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“Just love your body,” she said, “it’s amazing.”
I stared blankly at my friend, the word “just” ringing in my ears.
“Just.” As if it were easy.
I felt guilty that I couldn’t connect with the idea of loving my body. My heart was beating as it should, my brain was thinking, my legs could walk, and I had conceived, birthed and nourished two entirely new humans with my body. Even then, loving it seemed like a lot to ask.
This was the beginning of my journey toward changing my relationship with my body after a lifetime of counting calories and drops of sweat. Rather than diligently pursuing a smaller pant size, I went after the elusive “body love” feeling instead. Now, four years later, there are a few things I wish I could tell myself then.
Loving Your Body Is Hard To Do
I am so grateful for the growing body positivity movement, but it often overlooks the complexity of what it means to love your body, resorting instead to the overused and oversimplified “just love your body!” Truth is, it can be challenging to love your body in a world that doesn’t always love it back. There will be days when you look in the mirror and are sad about what you see. There are times where going clothes shopping or asking for a seat belt extender on an airline knock the wind out of your sails. For me, “just loving my body” on days like that can feel I’m failing.
What I’ve learned is that it’s important to have compassion during those times and to contextualize the way you feel within the culture you’re feeling it in. Being larger-bodied can be challenging, and it has a lot more to do with the nature of the world we live in instead of our capacity for self-love.
Think About What Body Love Means to You
In a world of gold stars and achievements, you would never embark on setting a goal that wasn’t SMART – that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. However, that is precisely what we do when we talk about wanting to love our bodies.
As I traversed my journey, I realized that when it came down to it, I didn’t know what it meant to “love” my body. I thought maybe it would mean that I would look in the mirror every day and do a little “daaaaaamn girl” before I walked on. That would be awesome, but I wanted more substance to my relationship with my body. Pursuing body love started to feel less important to me. But I knew what respect felt like. Acceptance? I could put some tangible action behind that, too.
Ask yourself: What does loving your body look like? What do you say, feel, do and think differently when you are in a loving relationship with your body?
Get Curious About Your Purpose For Your Body
Your body may have many quirks and challenges, but there is also this: your body is your vehicle through life.
Your body can move and smell and taste, and every single part of the experience that we call Being Human is only possible because you have a body. So, what do you want your body to do for you in this – as Mary Oliver so wisely states it – one wild and precious life?
Me? I want to ride my bike down steep hills. I want to kiss the sweet softness of my children’s necks. I want my hands to know when the tomatoes are ripe, and I want to taste the sweet crunch of a perfectly-set creme brûlée. And you know what? I can do all of these things, no matter what size or shape my body takes.
Grab a piece of paper and make a list. What is important to you? Don’t listen to the rest of the world or that women’s magazine on your nightstand. What will you do with this one wild and precious body you’ve been given to occupy for this lifetime?