“If you had to pick a favorite of all your physical features, what would you choose?”
I was roughly thirteen years old when a friend posed this question (perhaps not in those exact words). After mentally scanning my entire body, I replied, “My left eyebrow.” In order explain my answer, I subsequently launched into an extensive critique of all my other features (including, if I remember correctly, my right eyebrow) – my eyes were too droopy, my nose was too big, my hair too wild. When I’d finished, my friend looked shocked. She couldn’t fathom how I could hate myself that much. But within a few short years, so many of my friends had jumped on the bandwagon of self-loathing that my extremely poor self-image was no longer particularly shocking or unique.
My past is laced with events such as the one described above. When I look back, I am deeply saddened at the way in which I repeatedly, verbally abused myself. I had zero respect for my body, and (I doubt coincidentally) was sick all the time.
Does this sound familiar to you? Based on how regularly I witness women referring to their bodies with contempt and disrespect, I imagine there must be quite a few of you who can relate. While I find this totally heartbreaking, I also see an opportunity for something really beautiful to rise from the ashes of our damaged female psyches. A way to heal our wounds and restore the contentment we experienced when we were too young to understand the demands that were being made of us by the media, our peers, and perhaps even our families.
I know it sounds too good to be true. My teenage self wouldn’t have believed it possible to have anything but negative feelings toward my body. But it is possible. Now I truly love and appreciate my body, and you can love and appreciate yours too.
How? The answer is simple: by changing your words.
It’s no secret that I love words. Perhaps that’s because I am all too aware of how powerful they can be. We are inclined to believe what we hear the most. If we tell ourselves that our bodies are worthless and ugly and useless, that belief will take root in our hearts and bear some pretty bad-tasting fruit. But if we choose to speak words of gratitude and acceptance over our bodies, eventually our perspective will shift. It’s not easy, and in the beginning you may even feel like a liar for saying nice things about your appearance. But it gets easier, and eventually you’ll wonder how you ever managed to speak so poorly of yourself. When I look back at old, self-deprecating journal entries, I can hardly believe that I ever held myself in such negative regard.
There’s nothing arrogant about being content with the body you have right now – it works hard for you, so why not treat it with care and appreciation? Humility is not thinking less of yourself than you ought – true humility is acknowledging the truth about yourself and allowing your words and actions to fall in line with that truth. And the truth is that your body is worthy of kindness and respect, every single day. Believe it.
Have you had body image issues? Would you like to start speaking more positively about body? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!
Photo courtesy of Laura Lewis on Flickr.