Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till it’s Gone

There is beauty in your body if you'll only let yourself see it.
Your body is constantly changing. It simply never stops. You may feel like you’ve grown into your final physical form – believe that the years of radical transformation have ended – but don’t kid yourself. In the coming months and years, your muscles will swell and shrink, and your skin will change its tone, and your hair will thicken and thin, and your weight will shift all over the damn place. Some of these changes will delight you and some of these changes will alarm you and many of them will surprise you. But whether you can see it or not, your body is changing right now.

And that’s good.
Completely natural.
But it can set you up for a fall.

My dear friend KT told me that looking at old photographs of herself is often a bit painful. But not because she was previously awkward or acne-ridden or unstylish.

“I see those photos and I think, ‘My hair was so thick back then, and all I did was complain about it’,” she explained. “I was never, ever happy with how I looked, and yet I’d KILL to look now how I did back then.”

You may be sixteen and fixated on your zits and frizz, or seventy and fixated on your wrinkles and plummeting bustline. Believe me when I tell you that your body is STILL changing, and will shortly present you with a whole new set of quirks on which to fixate. What troubles you today may vanish without a trace tomorrow, and what you cherish now may fade in the future. If you aren’t careful, your body will have totally transformed itself by the next time you take stock of its attributes, and you’ll be left wondering how it all happened so quickly.

And this is not to say that aging is ghastly, or that you’ll hate yourself even more as you get older, or anything of the sort. This is just to say that your body is in constant motion, shifting and evolving, and that you should pause to enjoy and acknowledge your today-body before it transforms again. Like all living beings, we morph and fluctuate. And it is only when we practice awareness of our physicality – regularly and diligently – that we can access real gratitude for our physical gifts.

Appreciate yourself now. You are, in fact, beautiful TODAY. This very minute, exactly as you are. No matter how old or young, light or heavy, pimply or wrinkly or saggy or puffy. There is beauty in your body if you’ll only let yourself see it. Shifts in physical shape never happen overnight, yet the body you have today will be replaced by a new one before you know it. Acknowledge the amazing and recognize the remarkable in your current form, knowing that it is fleeting.

And when your new body arrives, welcome it with the same reverence and pay it the same respects.

Images courtesy Simon Blackley (top left), babasteve (top right), lauren bailey (bottom left), Simon Blackley (bottom right)

Originally posted 2009-08-11 06:08:00.

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51 Responses to “Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till it’s Gone”


    I think about this sometimes and it´s so scary! But the truth is: we have to get used to go old eventually…this is the human reality…

  2. Lemondrop Marie

    I am the same way, I look at old photographs and wish that I had appreciated what I had then. On the up side, I try to be positive about what I have now… I was thinner when I was younger but lazier because I didn't realize how important exercise is to my health. I started exercising to lose weight, and while it helped me what it really did is make me feel better and have more energy. So- I am older and a little thicker, but my heart's probably stronger now! Sometimes being a little dissatisfied can put us on a positive road to change.

  3. Denise

    My dearest friend and I have this joke: we try to remember when we look in the mirror that "this is as good as it's going to get!" Meaning just what you said: wherever you are now will be longed for by some future vision of yourself, so why not acknowledge how lovely you are right now?

  4. Cupcakes and Cashmere

    i always take a deep, relaxing breath after reading your posts. they offer such great advice that's typically simple in theory, which i live. today…i will live in the now. thank you for this. xoxo

  5. Laura.

    oh, this is good! i just took an involuntary and much-needed deep breath/sigh. the combination of this post and the sigh make me feel much calmer about life (and by life, i mean my body, partly). thank you!

  6. H. Brown

    thank you for this! i've noticed changes like you talk about–weight carried in different places, hair, skin–i think embracing constant change is a great way to stay steady. i'm learning to stop fighting my body's cycles–whether monthly or over the course of years–and to honor whatever stage i am in. none are bad; they just require different awareness. and how lucky that we women are chosen to learn the lessons of going with the flow of change (ha. that's a tiny bit sarcastic, but mostly not 🙂

  7. Sheila

    Awesome reminder of this (sometimes sad) fact of life. I look at old pictures of me and I wonder why I thought I was so horrid. I've finally reached that place where I like my body, but I know it won't last (my body, not my liking it).

  8. Sharon Rose

    Hi there-a great post my dear, I do finally love me for the way I am, LOL!

  9. Darrah

    Great post. I was just thinking about this today actually. I'm not a huge fan of my "family chin." My grandma always say, "You've got the Christel chin just like your grandpa!" I'm not quite sure that's an awesome compliment… but I know I'll never get surgery to fix it. I figure I'll grow into it, and own it over time. It definitely takes more people like yourself saying that natural is okay.

  10. K.Line

    Really great post Sal. We do need to be aware of our physicality in every moment. It's the only way to truly appreciate it – and savour it the way we should.

  11. enc

    I really got to thinking on this one, Sal! I like my body now better than I ever did before, but I do appreciate that gravity didn't affect me twenty years ago like it does now, alas.

  12. Corrine/Frock And Roll

    Sal, you are almost RIDICULOUSLY on the money! When I was 17, I was convinced that I was never thin enough: I walked incessantly and monitored my diet rigorously, but in my eyes, I was just never perfect. Looking back at photos from those days now, I honestly wish I could reach in and give myself a good wake-up call slap-in-the-face: there was nothing wrong with me! I was almost two dress sizes smaller than I am now, and I was healthy, fit and active – so why on earth didn't I realize this and appreciate it?! These days, I try to remind myself that although I may not have a supermodel-esque figure and a killer work-out regimen, I'm happy, (mostly) healthy, and will longing for the body I have now when I'm older.. thanks for the reminder 🙂

  13. Stefka

    Yes, yes, yes! While I do the same thing with old photos (and struggle with regret and sadness for my younger self), I KNOW that I am becoming more and more in tune with my body as I age. I'm learning to live in the present, discovering and embracing what THIS body is capable of.

    While there are still so many mixed messages bombarding young women today, I think that overall there is more "body-love wisdom" being shared by and for women of all ages. And that gives me hope. Thanks for being such a positive force, Sal! (…and for highlighting other resources as well – I'm loving your friend Mary's blog!)

  14. Deja Pseu

    This is SO true! Menopause has brought a less lustrous complexion, but it has also given me less oily hair, which means I can wash it less often, yay! I used to HATE my body at a weight I would now walk over hot coals barefoot to see again. Today is all we've got, ladies!

  15. Mary Sailors

    I love this Sally, what a great post!! Everyone wishes something were different, but it's the changes and nuances that make us so special! Enjoy it is right! Mary

  16. Hanako66

    I really love this, so true that it is hard to appreciate what we have!

  17. Diana

    Wonderful post – it's so true that many people don't enjoy the body they have while they have it. So many of us are to busy being fixated on losing "that last ten pounds" than to be happy with what we already have.

  18. Cee

    I love your blog. Especially for posts like this. It's just a constant reminder that we're awesome just as we are. I'm a big "changer" I always feel I need to change something but this makes me think that maybe I shouldn't worry so much about it.

  19. Cecilia

    This post kind of reminds me of the song that goes "if you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with". Your own body, right now and as is… ooo scary thought, but totally worth going for it.

  20. La Belette Rouge

    I have a picture of me when I was 16 in a bathing suit. At the time I thought I was soooooo fat and had a horrible body. I look at that picture now and wish I could time travel and be that me again. In 15 years time I will look back at the me of now and I will say "I wish I looked like that again."

  21. Kate @ Très Lola

    "Appreciate yourself now. You are, in fact, beautiful TODAY."

    This thought needs to be plastered on buses & such…. ladies of the world unite in a whole lotta body love! Yeahhh, nice post Sally!


    Really-really good reminder Sal!
    I'm aware of it…I see my mom's hands & I don't remember how they used to look like anymore, she is still under heavy medication & has affected her skin now… ~peace*

  23. Audi

    This post is spot on, Sal! Another great topic and insightful discussion.

  24. chic

    Great post, Sal! I love it! I finally am starting to feel comfortable in my skin and happy with how I am TODAY and that's such an important message! Thanks for writing this and helping enforce that idea!


  25. AsianCajuns

    Seriously, Sal! Every time I read your posts I feel a little lighter. All day I was bemoaning my thighs (I can feel them adding layers of fat as I sit at my desk, 8+ hours a day)- and the moment I read your post it slapped me awake to stop bemoaning my body. Merciiiiiii!!!

  26. thefashionfirm

    A great big thanks for this post. Yes, change can be scary, but it always leads up to good things. It is so important that whether i am 17 or 70, i should feel comfortable in my skin. It would help me be a happier person.

  27. valerie

    you're so wise. it really is the truth, although it's hard to live by sometimes. always a treat reading your posts!

  28. terrarustica

    Loved this post, thank you so much for your words. I am still in the process of learning to love and respect this body that has carried me so well through three decades of life.

  29. Skye

    I'm lucky I always thought I was ok, and I'm not one for regrets (thank god, otherwise how would I live!) so I look at old photos and mostly just think I look better now because I know myself now. Delusional? Probably, but it's working for me so that's good!

    My husband always says that everyone under 25 is beautiful and hardly any of them know it, I think it's one of those many bits of ancient wisdom that young people just cannot be told, they have to discover it for themselves (a terrible conundrum of parenthood too, once you discover you can't actually use your own mistakes to dissuade your offspring from making the same ones!)

  30. Rosie Unknown

    great post! I have over come the :I hate my body syndrome", but I still have trouble not acting like I do, since I feel like my fellow women will think that I am vain if I proclaim my love for my body.

  31. Shopaholic

    great post! cheered me up after seeing my recent holiday pics, I realised I wasn't as young and slim as I once was, and I hadn't even noticed until the pics came out!

  32. mooq

    I look back at photos from highschool, when I hated my super-tight curls, and think dang, where did those go?

    Then I realize I've been colouring my hair so often that I'm lucky to have any hair at all, so I'll take my half-assed waves and cut my losses!

  33. missKaren

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours, thank you, Sally. The lesson of loving yourself is hard to learn. I think a lengthy chapter is learning about yourself, being honest to yourself if no one else. It's the only way to learn to take care of yourself, not just physically, not just today, but for a lifetime of confidence ups and downs. Hopefully more ups than downs.

  34. Imogen Lamport

    I don't know if it's a case of 'great minds think alike' but I wrote a post on the same topic last night, to be posted tomorrow!

    Great thoughts Sal.

  35. Annie Spandex

    I'm not really having an easy time anticipating those changes, but hopefully I will accept myself as I change.

  36. irotalot

    I do like this. My mom does that. She wishes she knew how good she actually looked years ago, because she really did. But it makes me a little sad because now she doesn't think she's attractive.

    I'm sort of afraid of getting older. But, it has to happen.

  37. Sonja

    Yes, I miss my skinny mini body. Thanks for the encouragement to embrace what I have right now. 🙂

  38. smaro

    i'm a bit late on this but this was a brilliant post. Funnily enough this was something I started to think about and realise only recently. I weighed myself yesterday, for the first time in ages. I found it weird that a) I hadn't weighed myself in ages (about 4 months or so) b)I didn't freak about the weight gain too much and c) I just made a decision to up the times I go swimming. I realised it was I am no longer interested in the body I think I should have but am more enjoying the body that I do have. Exercise has also come more into perspective as something to enjoy. Treats are now also viewed as something to be enjoyed and if I have a small piece of chocolate with coffee at 4pm every day, that isn't the end of the world and I haven't committed some sort of evil crime against my body.

    I do look at old photos and find it hard, more because of the very frumpy and difficult teen years I went through, but then I see a professional head shot of me done at a family photo session last year and realise, I look the way I always wanted to look when I was in my unhappy teenhood.

    My weight has fluctuated, I have been much skinnier and toned, I have been much heavier and flabby, but now, I can dress what I have and dress to suit confident me. This is barring some wardrobe wobbles and moments of indecision and frustration when trying to find something to wear in the 20-minute-dash-to-the-bus in the mornings!!

  39. Queen Michelle

    Great post! I look at old photos with mixed feelings. I HATED how I looked when I was younger and I instead absorbed myself in dressing strangely (partly because of the music I liked too) to try and draw attention away from my face and body. But I think I look much better now than when I was younger. Of course I sometimes wish I was a little thinner here and there, but generally I am happy with how I am aging. At the end of the day there isn't much we can do about it anyway.

  40. rockandcookies

    I needed this post today, thank you so much! I injured myself early this year and part of the recovery process is physical therapy that has made my already thick legs grow from muscle mass. I have been so fixated on "I CANNOT bring myself to buy bigger jeans" because the number on the tag scares me to death. I have been working on coming to terms with being healthy, strong, and whole with a different body vs. same body but weak.

    I hadn't previously thought to just file this change in with all of the other changes that have and will happen… so thanks again!