*Originally Published on Her Campus Western Ontario*
We are not kind to our bodies. We gorge them and starve them. We tan them and bleach them. We cut them and tuck them. We mutilate them and destroy them, all because we want to make them “beautiful”.
The “Beautiful Body,” however, is not something we will ever, or even can ever attain. It is a moving target, a shifting definition, and an ideal which differs from culture to culture and place to place. It is this transiency a “beautiful body” which makes loving ours nearly impossible. Yet, we are still bombarded with messages of self love on all fronts. But how?
How are we supposed to love our bodies when we can never achieve a perfect one? How are we supposed to love ourselves, our whole selves, when we’re made to feel like our body is all that matters? How are we supposed to love our bodies when it feels like no one else does, or even could? And finally, how are we supposed to love our bodies when it feels like they just don’t love us back?
This last question is one I’ve struggled with since I before I can remember. I was born with something called hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid doesn’t produce the hormones which regulate my metabolism. I’ve been on medication for it since I was diagnosed at a few days old, but I’m subject to blood tests every few months to make sure the medication dosage is correct.
A few times in my life, my levels weren’t monitored closely enough causing weight gain and other physical and mental side effects. This past summer was one of those times. To my horror and confusion, my clothes stopped fitting, my energy level dropped, and my crop tops were pushed to the back of my closet.
When I discovered the reason for these things. I was angry with myself, but angrier with my body. Why couldn’t it just work properly? Why did it have to cause me to gain weight randomly, or make me too tired to get out of bed? Why did my body hate me?
As you can imagine, at this time I wasn’t exactly embracing my body, or feeling any love towards it. I was angry and sad and beyond frustrated. These feelings lessened for a time when my levels were back to normal, but when the weight didn’t melt off they quickly returned.
I know most of you reading this probably don’t share my medical condition, but I’m sure you’ve shared my frustration. Maybe it was when the diet and heavy exercise didn’t equal weight loss, or toning. Maybe you couldn’t tan like all your friends at the beach, or maybe you had a birth mark which you hated for how it embarrassed you when revealed by your swimwear. Maybe in those moments, like me, you hated your body.
For this I don’t blame you. Loving your body is much harder when it feels like it’s working against you. When it feels like it’s betraying you and everything you do to make it beautiful, or healthy, or strong. That’s a logical feeling, and it’s okay to feel that way.
That being said, no matter how frustrated or angry you are with your body, you still need to try and love it. Even and especially when it doesn’t love you back.
I know this is hard. It’s something that requires constant work and practice. It is slow, and there are setbacks. This kind of self love isn’t something that is easily, or maybe even ever achieved, but no matter how you alter it, your body is something you’re stuck with for life, so you might as well make friends with it.
Like any new friendship, I suggest you start slow. For me that means spending 20 or 30 minutes a day doing yoga. I stretch and move and get to know my body a little bit better each time. For you it might be starting off with a compliment. Looking in the mirror and thinking “My butt looks damn good today.”
Like I said, it’s a slow start, begin with these little things.
As you begin this friendship though, please remember that just as when you build any relationship there’s going to be fights and falling outs. You’ll have disagreements, and small betrayals. There will be days when you’re just not feeling kind. No friendship is perfect. That’s how it goes.
Like I said earlier, I know this isn’t easy but it’s something I’m working on. I know, I need my body to support me, and be there for me, so I’m trying to be there for it too. I’m building a relationship, hopefully one that will last a long time. I want a long active life and this is how I’m working on it. I hope you will be kind to yourself and to your body as you work towards that too.