So, you’ve begun to reject the war on your body. No more starving it, no more attempts to manipulate it into some impossible shape or size. You’re done with bashing your body with negative talk, and ready to ignore others unwanted comments, too. You are embarking on an exciting, personal, and uncertain journey.
You have a relationship to foster now, with your body. As with all relationships, this one is uncharted, without a script, with no concrete “end-goal” or final destination.
There are a lot of words thrown around to describe how you ought to feel or think about your body. Love, acceptance, respect, neutrality, forgiving, kind… The myriad attempts to describe where you ought to “arrive at” is indicative of the fact that there is no “arrival.” This relationship will be ever-changing, evolving, expanding. You will be renegotiating the experience of living in your body continuously. It’s a process. It is not linear.
And so, you journey. Commit yourself to pruning away thoughts that criticise, shame, ridicule, or disrespect your body in any way.
What do you say instead?
“Love!” people crow. Speak love to yourself, love your body! It deserves it, you deserve it.
The reality is that for many, the words “body” and “love” simply don’t fit in the same sentence. It would be presumptuous to expect love. It ignores the realness of body dissatisfaction. Leaping into love is unrealistic.
So, “accept your body,” others say. Acceptance is wonderful, really, as long as the pain or fear of what your body looks like can be kept at bay. As long as the desperate wishing that one day it will be different still aches, however — acceptance is out of reach.
For today, then, might you respect it? You can respect something or someone you’re at odds with. Respect it despite your differences. So, perhaps begin here: treat it with respect, attending to its needs, refraining from shaming or hateful gibes. Cultivate respect with actions that convey that attitude.
Then, one day on this journey you might find your body doing something phenomenal; a special yoga pose, running a mile, or rocking a nature hike — chest heaving, heart pounding, muscles burning. And (forgetting momentarily that you loathe how this body looks in eveningwear), you celebrate your body! Fabulous, exhilarating, achieving body!
The elation fades, but will leave some residue. You’ll begin to notice the varied ways your body serves you each day. You’ll develop body appreciation. That attitude might even tingle your insides on occasion, gratitude burgeoning. Feeling grateful.
Yet it is so far from perfect. Quite imperfect, as are all the loved ones that you tolerate nonetheless. Acceding, you might even feel drawn to perform some action of body love; with lotions, a long bath, a massage, a nourishing meal.
There will be moments, days, even, that you won’t feel so gracious towards your body – and you’ll remind yourself that that is okay. You can respect it, and perhaps accept it. You can be kind to it. At times, acceptance will burst forth into something exceptional, something bigger. You will experience moments of gratitude, and love. Then, it might wane. And swell again.
On this journey of a relationship, just do your part. Take action, cultivate attitudes. Foster the gentleness of kindness, respect, and unconditional acceptance. Relish the moments you celebrate in your body. There will be more of them.
Recognize that while your body is only one piece of you — by no means the whole or most important part — it is a constant. You are in relationship with your body always. And know this: your body is loyal. It is a present, everlasting friend, and together you are a team. Treat it so.
Tags: body, body image, disordered eating, eating disorders, self esteem