Last week, I spent a day at what is arguably one of the most amazing beaches in the world. Cuan went surfing whilst I sat on the warm sand and watched the waves rhythmically swell and burst into parallel ribbons of bright white foam. The sky was a vibrant shade of blue, and the only person in my line of sight was my husband, who was but a small, buoyant dot amidst the beautiful chaos of the ocean. It was pretty much the perfect moment. Or at least, it would’ve been, if it weren’t for the fact that I kept thinking, “I need to take a photo”, and then remembering that I’d left my phone in the car. I even caught myself trying to reduce the moment to a snappy Facebook caption that would accompany the picture that I kept feeling the nagging urge to take.
I walked to the water and let it lap around my ankles. As I stared out at the vastness before me, I felt somewhat disappointed in myself. I’d been so concerned with preserving and showcasing the moment that I had, to some degree, failed to experience it. I wasn’t truly there – I was in some parallel, digital universe made up of pixels and hashtags and “like” buttons. I was in the matrix, which feels looks and feels authentic, but in reality is just a bunch of meaningless ones and zeros.
Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. It enables me to communicate with my family (who live 6500 miles away). It provides me with a creative outlet. It gives me access to more information than I could ever hope to learn. But despite all that, I can’t help but question the extent to which technology truly enhances our human experience. I’ll admit that I wouldn’t be very happy at the thought of giving up my iPhone, laptop and Internet access. But is that because these things actually benefit my life in a true and meaningful way, or is it just because I’m an addict?
I don’t want to view the world through camera lenses and Instagram filters. I don’t want to live as though today is already yesterday. I don’t want to be so concerned with how I’ll experience this moment tomorrow that I fail to experience it now. Tomorrow will bring moments of its own.
I did eventually take some pictures (photography does has some soul-soothing benefits, after all), but not before taking a considerable amount of time to just be. There’s something incredibly freeing about basking in the beauty of your surroundings with no further agenda. I’m going to try and make it a habit.
“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.