Summertime – it’s here. The warm sun and the endless outdoor possibilities is what we have waited for through this tough winter! With summer comes the inevitable… summer clothing and the dreadful summer body image.
Recently, on a hot day this spring, I spent 35 minutes looking for a dress to wear. I spent more time taking off and putting on dresses because there was something wrong with everything I tried on. One dress made my arms feel fat. Another made my stomach look fat. One made me feel like my legs were larger than the trunks of tress. Finally, after about 5 dress changes I had to commit to something. I had to get out the door to get to church on time. I chose a dress and just walked out the door defeated by the fact that body image has been/and is plaguing me on a daily basis – and it’s not getting better quickly. As I chose the dress I wore that day I accepted the fact that the world would have to see (and accept) my
“fat” legs with me.
I have found that I spend more time disliking my body instead of appreciating it. Finding body appreciation is hard (it sometimes feels impossible). As I journey near the end of recovery I found that I don’t have to “love” my body in order to appreciate it. As I thought about trying to appreciate my body I began to think about what appreciation means.
1. the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something; gratitude for something.
2. a full understanding of a situation.
I have been thinking about the wrong meaning of the word. My therapist frequently talked about “appreciating” my body. Each time I tried to think about appreciating my body, I thought about the idea of “liking” it, and how difficult that was. Appreciation does not mean liking. I’m not there yet – but that doesn’t mean I won’t get there. I can look at that definition and I can find good qualities, an understanding of, and gratitude for my body and what it is and what it can do.
My awful web of body image will not unravel slowly. As I work on myself, I’ll be bombarded with the expectations of society and the media. The body image issues did not happen overnight, so I can’t expect them to be cleared up overnight as well. The one thing I can do is free myself of the expectations I have and allow myself to just “be”.
As I look for body appreciation I find that it can only be located in the focus of strengths of a body instead of the weaknesses. It’s critical to see all the strengths. Instead of saying: “my hip is taking forever to heal from surgery”….. I have to reframe it and say: “I am finally able to start running and increase my hip strength”. The longer I continue to shame my body, the more stuck in the web of body image I’ll be.