As I walked along the beach in Hilton Head, I took a scientific stance… observing and taking mental notes about this topic. Please know these are not my own ideas or judgments, though I surely have been conditioned to believe some of them.
As I share them, I invite, beg, plead with you to question each and every one of them… let’s break these ideas and find a kinder, gentler way of compassion, acceptance, and appreciation!
But, from a simplistic observation, here’s what the common understandings and agreements seem to be:
- boob bulges are good, show them off…
- belly bulges (at least on women) bad,
- butt bulges good – bring on the thongs and let those cheeks out! (unless you’re old, and then, please get the skirt suit!)
- thigh bulges gross, especially if they also happen to be dimply and then they should be suctioned
- lip bulges good and maybe they should even be injected
Yet, most of the time, women better cover up any extra lumps or bulges. Or squeeze the life out of them – have you ever tried these torture devices meant to contain a body that wants to flop around? No thank you!
There are also cultural preferences. If I had been born in a different place and time, there are certainly other characteristics I’d be judged for and longing for. Which would suggest there is no right or wrong body, wouldn’t it? That maybe we could let go of these ideas of too big, too small, too grey, too wrinkly, saggy, or bulgy… Wouldn’t that be amazing!?
And so, I find myself wondering… when did I learn to judge every bit of this body of mine and who taught me to hate the belly I now have and wish for the flat one that was here when I was 20. Why do I think it’s reasonable to expect this body that has carried me for almost 6 decades, birthed and fed two babies and then cared for them as they grew, held the stress of the terrifying and uncertain times… to look like it did in the days of my youth?
Who taught me the numbers on the scale would lead to a good or bad day? That buying a pair of pants with a certain number on the tag was to be dreaded and avoided? That I should count calories or points? Deprive myself or push myself to try to sculpt a certain desired (and possibly unattainable) shape? Think that I should look like the woman over there who’s built entirely different from me? Believe that she’s more desirable because she fits some preconceived norm?
What would it be like to truly act in a loving and kind way toward this body that is the only one I have in its current iteration? What would it be like to not look at myself in the mirror or in a photo and name something that I hate about so many bits of me? What would it be like to move through a day without excessive thoughts about how I look or how others see me, about what or how much I should or shouldn’t eat?
What if, instead, we could honor the body that we have. The one that’s lived through whatever it’s lived through in this life? What if, we could accept that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and appreciate this diversity among us?
I recently joined an Intuitive Eating program and was horrified to see how often my thoughts go to food, body, or weight, more often than not in an unkind and judgmental way. I am not a person who has gone from diet to diet throughout my life or who deprives myself of the pleasure of the food I enjoy. BUT, what I have noticed is the pervasive thoughts that I should be doing it differently. Even as I’m eating something delicious, the narrative, “Oh, you’re being BAD” is running…
In this moment, I’m really not liking what I see when I look in the mirror or what I feel when I put on my clothes. Not usually a fan of “fake it til you make it,” I’m trying to do that with this idea of meeting myself where I am. I’m even wearing a shirt that says “Be Kind” while the thoughts running through my mind are anything but. And, I want to make some changes (but clearly not badly enough). I want to do that from a kind place, with gentleness and compassion. Harsh and cruel aren’t the way.
I find myself now in a place of simply trying to be ok with the body I have so that I can work with it. Trying to establish a genuinely trusting and loving relationship with this vessel that houses me so that I can know when it’s hungry or full, what will truly be nourishing in this moment. When it needs rest and when it needs to move. What works for it, today, in this reality of who I am?
It’s not easy in a world where the cultural messaging is strong and omnipresent… and damaging. Ideas about body image are intense, and they keep us from liking or loving ourselves. They lead us to do things to our bodies that are harmful.
Going back to my A post about Answers – I wish someone had taught each of us to find our own way, to be ok with who we are, and to respect the differences among us.
Are you at peace with your body?
If so, I’m really happy for you! Please let us know how you’ve gotten to this point. How have you worked with your mind and heart along the way to feel ok, good, or great about how you look and feel? I’m very much a novice and work in progress in this area.
I’m going to begin with sending loving kindness to each part of my body, intentionally appreciating them for what they do for me… these (big) feet and legs for carrying me through my days, this (big) belly for housing all the digestive organs that nourish and fuel me, that brought two babies into this world, …
OK, OK, that was a rough start… I’ll go back and take out the judgment and begin again with a genuine loving offering to my feet, my legs, my heart, my internal organs, my brain, arms, and hands, my eyes and ears… there are so many miracles here. Let me pause to appreciate that just for a minute. Seriously…
Here's a recording to Loving Kindness for the Body meditation if you'd like to join me.
This post sent me into quite a spiral after writing it. How about you? What does it bring up? Share in the comments below and let's learn and grow together! #AtoZchallenge