Being Kind to Your Body: Part 1
This is part one of a series on body image. It’s easy to start the new year thinking that THIS will be the year when you’ll lose the weight and stop eating junk food and start working out more. But if we don’t first learn how to love and accept our bodies, no amount of fitness or dieting is going to change the shame and pressure we feel inside. It might provide temporary relief, but the insecure matters of the heart will still exist. So, let’s talk about it.
No matter our age, it’s easy to hate our bodies. Can you relate?
As a young preteen, my friends and I demeaned our bodies, saying all kinds of terrible lies about our faces, hair, weight, legs . . . even if we didn’t necessarily believe what we were saying about ourselves.
It was as if we all were simply playing a part in a little game, each of trying to outdo the other in personal insults. I think we knew in our hearts that we weren’t as fat and ugly as we spoke ourselves to be, but we felt our bodies changing and we figured with it must come hate; the older girls and mothers insulted themselves, so we followed suit.
One Sunday after church, we biked to a friend’s house with dresses flapping in the wind and bellies full of bread and cheese and pickles. We congregated down in her basement and the self-deprecation let loose.
I hate my freckles.
I’m so fat.
I hate my hair.
I’m so ugly.
I hate my legs.
That Sunday, we had invited a new girl to join our after-church party, and she stayed silent while we all talked and pasted lie-labels all over our young and tender bodies.
We turned to her and asked, “What about you? What don’t you like about yourself?”
She stared back—a pause of silence—and said, “Umm, nothing.
We looked around at us each other with disbelief. She must not have understood the question.
“You don’t think you’re fat? Or ugly?”
She was a bit disheveled, hair scribbling out of her bonnet and all over her face. I figured she’d at least have to hate that about herself. Her simple answer was no and she left soon after.
In her absence, we choked over our words, shocked at her audacity. We felt betrayed as girls to think that another girl our age had the right to be satisfied with the body and hair and face that she was given.
I don’t remember her name or much else about her, but her words and attitude have nagged at me for years.
See, we thought we knew better than her. We thought she just hadn’t gotten it yet. We thought it was the cool, hip, “in” thing to hate ourselves. We imagined it to be quite unbecoming to actually love yourself—because that’s just not what happens when you grow up and become a woman.
And now today, as a 20-something young adult woman, I’m still grappling with my knee-jerk reaction of looking in the mirror and listing faults back to myself. That little girl knew something that I still am grasping at—my body is wonderful and lovely just the way it is, disheveled hair and all.
Here’s the thing, I can stop eating sugar, invest in the latest trendy skin treatment, run every day, and buy designer clothes, but those actions won’t do anything to impact the self-consciousness and insecurity I feel inside. I must first learn to love myself as I am, stretch marks and all.
So I’m challenging myself.
Every morning for the next week, I am forcing myself to look into the mirror and see myself clearly without labeling anything as beautiful or ugly. Sadly, I’ve forgotten how to be comfortable with myself, to accept my body and face without any negativity or pressure—to see myself for who I really am.
Perhaps you have too. No matter how young or old we are, it’s easy to get sucked into the world’s standard of beauty and then tape ourselves up next that impossible standard to see how we measure up. And we’ll be disappointed every single time.
So join me. Together we can be kind to our bodies as we re-learn who we are and train ourselves to forget labels and simply exist, thankful for the legs and arms and lungs and body that keep us moving and breathing and working—allowing us to exist and flourish in our extraordinary lives.
In your corner,