I Love My Body (Seriously!)

I Love My Body (Seriously!)

Growing up as a female in 21st century America, I have had my fair share of body issues. I actually didn't notice or start worrying about my weight until I was 14, which I think makes me one of the lucky ones (I know an elementary schooler on a self-imposed diet). 

I distinctly remember looking in the mirror at age 12, and thinking how pretty I was. Being perfect exactly the way I am has always been the basis of my self-perception (thank you, Language of Listening!), but high school and college were difficult for me. I had a very specific idea of the "right" way to look, and since I didn't match it, I often felt unattractive and unhappy. I remember describing it once to an ex by saying, "I think I'm just not my type."

The conventional wisdom is to simply "love your body." Everyone knows that it's a good idea, but it feels nearly impossible to most women I know. It certainly did to me. How could I love my body when it was wrong? I knew that loving my body would be easy, as soon as it looked the way I wanted. Then I would look in the mirror and just love what I saw. Boom! Easy. The problem was getting there.

I was never very good at dieting—self-deprivation never felt right, and certainly felt unsustainable for very long. I also had an issue with exercise. To me, exercise was exhausting, painful, time-consuming, and not at all fun. I loved to dance but never really considered it exercise; it didn't fit my definition! So I did it occasionally, but not enough to make a difference, because then it would become...exercise. Interestingly, these two things are considered essential to the body type I was trying to achieve, but I couldn't stand either of them.

I think my biggest problem was my own personal resistance to accepting my body, exactly the way it was. Deep down, I was afraid that I actually was capable of loving myself, no matter how I looked, and then I would be WRONG! So I actively avoided loving my body for many years of my life.

Luckily, I really have always loved myself, so I was working towards self-acceptance the whole time. I made friends and dated boys who were not shy in their praise of my appearance, actively sought out realistic health advice, and avidly read anything I could find on the topic of body acceptance, even though I was still too scared to apply it to myself. Those of you familiar with the Language of Listening philosophy will recognize this as the "backing up" part of my running leap to self-acceptance.

The tipping point for me was when I discerned that I had attractiveness collapsed with self-worth (attractiveness=self-worth). I realized that I had always perceived attractive people as more important, "worth" more than other people. The inverse was true of unattractive people. I was always surprised when people I had identified as less attractive spoke their minds, or in particular, spoke to attractive people as though they were equals! Or, conversely, when an attractive person would be nice to someone less attractive.

You can probably see how this perception precluded my ability to really love my body. What if I embarrassed myself by acting like I was worth more than I "actually" was? Thankfully, by identifying this collapse, I was able to separate attractiveness and personal worth into the very different concepts they are. This enabled me to come to my final realization:

Loving your body is not the same as loving the way it looks.

But the funny thing is, when you love your body, just the way it is, you start to take care of it, and pretty soon, that manifests itself in a healthy appearance. I started thinking of my body as this amazing, miraculous thing that does so much for me without me even trying, and it became second nature for me to choose food and activities that fuel and facilitate it. Now I'm happy, much healthier, and I actually love my body, no matter what it looks like.

So really, the secret to loving your body isn't looking good first. The secret is loving it first, and the rest will follow.

P.S. If you're still feeling unsure about your body and the way it looks, I find this flowchart from Huffington Post to be very informative and helpful.

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