Recently, I've been thinking about how so many people, but particularly women, apologize for their bodies rather than celebrating how great they really are. This was triggered when I looked at myself in the mirror -- sans clothes -- and freaked out about how my body was morphing into this unfamiliar object. Whoooa, I thought, When did my body start looking like this? What is that bump? And what the hell are those lumps? If it keeps changing, I won't be able to fit into that miniskirt. I took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Honey, I said, trying to soothe myself by saying, you have to forgive yourself. As soon as I said it, I stopped in my tracks; instinctively, I knew my statement didn't really make sense.
I know I'm not the only one who's dealt with this. I've had a number of friends tell me that they too have felt the need to apologize for how they looked. And I can't tell you the number of times I've read magazines that feature clothes which are supposed to be forgiving to women's alleged flaws.
So I started wondering, what is with this concept of forgiving our bodies? Exactly what did they do that's so wrong? Change as we got older? Gasp . Heaven forbid! And to what or whom should we apologize? When I looked in the mirror that day, should I have apologized to the mirror for having to reflect my body? Apologize to my previously teenaged body for looking less slender than it used to? Should friends apologize to, say, a pencil skirt? "Sorry, pencil skirt, that my body doesn't fit you perfectly"? Should people say to their bodies, "My bad -- I didn't mean to let you go"?
After lambasting myself and nursing an eating disorder for years, I assumed that if I apologized for the changes my body was experiencing, I would be making strides towards accepting my looks. I thought, Instead of continuing to criticize myself, let me forgive myself for gaining weight and not looking the way I used to. Eventually I wondered why I felt the need to apologize at all.
I've found that the best way we can counter the desire to apologize for our bodies is to thank them instead. When I thank my body, I don't want to just go through the motions; I want to really believe it. Some days, I feel thankful almost immediately after saying it. Other times, after giving my body props, I have to consider it for a while before it sinks in. Did I really mean what I just said -- that I like how my butt looks? My butt? Really? Lemme look again... Hmm, I guess it does look pretty good. Who knows what I'll think tomorrow, but today I like it!
These are some "thank you's" that have worked for me:
· "Thanks, body, for functioning despite all the damage I've tried to do to you."
· "Body, you didn't understand why I was overexercising and purging to fit into that dress. You had no clue what a diet was. You didn't know I was purposely undereating. You assumed that since I wasn't getting enough food, there must be a famine, and you were trying to store up as many nutrients as possible. I was mad at you because I wasn't dropping weight, but really, you were just trying to make sure I'd survive. Thank you, body, for protecting me."
· "I can't believe I did that move on the dance floor! I'm gonna be sorrre tomorrow, but for now -- I'm just glad my body could get that low."
· "Is he checking out my body?... I think he's checking out my body... Oh yeah, he's definitely checking out my body. Nice."
· "Damn, I look good in this dress!"
· "Thank you, body, for loving me unconditionally even when I didn't love you."
· "Thanks, body, for my eyebrows/ breasts/ lips/ crooked toes [whatever body parts I'm admiring at that moment]. They rock, and I rock!"
(Huffington Post-ers, I encourage you to try that one right now. Find some part of your body that you appreciate and thank yourself for it. It might be your biceps that allowed you to lift that heavy storage box. It might be your curly red hair that you've learned to appreciate after all these years. Maybe, despite friends laughing about your screwed-up feet, you think they're actually kinda cute (I can claim this one). Perhaps you love that your ass not only rivals Kim Kardashian's, but you know how to shake it too. Maybe you dig that single freckle on your left hand. It doesn't matter how big or small it is; identify a body part you like and say, "thanks, body part".)
I think you will find what I've discovered, which is that when I sincerely thank my body for taking care of me, I no longer feel the need to apologize for it. I want to treat it lovingly. Instead of trying to squeeze into skinny jeans (c'mon -- skinny jeans?) that are a size too small, I want to wear something that makes me feel fabulous. I want to pull out the coconut body cream and give myself a full body massage. I want to treat myself to something tasty and healthy. In essence, I want to take care of my body the way it's taking care of me.
Here's hoping that if you ever feel the need to apologize for your body, you can thank it instead.
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