Come Home to Your Body Posted in: Body Image I’m going to ask you a question, and before we get there, let’s set a couple of ground rules. First, this is likely a question that seems easy and obvious. It isn’t. Second, even if you do not want to consider this question, we all need to do so anyway. And third, there is no wrong answer, so get real about it, because that is the only place where we have any chance to make change. Ready? Here goes…. How do you think & feel about your body? Pause. Deep breath. Beneath that first initial response, what else do you feel? And what else? If you are among the majority of folks, you likely had some negative responses. Too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, too weak, too old, too sick, too ugly, too this, too that. Disappointing, inadequate, vulnerable, embarrassing, and ashamed. You may not have been able to identify any positive feelings about your body. I want you to know that you are not alone! The reasons we carry a negative body image are plentiful and legitimate. Please let me tell you about one of these reasons. For women, if you are anything other than the 2% who have all of this: 5’8” 110 lbs Caucasian Smooth skin Heterosexual Straight long hair (preferably blonde) 18-35 years old You probably don’t see yourself in the media very much. You definitely don’t see women who look like you on the cover of a fashion magazine. You don’t have strong, independent, and desirable movie & TV stars as role models. Sadly, you have likely seen other women, who resemble you, ridiculed or minimized. I know, me too. Men have an equally impossible stereotype to live up to. Pick up a men’s magazine and see how many variation of “hot” there might be for them. Not many. Big biceps, ripped abs, and an unrealistic ability to perform in all things athletic are required. What do you think happens when we live in a world where who we are is not called beautiful? You got it, the answers to “how do you feel about your body” begin to skew to the negative. Remember that I’m an optimist and I do believe we are making some progress in changing this message. However, we have a tremendous amount of work to do here. Until that messaging is changed on a larger scale, we want to be sure we dig in and do some reprogramming ourselves. What do you think the motivation behind most of the messages received above might be? To sell you something. The US cosmetics industry generates over 84 billion dollars a year. They need us to remain invested in anti-aging. Magazines need to sell copies and movies need viewers. While I don’t know that it is necessary to vilify their motives, I do believe we can safely assume their primary goal is not focused on our relationship with our bodies. We also have a systemic problem of marginalizing people based on color, sex, and religious preference. Every single time we decree that beauty doesn’t apply to “them”, we make the definition a little bit narrower until here we are with pretty much no one empowered and strong. When we push anyone out, we push everyone out. Here is where this intersects with your wellness. Learning to listen to and love the body is critical. Non negotiable. If you are focused on your lack of beauty, hiding an unacceptable poof of fat, or an evident wrinkle, how can you savor the moment you are experiencing? You cannot. If you are certain your body is so unacceptable, where will you find the motivation to nurture it to health? You will not. If you are convinced that your aging decreases your desirability and possibility, how will you lean into intimacy and opportunity? You will not. You cannot heal a body you hate and ignore. This often spins into: I am going to the gym every single day even though I despise the gym. I will never eat again. I will only eat lettuce. Only clean eating for me for the rest of my life. I’m going to run 10 miles right now. The process of learning to love a body is learning to have a conversation with the body. This is a new skill and not a reactive counter measure. This is like a romance. You don’t find deeply connected intimate partners after a simple decision to go on a date. You find them after long talks about nothing and everything, laughter, time, acceptance, kindness, and genuine interest. We have to woo this body that has been disliked for so long. When you learn to love your body and send rain showers of gratitude for all it does, reality begins to shift. Health and wellness arrive as a natural consequence of this new conversation. What was hard slowly becomes possible, as this kind of soulful living brings harmony with a body that houses your mind and soul. You might even hear someone say it happened without any effort at all. Magic.