Kevin and I were talking recently about how much we love our house. It’s in a beautiful location with a big yard and a creek and so many trees. The house itself is a good size for our family, and it gets the most amazing light at certain points in the day. We feel so HAPPY here, and so at home and comfortable. Our home is full of love, and we are so glad we live here.
If we were building our house, we probably would have chosen a lot of different features. We likely would have picked more modern architecture and a different style of kitchen, for example.
There’s also chipped paint in places, a loose doorknob here and there, and we don’t especially love the couches in our living room.
All that to say, these two things are both true:
- Our house is not a perfect reflection of who we are: of our style, our personality, etc.
- We ADORE our house, and feel happy and comfortable and whole living in it. (And nothing in our house has to change in order for that to be true.)
Lack of external “perfection” in our home — something that’s quite open to interpretation, by the way!! — does NOT mean diminished joy living in our home.
And, in fact, focusing on all the things we don’t completely and totally love would take away from the time we spend enjoying our home — being thankful for it and actually fully living in it.
This feels so similar to my relationship with my body these days.
Is my body the perfect physical specimen as far as how it looks on the outside? No, of course not.
But also…is that even the point? The answer to this question is no, too.
-Do I feel at home in my body: safe and comfortable and loved?
-Does my body allow me to move throughout the world in the ways I want to?
-Do I feel like I can be authentically me, no matter what my body looks like?
-Am I able to be aware of all the things my body does for me?
Thankfully, I can answer “yes” to those questions.
I feel grateful for that, but I also feel sad that for so many years I was so fixated on how my body looked.
How it looked was more important than:
-How healthy it was
-How “like me” I felt inside it
-How I was developing as a full person
-My skills, experience, abilities, and ways I could contribute to the world
-Whether I felt worthy or lovable
When I think about all my body has done for me, including really big things like surviving through more than a decade of an eating disorder, growing and birthing two humans, and feeding those two humans from my body for months and months, I want to bow down to it. I also want to apologize to it. I’ve said and thought and done SO MANY CRUEL THINGS TO MY BODY. And yet she’s been there all along, steadily showing up for me and loving me, even though I wasn’t doing the same for her.
I’m trying my best to see her and love her and recognize the REAL perfection of it all now.
Of course, thanks to the culture we live in, I still find myself thinking some familiar thoughts around body image every so often, but most of the time I’m able to shift that thinking. I remind myself it’s not about my body looking perfect (it never was), and instead work on really noticing how it feels to be in my body and to recognize all it does for me, and how I feel like myself in it.
I wanted to share a few things that have helped me on this journey:
–Realizing there’s no such thing as a before and after. It’s so easy to put off living life fully until we look a certain way, or to lie to ourselves and think everything will be better once we change physically. But the thing is, even if we DID make major physical changes…they don’t just stay stagnant. Time passes. Bodies continue to change. We continue to change internally as well. The idea of a before and after is so misleading: It’s so binary and doesn’t take into account the completeness of what it means to be human. Throwing that lie to the side — that there’s a “goal” to be shooting for physically, and that I could reach it and then that would be IT and I’d be SET — felt incredibly freeing.
–Being aware of the fact that my body will age. Right now, thankfully, my body can do everything I ask it to do. I can move throughout the world without pain or discomfort. I’ve become acutely aware of the fact that this is miraculous and beautiful AND it is fleeting. If I have the privilege of continuing to get older, with that age will inevitably come physical changes. No matter how much I continue to move and keep my strength and mobility intact, it will at some point start to decline. There will likely come a time where I DO experience pain or discomfort on a regular basis, or when I have to forgo certain activities because I won’t be able to physically do them anymore. That perspective helps me SO much in this 37-year-old body of mine. With that long-term lens in place, my gratitude for the here and now within my body overflows. The awareness that all of this is fleeting has been incredibly helpful for me in this journey.
–Recognizing how much more meaningful life will be if I work with my body instead of against it. I don’t want to look back on my life and feel regret that I spent too much of it worried about how my body looked. That mindset will keep my life small, and I don’t want that to be my legacy. I want to worry so much less about that piece of it and instead spend my time and energy working as a team with my body to accomplish some pretty amazing things in this world — both big and small. Thinking about that “end goal” place and person I want to be helps me a whole lot in the here and now.
–Listening to the stories older women share about their experience aging. For whatever reason, I’ve found myself hearing from older women a LOT recently (in books, on podcasts, etc.), and I LOVE IT. For one, most of these stories are really flipping the common narrative that getting older — especially as a women — is just plain terrible. Instead, I’m hearing account after account from women who have had incredibly positive experiences getting older. They talk about feeling so much freedom at this stage in their lives, and about not wanting to go back to their younger years because they like who they are so much NOW. They talk about how amazing it feels to leave behind so much of the image-driven parts of life and lean into the REAL STUFF instead. It makes me excited to continue to grow and learn and become, and it also helps me know this body stuff (shooting for “perfection,” whatever that means) only matters LESS the older we get. The more I can sideline it now, the more growth that can happen even sooner!
–Arming myself with triggers and language to “be in my body” and make time to intentionally be aware of and grateful for it. One thing that’s been really helpful for me in this journey is to build points into my day where I’m prompted to say “thank you” to my body. I always use movement as a trigger, for example, because what better time to be in awe of all it can do? Practicing the way I talk to myself has allowed those kinds of thoughts to now come on their own in many instances, totally unprompted.
–Working to reunite my mind and my body. I think we as a culture are reeeeeeally good at separating ourselves from our bodies. One of my biggest goals as a parent, in fact, is to help my kids keep that mind/body connection as intact as possible. When we stop trusting what our body is doing or what it’s telling us, that connection begins to sever. For years, the phrase “listen to your body” felt like a foreign language to me. I had NO IDEA how to access that long-lost connection — that trust. Coming back to that place over the past few years — nourishing my body, trusting her, letting myself feel present in her, giving my body what it wants and needs, working with her instead of against her or in spite of her — feels both radical and also familiar in a distant, long-lost way.
It’s not about my body looking perfect. It never was — that was NEVER THE POINT. The pursuit of physical perfection was keeping me from having the joy of truly living in my body. And, in fact, the perfection was there all along. It just turns out I wasn’t paying attention to the right parts. I wasn’t asking myself the right questions. I wasn’t allowing myself to feel perfectly at home inside my body.
Things are different now. I’m so, so glad to be home.