being thinner because clothes fit me perfectly. I liked being thinner because men paid me more attention. I liked being thinner because people liked that I was thinner, and congratulated me often for it.
Everything I liked about being thinner had really nothing to do with my actual body. Because I can’t say I ever ended up finding much like for my body after all.
Everything I liked about being thinner was more about being accepted by others than it was about accepting myself.
Which reminds me that when thoughts creep in about wanting to be thinner, and the drastic unhealthy measures I know could take to get there, to pause and reflect that really it comes down to a innate desire to be accepted.
So I’m sitting with that today.
And I have to thank you, for showing me that while the relationship with myself is the core, that I can and will be accepted by people who will see me for more than my body.
I will find clothes that serve me, a man that gives me the right attention, congratulations for my healing and my purpose beyond my body.
Embracing me, an ever-changing, gaining and losing, ebbing and flowing me… has brought about the most genuine of relationships I could ever have.”
What would a world look like where we gave ourselves permission to come home and embrace ourselves and our bodies in the goodness of their existence?
Earlier when my friend said, “I feel like the race for a perfect body would take me to my grave,” can and is already true for us if we stay committed to hating the bodies that we’re in. Each and every day we have a choice about how we speak to ourselves and treat ourselves. Will we befriend our body? Or will we bully her? Will we lament at all that’s wrong with her and torment her for not being good enough? Or will we learn to shift our perspective, and look at her through a different lens? What would happen if you let go of the criticism and the judgment and the shame?
How would it feel to walk into the Holiday season as a supportive partner to your body? Even beyond the season ahead, and on into the new year, would you show up in the world differently? a.k.a. By getting naked around your partner or wearing a bathing suit on vacation, or shorts or something sleeveless? Would you put yourself forward for a job promotion, and climb the career ladder with ease because you feel much more confident? Would you start an online business, or if you have one, be more visible and start selling yourself and your offerings on IG story?
And finally, let me ask you this, Lovely: what if the perfect body is the one that you’re already in? Because it’s YOURS.
I’m asking myself the same thing.
- Your Body is You with Dr. Hillary McBride
- Let’s Talk About Being Plus Sized with Confidence Coach Tamra Lamese
- Body Talk: How to Embrace Your Body and Start Living Your Best Life Hardcover – May 25, 2021 by Katie Sturino
- The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary McBride