What is the one relationship that you will be in for your entire life? Who is the one person who will follow you wherever you go, that you are bound to unconditionally? What takes the full brunt of your every action and emotion, and that you are only given one chance to care for and support?
The answer to this rather straightforward riddle is your body. Our body is a remarkable and hardworking machine that we often abuse and take for granted, from the inside out.
It strikes me as ironic when people quizzically ask me what I mean when I say that I am an advocate for a “body positive” lifestyle. Their furrowed brow and skeptical lilt hints at this very apparent dilemma and seems to say:
“What… as if it is possible to support or encourage a “body-negative” lifestyle.”
This idea sounds ridiculous and clearly satirical at first, but the sad reality is that yes, in my experience, most people are living and promoting a body-negative lifestyle.
Of course they would not call it by name or endorse it on purpose, but when we shine a critical light on the familiar and ordinary behaviors of everyday women we will find that “body-negative” hits uncomfortably close to home.
Before we can even begin to dive into what it means to live a “body-positive” lifestyle, we have to insolate and recognize the realities of how we really feel about our bodies versus how we interact and communicate with our bodies on a daily basis. To be clear, I am not talking exclusively about weight. I am talking about our entire body, from the hair on your head to the toes on your feet. I want you for a moment to sit back and ask yourself the following questions:
-How much time during any given day do you spend thinking about your body?
– How much of that time is spent wishing or demanding that your body change?
-How do you typically speak to yourself internally about your body?
-Do you ever catch yourself shaming or scolding yourself because of your body?
-How often do you catch yourself comparing your body to someone else’s body, despite completely inevitable differences?
-How many of your health decisions and goals for your body are actually motivated from a place of vanity or shame?
-When someone compliments you or your body, how do you respond? Do you often respond by downplaying or by making excuses?
-How often do you thank your body for the incredible task of navigating you through this world?
Now considering all of your answers, I want you to ask yourself the most important question: Is your everyday interaction with your body positive or negative?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that it is impossible to be a self-confident individual or even that our struggle to learn to love our bodies is in vain. On the contrary, I consider myself to be a confident, courageous woman who loves her body fiercely. But when I asked myself these very questions not long ago I found that the answers were not matching my commitment to self -love.
My everyday interactions with my body were out of line with my positive values.
A lot of us are fighting to improve and redefine our relationship with our body. It is a revolution that is taking the modern world by storm as women everywhere have decided to rewrite the somehow mandated rule that women are supposed to struggle with body image.
You can’t help but wonder how this happened and where it started. If the old adage is true and our body is a temple, exactly what does that mean for the incredible women in today’s society? When exactly did it become commonplace, banal and at worst, desirable for women to scrutinize and shame their bodies? Who was this grade-A jerk who decided this was to be our plight and how did it ascend to become some sort of unwritten law of femininity?
Shaming our bodies has almost become a sacred way that women confide and commune with each other as Tina Fey so profoundly illustrates in the famous body-bashing scene of the 2004 movie Mean Girls!
Karen: God. My hips are huge!
Gretchen: Oh please. I hate my calves.
Regina: At least you guys can wear halters. I’ve got man shoulders.
Cady: I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there are lots of things that can be wrong on your body.
Gretchen: My hairline is so weird.
Regina: My pores are huge.
Karen: My nail beds suck.
For those of you who have not seen this movie, do me a favor and stop reading NOW (I won’t be offended) and remedy that situation. No excuses – it is on Netflix.
This scene is profound because Cady (played by Lindsey Lohan) is an exchange student who was raised in Africa and has been completely separated from Western society until this, her sophomore year of high school. When she witnesses this strange, almost ceremonial bonding ritual between girl friends, she is appalled to discover that “apparently there are a lot of things that can be wrong on your body.”
How else but through the eyes of an innocent, someone who has never experienced this body shaming that is thrust upon us from an uncomfortably early age, can we see the twisted realities of lady-shame spiral?
So what is the first step to recovery? What does this post have to offer those who consider themselves recovering shame-aholics or even well on their road to beautiful, radiant and unconditional self-love?
To all of you, I offer this jumping off point from the insightful Mike Dooley who teaches that our “THOUGHTS will inevitably become THINGS.” How many of your current thoughts about your body would you be excited to manifest as things in your life?
We have the power to change our relationship with our bodies to be completely in line with our positive values right now! Can we harness the power of “thoughts become things” to create self-love and acceptance? ABSOLUTELY!
My hope is by exposing these bizarre shame rituals that we all participate in, that we can rewrite our inner dialogue with our body to focus on the positive. How different would it feel to erase shame from our minds and to replace it with abundant self-love?
Can you try every day to cut off your daily dose of shame and rewrite your inner narrative to inspire health and wellness, instead of feed vanity and shame?
Does this mean that we should skip the gym because we are now “body-positive” or absolve ourselves of changing unhealthy habits? Absolutely not. Much like a child, sometimes being a parent means doing what is best and what will have the most positive impact on your child’s life. What it means is that if we stop feeding our body shame and resentment, it will finally be able to thrive and prosper.
Take a good long look at the way you speak to, for and about your body and ask yourself: “Would I do anything for someone who talked to me that way?”