My relationship with my body certainly has its ups and downs. Literally. Those who’ve known me a long time have seen me in every state of body, from thin and buff to how I look right now.
Here’s a photo of me from high school, when I was super athletic (I’m on the left, #11):
Here’s a recent picture of me on a camping trip (I’m on the right), filthy from holding my little dog, Sofie:
Obviously these pictures don’t provide an apple-to-apple comparison (i.e., there’s nothing similar about the two photos except that I’m in each of them). I’d say there’s at least a 50-pound difference between the two photos. And, having said that, I’m not concerned as much about how much a scale says I weigh (I don’t even own a scale) as how I feel in my body.
Right now I’m incredibly self-conscious about my body. My uniform all summer has been giant shorts and giant T-shirts that are best for camping or working out; they certainly aren’t stylish or flattering on me. I feel like I just want to hide my body, and then I hang out with people who (from my point of view) have beautiful bodies and wear super cute clothes–which then throws me into feeling really, really awkward and super-duper unattractive (especially when I’m with them, but even when I’m not).
Okay, so regardless of whether you can relate to anything I’m saying, check in with how your body feels right now (because your body might be commiserating with my body). Just do a little scan and notice what you notice. I notice that I sorta’ feel like someone has been punching me in the stomach and I kinda’ want to vomit in my mouth a little (oh wait, I just did!). Awesome. Know what that is? That’s the way it feels to sit in TOTAL self-judgment. That’s me punching myself in the stomach. “How’s that working for me?” you ask. Yeah, not so good (wretch, wretch).
Part of my journey over the next year is going to be to form a totally new relationship with my body. I’ll start by pretending it’s a new friend I’m just meeting for the first time. I’ll ask lots of questions, especially ones like, “Body, what do you desire to look like? What do you require of me to get you there?”
Do you find it strange that I might talk to my body as if it’s separate of me? What if it’s both totally a part of me and totally not? What if I’m both in my body and my body is in me? What if I’m an infinite being with a body? And what if my body has a consciousness totally of its own and it can facilitate me through life by giving me amazingly accurate information–similar to how a cat’s whiskers function to give the cat information?
I like to think of myself and my body similar to how Phillip Pullman depicts the Daemon/human relationship in his trilogy, His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). In this trilogy, one of the main characters is from a parallel dimension in which “the soul is physically manifested in the form of an animal called a dæmon. It has a separate identity from its respective human, despite being an integral part of the person (i.e. they are one entity, in two bodies).” I don’t mean to get too philosophical or tangential, but the way Lyra interacts with her dæmon is certainly one option for how I could interact with my body. What would it take for me to see my body as my teammate, my true life partner, my best friend?
And what if, just by getting out of judgment of my body, I would be giving it the room to become exactly what it desires to be? What if most of us have it all wrong about bodies when we think that we’ll get to our “ideal body” faster by judging it relentlessly? What sounds better to you–beating your body into submission with horrible thoughts and forced exercise or loving your body into its full potency by honoring it, loving it, and making it feel good? I’ve done a whole lot of the former for the last few years and that has not been working. I’m ready now to step into the latter option of loving on my body and treating it as well as I treat my animals. Stay tuned to see how I do that, and please, ask your body if it would like you to do the same for it!