Body image and the struggle for self acceptance are themes which I have written about frequently. After spending a weekend in my bikini with 15 of my friends on a co-ed houseboat and talking to most of the girls about these very issues, I got to thinking…
Why is it that we can see beauty in others, but not in ourselves? Look at Narcissus. He was a man so consumed by his own image that he drowned in it. There are lots of times when I wish I could just be really tiny. You know those people who are so thin that you wonder how the hell they ever got that way or how all their organs even fit inside them? I hate to admit this, but the media does play a role… being bombarded with images of celebrities who have turned into skeletons with twig arms and hollow cheeks and no boobs, has a way of making a girl feel bad about her curves. I hate to admit that I am affected by it. See, I consider myself to be relatively intelligent. But seeing these images constantly does start to make you feel like you should be thinner. Hmm…I still have boobs, my arms are a little chubby, I don’t have 5 inches between my thighs, and my stomach isn’t immune to bloating. My awareness of these facts makes my body a backdrop for my everyday life. My stomach, back, butt and overall appearance are always in my peripheral vision, not my sole focus, but definitely tickling at my consciousness. I try to remind myself that healthy girls don’t envy other women’s small frames or sunken cheeks. They don’t find pride in the comment, “wow, your collar bones really stick out.” They don’t feel guilty for not being as thin, or muscular as a magazine clipping. But here I am, insecurity-laden, nervous and wanting to become Miss Skin’n’ Bones. Here I am, flipping through Victoria’s Secret catalogues wishing that I could order the bodies instead of the clothes.
Our bodies are often the target for our harshest judgements and the barometer by which we measure our self worth. We hold ourselves up to unattainable standards and berate ourselves for coming up short of perfection. Maybe it’s because our physical self is the form in which we show up in the world, so it is very often the way we define ourselves. But it shouldn’t be. Imposing harsh judgements on your body limits the range of experiences that you allow yourself to enjoy. Years ago, I can remember tainting a potentially amazing day at the beach because I was so worried about what everybody would be thinking about how I looked in a bikini. I would have enjoyed a day like that so much more if I could have walked across the sand and not felt self conscious. Would my life really be enhanced if my stomach was flatter or my legs were smaller? Probably not, but being able to live my life, and not obsess about what I look like and what everybody is thinking about how I look, would enhance everything I do in life. True acceptance comes when you can embrace and appreciate your body as it is right now, and no longer feel that you need to alter it to be worthy of someone’s love–most of all your own. It’s natural and human to want to be at your physical best. But this means that you have to stop criticizing, judging and finding fault with your body, even when you are not at your healthiest or most attractive. The drive to improve yourself is healthy- but only if it comes from a place of self love as opposed to a feeling of inadequacy.
I aspire to get to a place where I truly love myself and accept myself as I am. My mom has always told me to accept the things I can not change, and change the things I can. The key, she says, is having the wisdom to know the difference.
This weekend, I didn’t hide under dresses or towels in the sun. I tried to let go of my insecurities. I made an effort not to worry about what anybody thought about my body. I rocked my bikinis and decided not to give a damn.
I think we all struggle with self love in our own way. But love or hate it, this body will be yours for the duration of your life on Earth. I guess you may as well make the most of it; that’s what I’m trying to do.