I often feel like a fraud. I’ve written countless articles about how we should love our bodies, how every size is beautiful, how we shouldn’t assume health is the same thing as thin. I’ve written thousands of words on the subject, yet just yesterday, I cried in front of the mirror. I cried because I still struggle to love my body, because I break down in changing rooms, and I chicken out of wearing a bikini or crop top.
I mean every word that I write. I do believe that all bodies are beautiful and deserve to be cherished; I just struggle to like my own sometimes. But then I read something on Instagram that shed light on this situation.
Lexie and Lindsay explain that the body positivity movement isn’t about liking your body; it’s about appreciating it. Therefore, we shouldn’t focus on how we view our body but instead on how we value it.
Let’s break that down.
Your body isn’t an object to be looked at; it isn’t a piece of art hanging in a museum. Your body is alive. Your body is a functioning being. It runs, breathes, cries, laughs, jumps, sleeps, pleasures and exists. Your body isn’t something to just view; it is about the value it adds to your life. Your body is a gift because it allows you to do so much; it is a privilege.
This isn’t to say that you should feel guilty for not valuing your body correctly. It isn’t your fault, they raised us in a world that tells us our body must always look good, so it is only natural that you learned to view your body rather than value it, as that’s what everyone else would supposedly do to you.
Healing your body image doesn’t start with liking how you look. It isn’t about looking in the mirror and knowing how sexy you are - because you truly are! Of course, it would be wonderful to feel that way, and if you have that confidence, that’s incredible. But if you don’t feel this way, that’s also okay, and one day you will. Because that’s several steps down the line, and you’re still at the start. And the beginning consists of valuing your body.
It’s essential to ensure your body confidence doesn’t just come from how you view it. Because then it will permanently be attached to this shape, this size, this appearance. Because then it will be susceptible to the input of others. If you love your big bum because butts are in fashion, then you might feel differently in five years if that changes or when one person makes a rude comment about it. Your big bum will be just as beautiful as it is today, but you won’t have that validation that proved it. You will be susceptible to physical and mental fluctuations; you will be at the mercy of one bad photo, one trolling comment.
Lexie and Lindsay explain the need for body image resilience. A process built on the knowledge that you will not always love how you look. Whether that’s on a day you wake up with acne or bloated, or after your body has gone through an illness or pregnancy. It’s recognising your body will change; that is merely the nature of having a human body. But that you will still love it for its value. For how it allowed you to get out of bed that morning when you didn’t look like you wish you would, how it carried that child and grew it, how it pushed through illness.
Loving your body isn’t about loving how you look. It’s about loving your body and nothing more.
Each body is unique and so special. There is no blueprint to a perfect body. Each body has its strengths and limitations. Some bodies can run for miles, and others prefer to walk them. Some bodies cannot walk on their own, but they are still filled with value.
Your body is a vehicle for your mind. Your body is the constant that you will have throughout life. You will spend more time with your body and mind than you will with anyone else.
So I can’t tell you what you should value about your body because it would be a list of the things I value. You need to determine what you value about your body, and you need to do it today. You shouldn’t spend another day devaluing your body. So sit down with a piece of paper and write down a list of the things you value about your body. Here are a few of mine to get you started:
I value my body for letting me run long distances. It’s difficult, especially now that I am at a bigger size, but I am learning to adapt. Running further makes me feel accomplished, and it helps to balance my mood.
I value my body for letting me sit in a chair and write. My hands let me type articles and novels, and I feel at my happiest when I’m doing this.
I value my body for letting me connect with others. Whether that’s romantically or in friendship. It allows me to walk to my friend’s homes; it lets me sit with them on the couch. It laughs at their jokes, a laughter that takes over my whole being.
I value my body for keeping me alive. It lets me breathe, eat delicious food and enjoy a couple too many glasses of wine.
Every single day, your body is doing hundreds of things for you; stop and appreciate these. Once this list is complete, keep it somewhere close, so you frequently see it. Take the time to read it, every day or as often as you can. In these moments of movement, of existence, pause to thank your body, to recognise the gift that it is. You can also try affirmations, meditation and mindfulness, to find what works for you.
As I said, I’m not at that finish line yet, so I can’t tell you what it’s like there. If people do unconditionally love their bodies, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
But I believe that it won’t always be like this. We’ll reach a point where we value our body, and we like the look of it, where we allow clothes to fit us rather than work to fit them, where we see our body and smile. I think that valuing your body is the journey to this point, because we’ll reach a moment when value is view, where the two can no longer be torn apart.
In the words of Lindsay Kite, “you’ll find out what solid, secure body confidence feels like when your body becomes an instrument for your use instead of an ornament to be looked at.”
Let’s start working towards that finish line.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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