There’s a lot of body positive talk around at the moment. (I sometimes worry that it is just talk, given how much the media is still saturated with more negative messages, but that’s a whole other blog post for the future). ‘Love your body!’ it shouts. ‘Love my body? Are you kidding?’ Love seems like a very strong emotion to have towards something that causes grief, anxiety and worry for a large proportion of the population, eating disordered or not.
It’s especially difficult for individuals who have spent a long time hating their body. The Oxford English Dictionary defines love as ‘a strong feeling of affection’ and ‘ a great interest or pleasure in something.’ To switch from feelings of loathing and anger to active affection is hard.
Shame about the body makes you feel shameful of yourself; wrong about who you are. Instead, you might know that your arms are not as toned as you would like them to be, and feel a bit guilty about missing out on your last weights session, but accept that this does not define who you are or how you can live your life.
It’s that word which we should be aiming for. Acceptance. Accept this is the way that it is, and if it is very important to you, you can change it, but do not allow it to take over. If you are a mother your stomach might be soft, but you have beautiful children. Your eyes might be tired, but they have let you take in knowledge and experiences throughout the day. Your feet may be a little dry and hard, but they let you walk and travel about the places you see and love.
It’s also about paying attention and being aware of your body on a daily basis.
It might not let you run marathons yet, and you may not grace the cover of a magazine (although everyone is heavily photoshopped for that anyway) but it can let you get to the shop, hug a friend, breathe in the scent of flowers.
We still love our friends, even when they are not perfect. We can gaze on a landscape and perceive it to be beautiful, despite small flaws. Something that is not hated does not automatically become loved. Think about what you admire in another person – how much of it is about their body? If they were focused on having a perfect body could they have these qualities or achieve these things?
Nearly everyone, no matter how perfect they may appear, regardless of their size or shape, height or weight, feels a little badly about themselves from one time to another. Once we let go of expectations of how we should look and stop blaming the body for things, instead seeing it for what it is – a constantly renewing, highly complex network of cells, muscles, blood and bones that is capable of marvellous things, as well as frustrating things.
Life is too short to spend time hating your body. It also might be too short for you to get to a place of loving it. This is a long and complex journey. But that doesn’t mean you should give up.
How about accepting acceptance?