Forgive Your Body

positive body image forgiveness
When my self-image bottoms out, I get adversarial: I pit my inner self against my body as if they are two are separate entities. I deem my physical self the enemy – a foreign, hostile combatant struggling to suffocate the true, non-corporeal me. I catalog its crimes, and read them out like a series of charges at an arraignment. Why can’t my belly firm up and shrink down? Why can’t my skin stop breaking out? Why can’t I be hairy on my head and my head alone? Why can’t my arms be slender and strong instead of meaty and strong? Why is my body DOING this to me? It’s all a plot. It’s all a cruel scheme meant to keep me from feeling beautiful and attractive and good. It is outright betrayal.

When my self-image is at its peak, I get holistic: I feel that there is absolutely no difference between my body and my mind. They are merged, seamless, an extraordinary machine. I see what makes my body different, and embrace it as what sets me apart and makes me ME. I feel that my body is not simply a vehicle for getting my brain from place to place, but an extension of my brain’s very contents. I see my body as the ultimate physical expression of my identity and true self. And I breathe easily and walk tall and smile, smile, smile.

But most of the time, I’m somewhere in between. I strive to love myself as-is, but stumble and struggle nearly as often as I succeed. And I’ve learned to manage that middle ground through simple forgiveness. I try to accept that my personal set of lumps and bumps are uniquely beautiful, biologically perfect for my own needs, and actually naturally lovely … and when that fails me and I verge on body-focused petulance, I forgive.

For me, there is a distinction between acceptance and forgiveness. I feel that acceptance is permanent, serene, logical. Forgiveness may be more temporary and volatile, but it is also more emotional. Forgiveness comes from my heart, and when I cannot wrap my brain around accepting what my body presents, I can usually still forgive it. I can access tenderness even when I cannot access understanding.

Forgiveness is an important step in healing, and in moving on: If you don’t pause to look at an aggravating person, concept, or body part straight-on, you’ll never truly make peace with it. By forcing myself to identify my frustration and forgive my body for doing or being something I don’t think it “should,” I am forcing myself to address my concerns in an active, healthy, loving manner. And my hope is that if I live through enough cycles of petulance and forgiveness, I’ll eventually bypass that step altogether and go straight to holistic, embracing self-love.

We don’t know for certain why our bodies do the things they do, or are shaped the way they’re shaped. Only our genes can tell that tale. And even the world’s most brilliant geneticists would have a helluva time deciphering our individual body-stories. Our bodies do what they do for important reasons, but those reasons may be forever obscured. As a result, we feel frustration, exhaustion, even hatred at times. And we must breathe through those times – when we begin to separate self from body – and forgive our bodies for doing what they must, mutely and unerringly.

And we must forgive again and again until forgiveness becomes superfluous and loving acceptance takes its place.

Image courtesy Loving Earth.

Originally posted 2009-06-17 05:47:00.

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37 Responses to “Forgive Your Body”

  1. Laura.

    that was exactly what i needed to read this morning, thank you, sal!



    It is the hardest thing to do…but I think that everybody must work on this subject…no one is young or beautiful forever…we must be more than just a body….

  3. Michelle

    This is an awesome post, and one that should be shared with every woman.

  4. Cindy at The CookBook Nook

    This one is to print out and hang near my full-length mirror. Keeper for sure.

    Thanks, Sal!

  5. bekster

    Wow, I just came from looking at unfortunate pictures of myself, so this is very timely advice. In general, I feel pretty good about my reflection in the mirror, but photographs are what kill me. I have to remind myself that a representation of myself is not really me. The real me moves, has a natural smile, and has light shining on all three of my dimensions. Thinking that way, it is much easier to forgive my own body… but then the problem comes in forgiving the photographer. 🙂

  6. WendyB

    I think my chin hair is catching up to my head hair in quantity. Just sayin'.

  7. Emily

    Thank you so much for this post. Forgiveness is at the heart of my philosophy of life – but what I have learned is that the hardest person on earth to forgive is myself. Thank you for putting it so beautifully!

  8. Bouncing Evil Ginner

    It's something to work on. I'm not sure I'll ever reach forgiveness, since acceptance seems so far away. Sometimes, I catch glimpses of myself in shop windows, or in mirrors as I pass and I think things are pretty good, but I can't stand and look at myself in a mirror without criticism. It's quite sad, particularly when this is probably the best it's going to get.

  9. RML

    My self image is better if I wash my hair….today I didn´t – self image pretty low :(.

    Gret post!

  10. Stefka

    You've given me a new way of looking at this complicated relationship… what a great distinction between forgiveness and acceptance. This entry has already been bookmarked!

  11. Kayleigh

    As you might imagine, this post has a particular resonance for me — I've been so wrapped up in the process of determinng what to do, how to do it and where to have it done that I am only now in this brief window of time experiencing the feelings of body betrayal and realizing that I will need to forgive/accept in order to move on.

    Thank you for this post…there is much insight, much to ponder, and it has set my thinking off in a new direction (as you so often do!)

  12. Anonymous

    Thanks for this post, it has come to me at a needed time, but my angle is a bit different from the others represented here. I am suffering from complications from my third knee surgery in the last 8 years (I am only 32.) My knees have an alignment problem where they do not work properly, hence the multiple surgeries. Many times I have asked, why my knees can't cooperate with me and why they are this way. I get so mad at my body and mentally escape because I feel like its the only way to feel free. I know I will continue to need more surgeries and so I should come to some sense of forgiveness or acceptance.

  13. Sher

    that gray hair?….unforgivable….fight it!

    serously, thought provoking post 🙂

  14. The Budget Babe

    forgive my body. hmm. that's a brilliant idea. i do sound like a heartless b*** sometimes when I'm mean to my body, so apologies are definitely in order. thanks for the post 🙂

  15. Nadine

    You spoke the truth – again. I really love your intelligent writing.

  16. AsianCajuns

    Oh I agree- I just find forgiveness so hard! I wish I were more forgiving of myself and others- that is most definitely something I should work on.

    I really like the idea of seeing your body as a beautiful whole entity – I will work on that too 😉


    LURVVVE the F word!!!
    great post dear!

  18. please sir

    Lovely post…and yes such a hard thing to do and except…but we can!

  19. myedit

    I read your blog almost daily. Your topics are great (from fun and fluffy to deep like today) but your writing is even greater. Sometimes I go nuts reading all the LOLs and TTYLs, so I appreciate your writing style. Thanks for a good read, as always…

  20. Elaine

    It's true….we are always the last to forgive ourselves. It is hard though…..but maybe it's the journey that is more importnat than the actual outcome?

  21. lisa

    Another very inspirational post. Thanks for this, Sal. 🙂

  22. Pamcasso

    Wow, getting into the Descartes v Nietzsche territory today. I completely empathize with what you are expressing. It's hard with all that's out there to judge us, to not think about our bodies as these rebellious creatures, bent on showing the world our faults.

  23. Linda

    Interesting post. It's always a little hard for me to get my mind around how many perfectly attractive (to my mind) women have these huge body issues. It makes me think that if they apply the same standards to other people that they do to themselves, I must look like a monster to them! But most of them don't apply those standards to me, and neither do I (apply them to me–or to them).

    I think acceptance can come after going through many rounds of anger and forgiveness, but it can also be a matter of just not having the energy to participate in the whole culture of body-hatred. Maybe it's that I was never close enough to looking like a movie star to agonize about it, or maybe it's that it's no real mystery why I don't have thin thighs (genetics + ice cream), but while I don't necessarily want to DISPLAY my body, I can't say I've ever been angry at it for not looking like Halle Berry's. I know it's corny, but I really am much, much more grateful for my good health than I could ever be resentful of my pudge.

  24. Erin

    How earthy, spiritual, and lovely. You're doing great things with this here blog.

  25. issa

    mmm.. great post dear.. body image is just such a hard part to come to peace with

  26. miss cavendish

    I forgive my body for just drinking and enjoying a delicious homemade chocolate milkshake. Okay: two small ones.

  27. Cupcakes and Cashmere

    some very interesting points here…i consider myself to be a very forgiving person. i believe people when they honestly apologize and feel as though people can make mistakes. why is it then that i don't have that same mentality when it comes to my body?

  28. Hanako66

    you hit the nail right on the head! what an inspiring post…

  29. Nadine

    Sal, you are lovely. What a beautifully expressed sentiment. Big kiss!

  30. futurelint

    Very good points as always Sal… one of these days I'll stop being a bully to my body (perhaps that will be the day I stop getting zits and wrinkles at the same time!)

  31. Anonymous

    At age 47 I wear a size 2, have serious muscles from lifting weights, do yoga, hike regularly but yet see all my bodies flaws- wrinkles, lose belly skin from four babies, thighs when I look in the mirror. I am trying to accept what is and rejoice in my bodies strength but it is a daily struggle.

  32. Anonymous

    I know exactly why my body does what it does…too much Coca-Cola and chocolate! I wonder what my body would look like if I gave it what it NEEDED rather than what I WANTED! We can be overly self depricating, but if were honest, a lot of the time our bodies just give us what we deserve. Why can't soda and chocolate be good for you?????? That is my beef!

  33. Guiltless

    excellent post-i love the part about acceptance is permanent vs forgiveness is temporary. you're beautiful!