How many times have you prayed for a different body and said, “I hate how I look”?
How many times has that turned into, “I hate me”? How many times have you bashed your belly, your thighs, your arms? How many times have you cursed your cellulite and stretch marks? How many times have you blamed your body for not losing weight even though you’ve counted your calories and skipped dessert?
Maybe it’s been many, many times. Too many to count.
Maybe, today, you view your body as the enemy. You see it as an obstacle that stands in your way of happiness and peace and love (from others and yourself).
It isn’t true. But this is what we see and hear and taste. These are the lies we buy and consume and internalize, so much so that we come to view the world through this lens.
But, thankfully, we can change our prospective. We can chip away at it. Which we can do it by learning to appreciate our bodies. Which we can do by reflecting on what our bodies have given us. Which we can do by delving deeper, past the anger and hurt, to see the gifts, the lessons, the growth. Which can feel hard and even impossible. At first.
Author and coach Shannon Kaiser spent three decades despising her body (along with numerous other things about herself). She spent decades believing that she was unworthy and unlovable, believing she wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. A few years ago, she penned a self-compassionate letter in which she acknowledges the many gifts her body has given her. Kaiser includes the letter in her inspiring, vulnerable book The Self-Love Experiment: 15 Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate and Accepting of Yourself.
Here are several poignant excerpts:
You are my protector. My house. My temple. You have allowed me to do things I could have never achieved without you. I am thankful for you. You, dear body, hold my heart, the one that told me to listen to its intuitive guidance and leave my depression and corporate career behind so I could discover my passion as a writer. You held my heart, the one that cast a net out to reach for bigger dreams. You, dear body, have the hands to help me type my thoughts out into form.
You, my dear body, hold my brain, the one that overthinks and analyzes life in a way that gives me a deeply filled passion for what is possible. You, dear body, have stood by my side, daily embracing me for me. It’s time for me to accept you for you as you are…
Today, I am thankful for you. For without you I wouldn’t be me. The years of hate helped me find love. You helped me become more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, and more patient. You, dear body, have taught me how to be me in a world that wants me to be different from what I am; you have given me the courage to be authentically me.
Thank you for being you, all of you, as you are, because stretch marks, extra padding, chubby cheeks, and all, I embrace you, because without you, we wouldn’t be here. I love you, dear body. You are me and part of my experience of life.
Maybe you’re not ready to love your body. Maybe you’re not ready to accept it exactly as it is. Maybe you still feel like you and your body are adversaries, or, at best, complete strangers.
But maybe you can find one gift, one lesson, one kernel of growth that you can name and be grateful for. It’s OK if it’s tiny or seemingly insignificant. Start where you are. The key is to start. This is how we change our minds. This is how we change our hearts.
And maybe, before we even realize it, our lens on the world has become kinder, softer and more accepting.