For some of us, “using our power for good and not for evil,” to quote the kindly adult mentor of junior superheroes everywhere, is motivation enough to learn how to relate to our bodies in a healthier way. We recognize how we’ve been misusing our energy to hurt ourselves and are ready to channel that energy into supporting our dreams instead of tearing ourselves down. For others, we need to connect it to the big picture… it’s not enough to do something for ourselves, we have to feel like our efforts around loving our bodies are going to make the world a better place, and miring us in navel-gazing or self-indulgence. For you, I have four words: “Do it for Emily.”
Here you have a single six year old girl, with perfect confidence and joy in her body just as she is. How long do you think that’s going to last? Until her first injury, a broken wrist or sprained ankle? Until the first jealous middle school mean girl comment, “You’re fat.”? Until her first period, or when her hips grow and her breasts start showing? Until she starts to internalize the billboards and magazine covers and starts thinking she should look like an air-brushed model? You can see it coming, like a storm approaching over the horizon, with few places to huddle in safety, and no sense of when it might pass. Emily hears her friends talking about whatever the latest fad diet is. She tries it, but gains weight instead. In college, she joins her friends in criticizing their bodies at the gym and forgets she ever loved her body like a best friend. In a handful of years, a decade on the outside, she’s experiencing the same agony, the same disgust, the same frustration and alienation from her body that so many of us have suffered through.
Now imagine that same girl, same circumstances. Except that her mom, her teachers at school, her karate instructor, the sassy woman at the salon who cuts her hair, her teenage babysitter, even the women she sees walking down the street, clearly love their bodies, feel confident in whatever size they are, never compare themselves to other women, and encourage her to treat her body with the dignity, respect, and friendliness it deserves.
Do you see?
Every woman who transforms her own relationship with her body from one of struggle to one of ease makes it easier for Emily to love her body for her entire life. Each woman who does this inner work helps to shift the culture as a whole, from one where our bodies are battlegrounds, to one where our bodies are the source of inspiration and support for everything we want to create in life.
Your transformation matters. Your ability to shift how you feel about your body can change the world.
Think about it. When you criticize your body, who hears your critique? Your friends? Your daughter or niece? Your partner? How do they feel when they hear you say, “My body is so ugly.”? One student said her boyfriend responded, “Don’t talk that way about my girlfriend.” Another student’s boyfriend explained, “When you say that about your body, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me for loving you.” Even worse, children think that’s the way they should feel about their bodies as well. They can end up thinking (often not incorrectly, unfortunately), that being an adult means disliking your body. When we get into a group of friends, if one person starts to criticize her hips, another goes off about her thighs, and the next about her belly, and suddenly everyone feels like they have to prove they have the most disgusting body that ever walked on two feet. What’s the opposite of one-upmanship? One-down-woman-ship?The good news is that the opposite happens as well. When you love your body, when how you treat your body reflects a sense of friendliness, when you say respectful and loving things about your body, the people around you respond to that as well. Your confidence and sense of being at home in your body can put others at ease, and turns you into a wonderful role model for the kids around you, as well as for the adults. Embodying friendliness towards your own body gives others permission to relate to their own with more respect and kindness.