Overcoming Body Shaming (Especially From Myself)
While chatting with a friend recently on Facebook messenger, we were joking about “shaking our booties.” I mentioned that maybe my booty needed some toning first.
“Joy creates extraordinary sexiness in any body,” she told me. My response was, “I’m actually really thankful my body is a beautiful shape. (Don’t tell too many people I said that!!).”
What I find interesting in all of this is the aside in brackets. As if I have to keep it a secret that, God forbid, I might actually like my body. I mean really, what’s so wrong with that?
The sad fact is that saying we like our bodies has become a revolutionary statement. Particularly as women, it is ingrained in us that if our body doesn’t live up to the perfect ideal, then we are intrinsically not enough.
I know because I (subconsciously) believed in this hogswallop for years, letting this reductive notion of who I am and whether that was “good enough” determine my worth.
For years I hated the way I looked. My nose was too long, and you couldn’t see my face for the acne. Not to mention my “chunky” thighs, and my ongoing battle with the bathroom scales.
A brief honeymoon period in my mid-twenties when the acne (finally!) cleared was followed by the shock of discovering my first gray hairs, and my new tormentor: sun-ravaged skin. All before I was thirty.
I became obsessive, covering my forearms with long gloves and my face with a mask or bandana to “protect myself” from the sun.
Throughout it all, every time my body failed to live up to my ideal of perfection, I made it “wrong.”
I disowned and disclaimed my body.
I shamed and abused it.
I longed for it to be something else—denying it (and me) the joy and pleasure of it simply being what it was.
Now I am in the process of reclaiming my body. Staking my right to define my relationship with my body, rather than having it determined by the status quo.
At long last I am learning to love myself with my wobbly bits, cellulite, stretch marks, and broken veins. All the things that I still, if I let myself, see as marring my skin.
What is pivotal is that I now refuse to let myself go there 99% of the time.
Instead, I am accepting and honoring my body, inundating it with gratitude for its beauty and perfection as well as all it allows me to do, be, and experience.
Being ashamed of loving my body dishonors not only the totality of my being, but also the Source consciousness that breathes life into it.
So, I’m going to sing my praises to this most intimate part of me; list the countless ways in which I love it.
I love the gentle curve of my waist and the swell of my hips. I love my slender, but strong, wrists and ankles, and my long and capable limbs. I love the gracefulness of my neck and the way my hair cascades around my face. I love both the softness and the hardness of my belly, and the strength and power in my back muscles.
I love the way I can stretch my arms high up in the air and place my feet firmly on the Earth and how good it feels to be here now in a physical body.
I love the way this allows energy to course through me, so I know my strength and vigor.
I love the way I can consciously drain all the tension out of my body and give it to Mother Earth, feel the joy and ease of inhabiting my body from this relaxed space.
I love the way I can stretch and expand the limits of my body and it rejoices in the challenge—the way it can climb steep hills and small mountains walking through the burn in my thighs and the fire in my lungs. The way my fingers rise to the challenge of dancing over the holes of my tin whistle more fluently. I love my body’s amazing capacity to learn to do new things at will.
I love my body’s tenacity and fidelity.
It is my staunchest supporter. It has seen me through everything.
Wherever I’ve been, however much I’ve abused it or allowed others to, it has never spurned me. It has faithfully kept doing its thing, supporting me as I engage in the world.
I love its honesty, the way it tells me when I’ve been pushing myself too hard; neglecting or abandoning myself in some way. I love the way it can never lie, and is an honest reflection of my state of being if only I am attentive enough and aware enough to read its communications in this way.
I love my body’s capacity for restoring itself through sleep and rest; reenergizing itself for the following day. The way it’s always faithfully there when I wake, eager to walk into another day and another adventure.
I love the tangibility of my physical presence—the way it can soothe an anguished or frightened child, reassure my aging dog that I am there and she is safe.
I love the way my body is the vessel for me to experience joy and pleasure, delight in the sensory experience of the world.
The warm feeling of the sun on my back, the grass prickling my bare arms. The cool breeze by the river gently caressing my face and tangling with my hair. The first drops of rain on my face. The feeling of another’s arms around me, tongue dancing with mine. The pleasure of touching and being touched.
The joy and fulfillment my tastebuds feel as they revel in the first sip of a Vienna coffee. Their delight in a berry dessert, the bitterness of wild mountain vegetables, or the rich creaminess of a Quattro Formaggio pizza.
The fragrant scent of roses and lavender borne on the wind, the flood of feeling they evoke as I think of my mum’s rose garden. The smell of a ripe peach beckoning to be eaten. The rich scent of the Earth that has drunk deeply of rain.
The pleasure of music and the way it speaks to our soul. The joy of waking to bird song, and walking my dog to the accompaniment of summer cicadas or humming bees. The orchestra of crickets rubbing their wings in harmony as I gaze up at the star-studded sky, and wonder what I did to deserve to live in a place of such rich abundance.
The marvel and beauty of the world that my eyes are witness to each and every day. The rich and vibrant red poppies dancing on the river bank. The diamonds of light shimmering and dancing on the river herself. The ageless grace and beauty of mountains. The gossamer beauty of dragonfly wings as they flit and hover over the paddy fields. Nature unfolding herself before me in exquisite and unceasing beauty, each season holding a magic of its own.
I love the way my eyes are a gateway to my soul and when people look into them they can see the pure essence of me reflecting back their own pure essence, the opening to real and authentic connection.
I love my body’s capability and its capacity for self-expression. The wonder of creative expression through dance, and the marvel of my hands creating exquisite pots in harmony with the revolutions of the wheel. The joy of voicing and creating who I am through my words, and expressing pleasure through song.
I love the way my heart beats and my lungs draw in life-giving oxygen without me having to do a thing. The way my stomach digests my food, and nutrients, minerals and vitamins are sent exactly where they are needed. I love the way my brain creates new neurons and neural pathways, and my body’s amazing capacity to heal.
I love and honor my physical body for helping me to heal on another level; for having been the repository for my emotional pain all these years, storing it in its depths.
I am grateful to it for this service. It deserves to be honored. And I am amazed by its capacity to release this pain and the memories of it from my cells.
I love my body’s capacity to change—to renew itself and create itself anew, all the time coming into perfect alignment with my vision of who I am and reflecting this back to me.
I love the fact that in my body flows the blood of my ancestors; that I am connected to them and the love that has brought me forth through our shared DNA; that the gifts I have are the ones they have given to me.
I love the sacredness of my womb and the miracle of its nurturing and life-giving force; its potential to bring things full circle again.
I love the fact that the cells in my body are powerhouses of energy, that they store all the information that is needed for me to be the greatest and highest version of myself; that they are relentless in their pursuit of this highest ideal.
I love and honor my physical body in its totality for its sacred gift of life and its intimate connection to all that is and the life-giving Earth.
I love the miracle of life that I am.
I love the miracle of life that is in me and is me; that is embodied in me.
And when I walk the Earth loving my body, each step is a sacred one bringing me home to who I am.