A Baseline

You do not need to love your body to lead a full and rewarding life. But it might help you to do so.

Feeling good about and loving your body is, in no way, a prerequisite for accomplishment, happiness, or a full life. In fact, I’d wager that the vast majority of people out there doing great things, chasing joy, and filling the days with amazing activities struggle to feel strong and lovely. At least some of the time. You can achieve amazing things in life while still feeling uneasy or unhappy with your physical form.

The reason that I encourage women to work towards body love and acceptance is based on my own experiences. As I’ve said before, I used to truly, actively, and completely hate my body. HATE. It is not too strong a word, I assure you. I avoided mirrors, glass doors, all reflective surfaces because every glimpse I caught of my physical self filled me with loathing. So long as I could trundle through my days without looking at myself, I felt fine. But the moment I was confronted with my own image, the second I was reminded of my unacceptable chunk and frump and pasty-clumsy awfulness, I spiraled down into a dark, miserable place. The amount of energy I expended in self-loathing was mind-boggling. I wore myself out with it. Literally and physically. I was exhausted all the time by how unhappy I was with my body and my looks and my self.

And that didn’t stop because I changed my body or changed how I dressed or changed how I looked. Not exclusively. It stopped because I finally decided I just couldn’t live that way anymore. I couldn’t begin from a baseline of exhausted self-loathing and build my life from there. I needed acceptance, peace, and a little bit of loving forgiveness or I was going to burn myself right out, and quickly. And working toward those goals, striving to feel good about and even love my body, has helped me create a more stable, more sustainable baseline. I feel better working at life from this place, where I can look in the mirror and feel security, pride, and tenderness.

Humans are remarkably resilient creatures, and can achieve amazing feats utilizing scant resources. You do not need to love your body to lead a full and rewarding life. But it might help you to do so.

Image courtesy Nancy L. Stockdale

Originally posted 2013-03-14 06:50:18.

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12 Responses to “A Baseline”

  1. Artsy in Boulder

    Like an old bra that has seen too many washings, our culture is rather unsupportive of self-love and self-expression, despite protestations to the contrary. Hooray, you, for this radical act of self-affirmation. Shine on.

  2. PeacefulP

    Thanks Sal. I’m curious what steps you’ve taken to help yourself get from point A to point B on this? I think for me, the process involved realizing that, on a deep level, I was using the thought “I’m ugly” as an intricate defense system against men, because I was hurt by one in my own family. Then I also realized that the hurt that was inflicted upon me actually had NOTHING to do with me AT ALL, but instead with the pain he was in. The day this stuff clicked in was truly a miraculous one for me. I had grown up and lived my whole life up to that point in so much agony. The relief this mind shift brought is too great to put into words. I’ve been writing about this in my own blog to help myself process all of this and start a conversation about body image and other related topics. I recently wrote about why “beauty” was no longer crucial for me. If you’d like to read, you can find that here: http://returntowholeness.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/why-beauty-no-longer-matters/. Thanks for continuing to keep body image at the forefront of your conversation too. It is a crucial topic. p.

    • Sally

      Oh, P, that’s a really excellent question and I’m not sure I have a simple answer. For me, it was partially linked to style. I had spent so long believing that there was one right way to look good and be beautiful, and knowing that I’d never get there with my genes and figure. Playing with clothes showed me that I can look and feel amazing in my own way, which allowed me to let go of that “one right way” mentality. But a lot of work has also been done writing here about body image and self-esteem, reading the writings of others, and having long conversations with dear friends. I didn’t have an “ah-ha” moment so much as a journey.

      I’m so glad to hear you’ve found your own way to heal and work towards self-love. You’ve been through a lot, my dear. Thanks for sharing some of your story with us here.

  3. Artsy in Boulder

    Sally, this post continues to reverberate. I’m struck by how much the practice of self-care/acceptance/expression is akin to spiritual practice: it’s a lifelong discipline, and often when you’ve gotten comfortable with it, you’re asked to kick it up to the next level. It’s challenging enough jumping the hurdles of being, say, the wrong shape or the wrong size or out of step in any way with popular culture, but then you add in menopause and aging, and you’ve got to swim upstream to reaffirm your joyous individual self all over again.

  4. em

    I appreciate you so much Sally and this is one of the reasons why. I feel it is so important for some of us to understand what others of us actually go through, and how else but through those like yourself who will truly share?

  5. Carrie

    Great article. I love that you mention that you didn’t fall in love with your body by changing it….I don’t know anyone who has. Body acceptance is actually not about your body at all…it’s about how your brain thinks about your body (which is often not even based on truth!). Deciding to give up on the self-loathing and focus on self-acceptance and forgiveness is so important – so we have the time and energy to do what we REALLY want to do! Thank you for the reminder!

  6. LG

    Thanks for this article. The phrase “burn out” sticks with me…

  7. Robin

    Awesome. Thanks so much for this. I have felt the same way. Hating my body. Afraid to be in front of mirrors. Never looking at myself, because I was afraid of the self-talk. Then, in my 30’s I found power-lifting. I was always athletic throughout my whole life, but once I found strength in….strength… I really valued my body for its function instead of its aesthetic. Amazing thing is it was only then that I could free myself to feel good in my clothes. Weird, right? I am a big girl, but still very lean and muscular. Some might say I was more valuable in the “main stream image”because I am lean, but them I am also BIG and strong at the same time. So, not so much. That is the conflicting image we see. And, then I put on some awesome heels and a great dress and BAM…nothing makes sense anymore. I am not trying to be subversive (although that is fun), but I have finally learned to be me. I love my body and I love to look and feel good. Good clothes are part of that. I need to value the beauty of my body and myself. My body reflects me…and it is awesome. Give it some good clothes to wear. Thanks!

  8. DAC

    Goodness, you made me cry today. I continue to struggle with this on a daily basis. I just don’t know if I will ever be able to get to that magical point of acceptance.

  9. Angela

    II hated my body for the last few years. It hasn’t always been like that. It happened during the formative years when my youngest daughter needed to hear me say good things about myself & my body image to help her with her self esteem. How can you tell your daughter her body is beautiful if she doesn’t see you saying those things to yourself. Now here I am trying to turn her hate of self around. It’s hard I am not sure what to do or how to do it. I just keep saying positive things about myself in hope that she will start but as a teenager not sure she is listening anymore.

  10. Trillium

    This post made me sad-it made me sad that anyone would feel like this. I’ve always sort of felt “meh” about my body-I don’t love it or hate it, and honestly don’t spend that much time or energy thinking about it. It breaks my heart to think that anyone could spend so much time and energy hating on themselves. It also makes me wonder if I know anyone like this.

    In all honesty though, as I write this, I realize I tend to hate on myself for other things. Something to think about. Maybe we all have ways in which we could be kinder to ourselves.