What if you’re not ready to love your body?
I tried to think back, and I don’t know when I stopped glancing at my body in the glass as I passed by windows, but I know it has happened somewhere between when I didn’t like my body, and now, when I accept and like it. As I thought back to how I am now able to not check out my size in the glass as I pass, I think that middle ground that I learned to find was a neutral relationship of respect with my body.
While “Love Your Body” mantras and “Everyone Is Beautiful” Band-Aids are wielded by people with their hearts in the right places, it puts a lot of undue pressure on people when we provide a “what” without the “how.” Sometimes it seems like we expect them to miraculously jump from hatred to unconditional love in a single bound. While I’m all for a world where people of all shapes, sizes flaunt their stuff, while dripping with self-confidence, I also think it’s an unfair expectation to say, “just love your body,” because it isn’t that easy.
As I started the journey of turning away from hating my body, and leaning more toward respecting my body, I found that I constantly asked my psychologist, “How am I supposed to love my body? What if I never love my body? ” It really felt like this journey of loving and accepting my body was supposed to happen in some large catapult. This is not the case! Accepting your body comes with intentional work over time, and you just have to take baby steps. I found that as I started respecting it for what it could do, I began to find neutral ground that we (my body and my thoughts) could stand on….. Essentially, I started to actually feel the respect my body, and not just say it. It’s definitely NOT a catapult from one place to the other!
Body respect might look like waking up in the morning and asking yourself, first thing, simply, “How do I feel in my body?” It’s figuring out what you need to feel good in that moment – whether it’s oatmeal for breakfast, a few more minutes of sleep, or an extra cup of coffee. When you respect your body you are assessing how you feel in it, and doing something to make it more positive. That can be jazzing up your outfit with a fun scarf, or deciding you feel so tired, it’s a flat shoe kind of day. It is also intentionally choosing clothing that fits appropriately as to not make you feel bad throughout the day – sometimes, for me, it just was not a dress kind of day because I didn’t want the distraction of my thighs touching, so I would reach for the pants in the closet, and find a way to spice that up and enjoy what I was wearing with cute shoes and a scarf. As time went on, I wore the dresses a little here and there and now I love them. I worked to not be defeated by wearing pants, it was just where I was at that day. I
Body respect is neither scrutinizing your body, nor necessarily admiring yourself, but finding a way to respect the body you have right now (especially for what it does for you). It’s self-talk that is positive because you know someday you will accept your body. It’s going to the gym because you want to feel healthier and more energized, not because you feel guilty and like you have to work out because you had cake at a work party. It’s eating all the necessary calories because you know your body is a complex system that wants to run efficiently. It’s not thinking twice about that craving you have for a grande Mocha Latte because it is neither a source of shame (“If I get it, I’ll get a non-fat, no-whip tall”) nor pride (“Let me post this on instagram so everyone knows how not worried about food I am!”). It’s simply satisfying a craving.
Body respect is putting it on a blank slate each day. It’s saying, “I respect my body enough for all the functions it does for me each day, and I will keep respecting it.” It’s no longer waging war, yet not necessarily having to say, “I love you and you are my best friend!” It’s also the ability to wait, and allow for that growth of acceptance to happen (and with work and patience, it will). It’s being fair enough to say, “I might not love you right now, but I respect all that you do for me and what you need.”
Body respect really is a form body acceptance. It’s a stop on the train to body love. You can get off there or stay on for the ride toward the final destination. The point is, once you’re there, you’ll never look back and long for the place that you left.
And maybe…. Just maybe…. if we teach people body respect, and how to inch toward body love, rather than implying that the only way there is a catapult — they’ll (more comfortably, daringly, courageously) feel empowered to leave their body hate behind.