Body Stewardship


The first time I heard anyone talk about stewardship it was in a discussion about the environment, and in this context it meant making careful decisions that would cause no further harm to our planet. The next time was at the university foundation where I worked, and in this context it meant strengthening relationships with donors by keeping them updated on projects they’d funded. Both of those are fairly big picture, and involve other people. But I’ve started to think about my relationship with my body as being a kind of stewardship, too.

At its root, the word means the activity of protecting, nurturing, and taking responsibility for something. I remember moving to Minneapolis and suddenly realizing that if I didn’t make a dentist appointment for myself, my teeth would never be cleaned again. My mom was no longer the steward of my health and body, so I had to step up. I had to take responsibility for my eating choices, my mental health, my skincare routine. I had to make sure I got enough sleep, got enough exercise, got enough water. And those nuts-and-bolts things have been easy to take care of ever since.

But when I think about body image, the meaning of stewardship shifts. Personally, I don’t find the the body love movement to be invasive or overreaching, but I know many do. And as a friend recently pointed out, asking someone – or many someones – to move directly from loathing and misery to love and celebration isn’t terribly reasonable. Asking someone to move from loathing and misery to neutrality and acceptance? A little less daunting. And I feel like adding the concept of stewardship to the neutrality/acceptance mix can be very beneficial.

Your body is you, so thinking of it as a thing that you care for is a little odd. But aside from instincts and reflexes, your mind does a lot of the driving when it comes to your body. And how you conceptualize your relationship with your body can have a huge impact on your overall well-being. Many people are apt to make demands of their bodies, express wishes or disappointment about their bodies, try to mould and shape and change their bodies. Many of us think of our bodies in terms of the things they aren’t and the things they can’t do. What if we focused on these ideas instead:

  • This is the only body you’ll get to inhabit. No trade-ins, no backs.
  • You’re in charge of your body. If you don’t care for it, no one will.
  • Protecting and nurturing your body benefits both physical and emotional health.

Your body is not a mass of flaws to be disguised, or a list of failures. Your body is not a burdensome receptacle for your brain and soul. Your body is not a lifelong improvement project. Your body is you. And even if you’re not ready to lavish yourself with love and affection, perhaps you could think about protecting, nurturing, and taking responsibility for the well-being of your body. Because even when it is frustrating, or confusing, or filled with aches and pains, it is still yours. You are the one and only person tasked with the stewardship of your body. It’s a lot of responsibility, but the payoff is worth it.

Image source

Originally posted 2014-12-08 06:12:10.

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4 Responses to “Body Stewardship”

  1. suzanne

    It only takes one getting seriously ill to come to terms with these thoughts mighty fast. You learn quickly all the little things your body does for you on a daily basis and just how important they are. Ideally it would be best not to have to suffer in order to learn such a valuable lesson, but often the times we learn the most in life, are the times of great pain and difficulty.

    Great post.


  2. Kerstin Forsythe

    This post was a lovely warm spot in my day. I so identified with what you wrote. I also agree wholeheartedly with Suzanne’s comment below. When you are fighting your body because it is sick, in pain, not functioning as you wish it would it can be very hard to be kind to it and take care of it because you think why bother? Because the health you do STILL have is worth fighting for and preserving. I try to believe that “this too shall pass” but sometimes it’s just too hopeful! But taking care of myself day to day can go a long way in time passing in a positive way and small positive actions towards my body, both physically and emotionally go a LONG way to being happy. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Mercy Morris

    I have lurked for years reading your very sensible and inspiring posts. This one is a gem. Please don’t stop writing, you make a difference to people.