February 3, 2013

I Guess Women are Supposed to Hate their Bodies, but I Love Mine.

Loving both the light and the shadow.

I’ve noticed an on-going theme in several of my conversations lately—poor body image.

I’ll be talking to a friend, and she’ll say something nasty about her hips, for example, and then she’ll look at me as though I’m a conspirator and obviously understand where she’s coming from. The thing is, I don’t.

I mean, I do understand where she’s coming from. (Just read my blog How to Overcome an Eating Disorder in 6 Steps-–obviously, I’ve suffered from a poor body image.)

These days, however, I have nothing but love for my body.

Of course I see my “imperfections,” but I’m curious who are they imperfect for?  My breasts served the purpose of nursing my daughter, even if I’m not overly voluptuous. My derriere keeps me strong in my chair pose during my yoga practice. Likewise, my lips kiss my husband perfectly well and my nose allows me to smell his great cooking—so no complaints there. So who exactly am I supposed to be picking on myself for?

This critical behavior certainly doesn’t serve me—and it doesn’t serve the people in my life either.

I’ve also been noticing that you can tell how a woman feels about herself by the way she treats others. Not that all self-loathing women are judgmental and harsh towards other women (although, surely, many are). Rather, some women let other people walk on them when they don’t love themselves. Neither attitude cultivates healthy friendships or partnerships, and you know what? I don’t have room in myself anymore to put effort into such self-depreciating behavior.

It takes a lot of energy to be hateful to another person. It also takes too much of my energy to be phony nice. (Not that I don’t practice and appreciate general human kindness.)

I remember a friend in college who frequently said,

“I only have so much nice in me—and I’m taking that home for the person that matters.”

Personally, I find it too easy to be fake polite to practical strangers and then come home and talk to my husband in a condescending, snarky tone. How terrible is that? Of all the people on this planet, the one who has earned my good nature is the man who met me at the alter—but what, you might be asking, does this have to do with self-love and body image? A lot, if you’re asking me.

I dated my husband during some of the worst years of my eating disorder. Ask him how horrible our relationship was then. Ask him how much I despised my body and, in turn, myself.

I was also with my husband when I began putting the work into that notoriously long, hard road of recovery and wellness, and having a healthy body image is only a small part of this, because I also believe that how we feel about our bodies is directly connected to how much we love our inner selves.

You’ll notice that I blog an awful lot about the subject of authenticity. Loving and accepting yourself—the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the parts we want to show the world and the parts we want to hide in the attic of our minds—and then sharing this love and acceptance with the world at large, that’s practicing authenticity. That’s being real.

So when a woman comes up to me and wants to bash her thighs or her ears or whatever, I’ll be the first to promise that I won’t judge her for it, but I can’t promise that I don’t wish she’d just go ahead and let her real light shine, regardless of which filter she thinks she should be shining through or how bright the rest of the room is.

We all have darkness and aspects of ourselves that we value less than others, but practicing self-hatred doesn’t make those qualities go away, it makes them sharper, because we’re giving them power.

I guess I got to the point where I finally decided that I wanted my power to come from love and light. The strange thing is that when I decided this, my shadows didn’t go away or even diminish; I just discovered that beauty lies there too—and I’m not afraid of the dark anymore.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She’s also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.