I was asked a question recently that inspired a great deal of reflection—not the question itself, but my reaction to it.
A woman at a clothing store was trying on a dress when she turned to me and said, “Ugh. I am totally having a ‘fat’ day. I hate my thighs. What part of your body don’t you like?” There was a long enough pause as she waited for my response that she followed up with, “Come on, I know there’s something. I’ve never met a woman that doesn’t have some issue with her body.”
I felt myself get uncomfortable. I was afraid to admit that, actually, I love all parts of me.
Sure, I’ve got spider veins and an oily face and my waistline ebbs and flows like most other women. But do I ever look at my body with hate or disgust? No, I do not. So why was I afraid to admit that? Because I felt like I’d be forgoing female solidarity. I could tell that she really wanted me to have parts of myself that I didn’t love—because it would make her feel normal.
So, I gave her something: I told her I don’t always like my face—which used to be true, but it’s not anymore. My crooked teeth, my easy blush, my large nose…I’ve chosen to accept them. Because the other option would be to give energy to not accepting them—to complaining about them to myself and others, which leads to an increase in self-loathing, a decrease in confidence, and a removal from joy.
What is the benefit to that?
The first option frees us—our thoughts, our time, our energy—to focus on what bring us joy. The latter option holds us stagnant in fear that we’re not good enough—that we can only be happy when our waistline is trimmed, our thighs are toned, our teeth are a radiant white.
So what if that day never comes? Then we’ve sacrificed all these years not living fully, enveloped in a world of fear and non-acceptance. If we can’t accept ourselves as we are, how can we accept others the way they show up in the world? If we can’t love ourselves, how can we expect to be loved by another?
It took me years—years full of personal growth work and spiritual study—to get to where I’m at. And clearly, I still have a ways to go, because I couldn’t admit in the moment that I love myself. I sacrificed the amazing opportunity to be the first woman this woman had met who “doesn’t have some issue with her body.” I was deeply saddened by this realization, and I committed myself to reacting differently next time.
I understood that this wasn’t just about loving our bodies—it’s about loving our lives.
Shortly after my resolution to react differently, I received an e-mail from a friend back home while I was away traveling. After sharing some difficulties he was going through in his life, he asked if my travel experiences were going as well as I projected on Facebook. The social media platform is notorious for playing host to only the best parts of ourselves and our lives; I’ve heard it described as our “highlight reel,” rather than our “behind the scenes.”
I began to reply, “Yes, I’m having a really wonderful time,” before feeling myself wanting to follow up with “but…” and provide some way in which the trip could be better. Again, I wanted to offer my friend the experience of solidarity,
“Your life isn’t perfect? Mine either!”
But, well, there’s really no “but.” As the clothing apparel company so eloquently states, “Life is good.” Period. If there’s any “but,” it’s because we’ve chosen to put it there—to experience our lives through the lens of what’s missing, or what could be better. We are where we are, who we are, and doing what we’re doing by choice. Nothing happens “to” us, but rather “through” us.
So I left off the “but” this time and proudly placed a period. And, I added a second line: “I am so grateful.”
What if we found solidarity in a different notion instead? Can we make self-love, gratitude, and love for all that life presents us with the new norm?
How would our world change if we committed to leaving out the word, “but?”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons