Today, in the U.S., we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., who had an incredible dream and helped make it a reality. Inspired by his powerful speech and Therese Borchard’s beautiful piece, every year I republish a piece on my personal dream (which I’ve updated since last year). It’s a dream that focuses on everything from how we treat each other to how we treat ourselves.
I have a dream that our society will stop judging, shaming and bullying people because of their size, shape and weight.
I have a dream that we’ll focus on cultivating healthy habits instead of remaining chained to the numbers on our scales (or calipers or clothes).
On the last pages of her book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar Cheryl Strayed pens her response to the question: “What would you tell your twentysomething self if you could talk to her now?”
These are snippets of her wisdom:
“Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.”
“You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write.”
Recently, on her blog Design for Mankind, Erin Loechner shared her non-goals for the new year — something she’s been doing for several years now.
That is, instead of creating resolutions or intentions, Erin shares a list of qualities or traits or habits she’s learning to accept about herself.
It is a new year.
But this doesn’t require being a new you.
Of course, you will see this phrase
in many places:
TV, magazines, websites.
You will hear it in conversation
at work, at the checkout line
maybe even at home.
You will see plenty of articles about the average number of calories in a Thanksgiving meal and how horrifying this is supposed to be. You’ll see plenty of articles on which foods you can eat and which foods you should never ever ever consume.
You’ll see articles portraying food as the enemy or Thanksgiving and the holidays in general as a battle you must defeat. (Or articles that create multiple enemies — one article said “food isn’t always the enemy” and then named something else that is.)
You’ll see articles that demonize food and you for “indulging.” They might be filled with judgement, scare tactics and guilt. They might be filled with ridiculous tips to manipulate yourself to eat less.
“Our bodies know they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless.”
~ John O’Donohue
When I was deep in the well of body hatred, I didn’t really see any other path, any other way of being with myself. My friends and family loved me unconditionally, and told me not to be so critical.
But aside from them, there was always a sinking, gnawing feeling that I wasn’t enough, one substantiated (or perhaps triggered) by everything around me.
I ate up these messages. I ate up the messages that said I’d finally be enough when I looked a certain way.
Today is my 32nd birthday. Every year, for my b-day, I’ve been republishing a version of the below post. It’s become sort of a tradition around here.
In it, I share what I’ve learned about body image, well-being and life in my years on this earth thus far. Why 35? Extra lessons for good measure and good luck!
1. Be you.
In all your amazing and unique glory. Trying to be like others or pretending you like something you actually don’t doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried. It feels awkward and itchy. And then there’s the matter of life being too short.
Find out who you are. Explore your likes and dislikes. Explore what makes you happy. Explore what feeds you, what gets you up in the early hours of the day. Spend time by yourself. Take yourself out on dates.
In our culture there is a prevailing belief that if we can’t get our bodies to look a certain way, to lose weight, to fit into an old pair of jeans, then they’re the enemy.
They’re an enemy we have to subdue, manipulate and pound into submission. An enemy we need to insult, yell at and despise.
Today, I wanted to share a reminder that, in fact, our bodies are not the enemy — despite what you see in ads or read in “health” publications. They never were.
In our culture there are conditions. There are conditions that dictate when we can — and can’t — love our bodies.
For instance, we can love our bodies when we’re thin. We can love our bodies when we’ve lost weight. We can love them when our waists and thighs are small, when our bodies adhere to certain random standards.