Do you hate your body?

Most women I know hate their bodies.  They talk about their bodies as though they are vile creations that need to be molded and shaped into something better.  They say things about their own body that they would never say out loud about another human being.  Most women feel a great deal of shame and anger about the body they have been given.  I wish I could fix it, but I don’t know how – and I’m equally guilty.  Despite trying to work on this idea for years, I still see the back of my legs in a mirror and see the cellulite.  I brush my teeth and scrutinize the lines on my forehead – smoothing them out to try and recreate my younger face.  Lying in bed, I periodically grab the loose skin on my lower abdomen and vow to get a tummy tuck someday.  

I’ve touched on this subject before – lightly – but I have been unable to pull off a whole blog post about it without heading down some very dark rabbit holes.  However, I have been reading Jen Hatmaker’s new book this week – Fierce, Free and Full of Fire –  and she put this concept into words more beautifully than I ever could.   The following is an excerpt from her book – and is worth reading several times,

“Your body walked with you all the way through childhood – climbed the trees and rode the bikes and danced the ballet steps and walked you into the first day of high school.  How else would you have learned to love the smell of brownies, toasted bagels, onions and garlic sizzling in olive oil?  Your body perfectly delivered the sounds of Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and Bon Jovi right into your memories.  She gave you your first kiss, which you felt on your lips and in your stomach, a coordinated body venture.  She drove you to college and hiked the Grand Canyon.  She might have carried your backpack through Europe and fed you croissants.  She watched Steel Magnolias and knew right when to let the tears fall.  

“Maybe your body walked you down the aisle and kissed your person and made promises and threw flowers.  Your body carried you into your first big interview and nailed it – calmed you down, smiled charmingly, delivered the right words.  Sex?  That is some of your body’s best work.  Your body might have incubated, nourished, and delivered a whole new human life, maybe even two or three.  She is how you cherish the smell of those babies, the feel of their cheeks, the sound of them calling your name.  How else are you going to taste deep-dish pizza and French onion soup?  You have your body to thank for every good thing you have ever experienced.  She has been so good to you.

“And to others.

“Your body delivered you to people who needed you the exact moment you showed up.  She kissed away little tears and patched up skinned knees.  She holds hands that need holding and hugs necks that need hugging.  Your body nurtures minds and souls with her presence.  With her lovely eyes, she looks deliberately at people who so deeply need to be seen.  She nourishes people with food, stirring and dicing and roasting and baking.  Your body has sat quietly with sad, sick, and suffering friends.  She has also wrapped gifts and sent cards and sung celebration songs to cheer people on.  Her face has been a comfort.  Her hands will be remembered fondly – how they looked, how they loved.  Her specific smell will still be remembered in seventy years.  Her voice is the sound of home.

“You may hate her, but no one else does.

Our minds and bodies are intricately woven together – to hate one part makes us feel badly about our whole selves.  Let’s start talking to ourselves a little more kindly.  Let’s try giving our body some of the grace we so willingly give to other people.  Try referring to your body as “her” and see how dramatically it changes those hating statements.  Instead of “I hate my flabby arms”, try saying “I hate her flabby arms”.  Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  Maybe because it shouldn’t be said! 

It’s a work in progress, but if you are doing the work, you are surely making progress.  I have a piece of art above my kitchen table that says, 

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”

Keep working – keep learning – keep growing – keep improving

Life is too short to choose unhappiness

Courtney Younglove, M.D.