Giving up reading magazines full of glossy, improbably thin models is one thing… how do I give up looking at the massive billboard next to the stop light that never seems to turn green? Looking the other way is a start… but what about creating your own images, your own art?
Surround yourself with images of lots of different bodies, with words and pictures that inspire you to love your body, see your own beauty, and relate to yourself as whole and good.
Here’s what not to do: as an anorexic teenager, I made my own anti-body art… a collage of acceptably (in my skewed opinion) thin thighs and butts in tiny bikinis, playing with beach balls in the surf. In thick black marker, I wrote at the bottom: “If you want to look like this, you can’t eat that!” “That” referred to anything not an apple or lettuce. I hung it up on my closet mirror so I could look at it while I dressed in the morning. It had exactly the effect you would expect: self-loathing.
In law school, I was horrified to discover that my mother had unearthed my homemade anti-body poster, and hung it in her own closet. “Oh, I found that a while back,” she explained. “I was hoping it would inspire me to stick to my diet.” Bad mojo takes on a life of its own.
Images are powerful. We can use them to discourage ourselves or uplift ourselves. We can use them to inspire love towards our bodies or its opposite. Nowadays, I have a little dancing clay goddess who hangs in the bathroom. She’s lavender, and carries a magic wand full of ribbons and feathers. She has big hips and tiny breasts, and a full, joyous smile on her face. She’s beautiful, just the way she is.
She reminds me that I’m beautiful, just the way I am.
On my altar, I have another ceramic goddess, this one made by my own hands. She has wide hips, seated cross-legged, and a broad lap to hold an incense cone. Her warm stillness and welcoming contentment inspire me. In the front hallway of our home, we have a gorgeous sculpture made by one of my students… two full bodied women holding one another. They could be mother and daughter, sisters, or lovers. The way in which they lean into each other reflects their affection and ease with each other.
Today I choose to surround myself with images that reflect the beauty I see in myself, and the beauty I want to see in myself: art that encourages me to see beauty in many different bodies.
Everyday I walk by these images before I even leave the house, filling my eyes and body with a sense of worthiness and well-being, that gradually has become who I am in the world. At the end of the day, from the moment I walk in the door, they serve as counter-charms to the anti-body billboards and messages I’ve unconsciously taken in all day.
Make your own Love Your Body art by taking a big piece of butcher paper (even tape together two long sheets!) and getting a friend to trace your body. Paint or draw with bright colors whatever inspiring words and images resonate with you and hang it up to inspire yourself to love and appreciate your body everyday.
If you don’t have the time or the inclination to make body-affirming art, support artists who do: Sigrid Herr made the lovely sculpture in the picture above, check out her website (www.herrsculptures.com) for even more of her gorgeous work. Voluptuart.com has artwork from many different artists celebrating the diversity of the female form.
Many of my artist students who have taken the Love Your Body workshop (next one starts May17) say from their experience drawing nudes that all bodies are beautiful and fascinating to artists; the folds and creases and wrinkles of a body are what give it life and tell its story.
Artists are inspired by the unique beauty of every body... of your body.
I want to hear from you, and give you the chance to share in the comments… what art, homemade or artist made (or both!), inspires you to love your body and counter the barrage the anti-body imagery we’re fed in the world and that we’ve fed ourselves for too long. Art is nourishment for our bodies and souls.