In our culture, I think there’s a general trend towards body hatred. The media perpetuates images of perfectly toned bodies, making whatever features you have seem inferior and somehow wrong. It’s somewhat paradoxical, like: if you’re not curvy, you need to be curvy; if you’re curvy, you need to be more model-shaped and lean. Wherever you go, you’ll find an implicit message that your body is somehow wrong, an encouragement to swim against the current of your own physique. If you internalise this attitude, then you start hating on yourself, thinking: ‘I need to change myself, mould myself into an ideal’. But this ideal is such a fraud! It’s so manufactured and mainstream and when you buy into any idea like that, you lose your own uniquely wonderful essence.
Following on from this generally negative, judgmental attitude towards our bodies, I also don’t think we have a great attitude to food. At an extreme, it’s either guilty indulgence as you gorge on ice-cream, or it’s righteous yet dull and self-hating self-discipline (otherwise known as salad… I’m joking, my friends will tell you what a big salad-advocate I am). Given these two extremes of excess or deprivation (both very negative), is it any wonder we have body issues?
Food is something to be enjoyed; that’s surely a fact of nature. And if you’re truly enjoying it, you’ll find the right balance for your unique body. If you have an attitude of love for your body, rather than hatred, you will give it both the nutrients and treats that it needs. Rather than treating your body (which is basically you!) as a lump of scorn and irritation, why don’t you treat it with care and compassion? For example, if it was a beloved pet, you would want it be healthy and optimally functioning, but because you love it, you’d also want to occasionally indulge it, right? So apply the same attitude towards yourself.
Furthermore, I think we have a tendency to be so out of touch with our bodies that we don’t appreciate the food that’s right in front of us, the delicate, miscellaneous flavours and textures. If you really slow down and appreciate eating itself as a pleasurable activity, listening attentively to whatever your body’s craving, the whole issue of consumption becomes so much more pleasurable and nurturing. Rather than rigidly caging your body into some faddy diet that’s designed to fail as it’s too impatient and unwholesome, you’re looking at what (and what doesn’t) bode well with your unique body to achieve optimal satisfaction, treating it as the organic, alive entity that it is.
I think a lot of us have a judgmental mindset (especially when applied to ourselves); to nitpick at flaws (even if they’re imaginary). I recently read an article where it said that one group of women could easily come up with way more physical features they hated than ones they liked. There’s something wrong about that. I know we all want self-improvement, but surely this should be a positive force, rather than an insecure mode where we can’t see the good in this uniquely complicated vessel that we exist in and feel the world through… I mean, you could just say you like your ears, purely because they enable you to hear the sound of rain… That’s a bodily feature, that stretches beyond the shallow label of looking good (which of course has its intense underside of making you think you don’t look good).
Personally, I think that love and appreciation is the key to this body-image issue that permeates our culture. When you hate your body, you don’t treat it with love. You treat it with rigid, unloving discipline, and/or gluttonous, unloving excess. Why do we feel the need to shape-shift rather than appreciate our unique bodies for what they are? Our bodies are as unique as our finger-prints, as our multi-layered personalities. Am I the only one who thinks it’s terrible that all this uniqueness is getting whittled down to this fake, bland thin ideal? Is ‘thinness’ really even the essence of attraction? Surely, attraction is more elusive than than that? – found in the glint of an eye, the way someone gesticulates, the sound of a laugh, the little-bitty mannerisms that are as unique as one’s physical features, physical features that stretch beyond thinness.
I love this quote above by Roald Dahl. It’s so true. When you think lovely thoughts (about yourself, about your physicality, about the world) then you will look lovely. This is what I think we should be striving towards. Not weight loss for narcissistic, institutionalised, ‘let’s-make-a-clone-out-of-my-body’ reasons, but love – which stems from inward, positive feelings towards yourself.
Recently, I’ve been trying to lose weight, and I realised today that my motivating impulse was a negative one. I was hitting the treadmill with scorn for my arms, scorn for my stomach, not really wanting to exercise but making myself… when there was a time, not long ago, when I went running because it eased my anxiety and made me feel free and capable. Do you see the difference? I felt (and probably looked) much more attractive when it was the latter, because I wasn’t giving off an insecure, self-hating vibe… but actually smiling and feeling free and healthy.
I understand that being beautiful is a positive quality, just like being kind, smart, fit are all positive qualities. But first of all: who is to say what’s beautiful and what’s not, when it’s so layered and made up of teensy details, rather than just a robotic, thin body? Second of all, it’s just one in a stream of many positive qualities, yet our society has put it so high up and ingrained it into us so much to aspire towards outward beauty as if it’s the only good thing in the world (when it’s really not) . Surely it’s bad for your soul, to be so shallow as to value vanity in appearance over inner strength or morality or kindness?
So, what I’m trying to say is don’t go hating on yourself (or others for that matter, as it just perpetuates this body hating attitude! And, if you truly loved yourself, I don’t think you’d feel the desire to judge other people anyway). Everyone is gorgeous in their own way, and you shouldn’t let society tell you otherwise, or make you feel as though you have to aspire into a mode of being that doesn’t suit you. I mean, I think nature knows more than society does, and nature has made you the way you are – so flow with that, embrace it, love it! For it’s when you start loving your body that you will grow into and suit your own skin, and from that, physical beauty will follow in the most natural way. 🙂