This weekend, I visited my cousin’s family for the first time in five years, and we were all gathered at the dinner table sharing a family-style meal.
Although the food is always delicious, it’s apparently always hard getting the kids to eat (they’re always off running and playing).
On this night, however, my seven-year-old niece was being extra stubborn and insisting she didn’t want dinner.
“Why aren’t you eating?” we inquired.
“Because I don’t want to get fat,” she mumbled back.
My heart sank.
Here, in front of me, was a beautiful seven-year-old girl, all bones and skin. And she was scared of getting fat.
Where did she learn this concept? Where did she hear this from? How did society already etch its expectations onto her?
Why do we only see imperfection?
As girls, we learn from an early age to be at war with our bodies.
We somehow all learn that thin is good, fat is bad. Fair skin, good; dark skin, bad. Big eyes, good; small eyes, bad. And through all this, we grow into women obsessed with body image and we think we are not enough.
We look in the mirror and we see only imperfection.
We pinch our fat, we run our fingers over stretch marks, we worry about what color our skin is (or is not), and we freak out over that one pimple.
We criticize our bodies and what it is not, when in fact, we should appreciate our bodies and what it is.
What if we gave our bodies half as much love and appreciation as we do criticism?
Our hearts beat life and blood into every crevice and vein, and it does so diligently and lovingly, so how can we extend our hearts and bodies the same loving-kindness?
It’s not about perfection; it’s about learning to be thankful.
I’ve been on a lifelong journey with my body and my perception of it (and I’m still on the journey).
What I’ve uncovered in this journey is that we don’t have to love every single part of our bodies and every feature. No one’s perfect. But instead, we can show ourselves more gentleness and kindness.
And then last night, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.
I attended a collective journaling session on the theme of “Embracing Your Body” and the prompt offered me a new perspective.
We journaled in collective silence for 12 minutes on the following prompt:
“I’m thankful that my body has been there to…”
I’ll share with you here the prompt and what I wrote, with hopes that it may spark something in you:
“I’m thankful that my body has been there to… experience life with me.
The views I’ve ascended to, the cliffs I’ve jumped off, the boards I’ve fallen off (both on land and water), the spins on ice that make the whole world stop, melt away, and blur into one.
The plane I’ve jumped out of, the underwater world that I discovered, the 10k I ran (or rather, walk-jogged), the rock walls I’ve scaled, the championship games I’ve pitched in, and the waves I’ve surfed (or rather swam with).
The hands I’ve held, the streets I explored with said hands leading me, the lips I’ve kissed, and the bodies and souls I’ve embraced.”
Shifting from a deficit-based to an asset-based mindset
In my path to self-love for my body, I found comfort and awe in what I have been able to do.
A lot of times, it’s easier to focus on the imperfections and what’s lacking, so I encourage you to think of what is there and what your body has allowed you to do and experience.
We always hear about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal and the power of mindsets. Switching from a deficit-based mindset to an asset-based mindset can change the way we view a lot of things, our bodies included.
So, what have you been able to do with your body? What have you seen? What have you experienced? What have you felt?
Our bodies are our home, so why not learn to give our home a little bit of love.