This week I want to talk about something we carry with us everywhere, but hardly ever think about. Unless we’re complaining about it! Or pinching and prodding it.
Spring is here and as soon as it rolls into summer we can all bet that every advertisement will be about bikinis, losing weight, and getting rid of cellulite, blemishes and any other perceived imperfection a body can have. In conversations with friends, the topics will be “I need to lose 10lb or I have to get rid of these stretch marks before I can show my legs.” And I want to head this off at the pass, so to speak. I know that the way the media landscape is, this post may be the only positive thing you read about your body this whole season. Even ads and organizations claiming to be body positive resort to tactics that trick us into feeling bad, all so we’ll buy the latest bra, skin cream, or eyeshadow.
In this crazed world, how do we care for ourselves, feel beautiful, or even get to a healthy weight while we’re all drowning in a whole lot of body-related garbage? To me, it seems like every ad I see is screaming at me: you’re not good enough the way you are. Buy this, eat only that, DON’T EAT THAT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!!
I think the real dirt buried underneath all of this is the media attention and even cultural focus on weight, outer beauty only, and other superficial measures is that it keeps all of us coming back for more. When you can never be good enough, you’ll return again and again to anything that promises to make you that way.
I’ve been through hell and back with my body. I know that Kelly has too. She lives with a body that only has half of a heart on a daily basis and has to use that to do everything all the rest of us do. Two years ago, my husband shaved my head. And I went years without any real semblance of hair. Cancer gave me a lot of things, and two of them were 35 extra pounds and a ton of stretch marks plus a scar on my chest.
And you’d think after all that and surviving a critical illness, those things wouldn’t be my main focus. But I really had to work through decades of brainwashing that tells all of us that there is only one way to be beautiful. And I’m still working through that when I lose my way a bit.
So what’s my point in all of this? You are not your body. You’re a collection of cells and electrical impulses and a soul and a heart and a combination of personality traits that is uniquely you. You’re irreplaceable. The universe knew that this world needed you, and here you are. But we need our bodies to be in the best physical condition possible to be able to use our unique gifts to change the world. And we need to feel beautiful, confident, and cared for to be able to do that too.
So how do we find this balance? Here are my top tips:
Unfollow unfollow UNFOLLOW. Got some negative garbage on your social media feed? Unfollow. Don’t even think twice. Notice how certain ads and even celebrities or “influencers” make you feel. If you feel uplifted and inspired, great!! If you feel less than, imperfect (no one’s life is that picture perfect!!) or just plain jealous...press that unfollow button. Be relentlessly picky about what you expose yourself to in the media (both print and internet).
Dig deep for the reasons why you have health goals. If you want to lose weight, get stronger, or build endurance- why do you want those things? If it’s to look hot in a swimsuit I can guarantee you it won’t last. Why do diets and exercise programs often fail? Because we’re not doing them for the right reasons. Eat healthy and exercise your heart and your muscles because you want to have energy, to sleep better, to have a better quality of life. These are the only reasons that will sustain you in the long term.
If a food or exercise program is too restrictive, remember that you have to be able to live. None of us are getting out of this life alive!!!!!!! We have to be able to have fun. If the health journey you’re one doesn’t allow for the occasional cupcake or rest day, it’s not sustainable. Your health journey should expand your life, and not contract it.
Consider clothing and makeup as part of self care. This is an area that can feel very superficial. When I was in early recovery from cancer, I truly sometimes thought to myself that I was so ugly what was the point of even trying. Even thinking that I ever thought this about myself breaks my heart. We are so so hard on ourselves. And our culture only allows for a single beauty ideal. Spend some time finding clothing and makeup (or hair care) that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Taking even 5 or 10 extra minutes each morning can make a huge difference in how you carry yourself throughout the day. This can easily be misconstrued as vanity, but I have really begun to consider it self care.
Remember that everything in this life is temporary, including your body and my body. And our time is temporary too. I don’t want to miss out on any more of my life worrying that my body doesn’t look good enough or that I’m not enough in any way. And I don’t want you to miss out on any more time either.
You’re one of a kind. Take care of yourself and of your body because you ARE one of a kind. There’s only one you and you are completely and totally needed in this world.