“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ~ Buddha
We are not our bodies.
Our bodies are the vessels for our souls. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for all they do for us. And we have a duty of care towards them—not the other way around.
One morning last week, when I caught myself in one of those body-hating moments, I finally got this.
For the first time, I completely understood how much of a disservice I am doing to my body when I’m being critical towards it. I realised that I shouldn’t love my body just for my own peace of mind (although I get that it would be a great bonus). I should love my body simply because it deserves my love.
Loving our bodies goes much deeper than overcoming body image issues.
Loving our bodies requires us to complement kind thoughts about them (as they are) with active steps to maintain good health, or improve poor health.
When we look at our bodies in a critical way, we are missing an important point. If they do not look how we’d like, or are not as healthy as we’d like, that is not our body’s fault. It is ours. We owe our physical health to our bodies. It is up to us to make the decision—and follow through on it—to eat well, to exercise, to deal with our emotions in a healthy way.
That means we need to feel all the turmoil that arises within us. Feel it and it will pass. Suppress it and it will linger. And it’s in our physical bodies that it lingers. The lingering turns to festering and if we hold our emotional pain in our body for long enough, disease will develop.
So taking care of our bodies goes beyond the physical. It is a mental and emotional job too. And when our body is suffering in any way, it is up to us to put that right, not to blame it. Our body is suffering because we have let it down. Not the other way around.
Let’s remember this when we look in the mirror. If criticism arises, notice it. And then remember: it is not my body’s fault. If I am unhappy with anything, it is up to me to improve the situation.
This is what self-love is—or an aspect of it anyway—taking real care of our bodies. Acceptance of the body we have is certainly a part of this. But actually taking good care of them—allowing our bodies to reach and remain in their optimum state of wellness—is too.
Yes, we absolutely need to get over the socially imposed ideas of what a “beautiful” body is. But body-image issues notwithstanding, we also need to maintain an awareness of whether the physical shape our body is in is actually good for our health. Acceptance of our bodies in a state of physical imbalance, when that imbalance is something we actually have the power to address, is not true self-love. It is avoidance. It is denial.
If we have a physical condition that we cannot improve, then our self-love task is to accept this and learn to make the most of our situation. Learn how to support our bodies to deal with this as we get through our daily lives. But if we have the power to improve our health, then we owe it to ourselves – to our bodies – to do just that.
Lately the source of my own body-discontent has been my expanded waistline. It’s progressing to lower back ache—almost daily discomfort now—and finally I’m getting the message. My body is telling me I need to pay it some attention. I’m listening. I’m planking. I’m taking baby steps towards improving my posture and strengthening my core.
I know this care will be rewarded by my body. It has done so in the past. When I take proper care of it, the pain will dissolve, I will stand taller and my clothes will fit better. I need to give to my body in order to receive what I want: full health and optimum wellness.
Instead of complaining to our doctors with every niggle that arises, and seeking pharmaceutical relief. Instead of signing up to some fad diet. Instead of numbing out from our discomfort by over-eating or drinking, we would do well to regularly pause and ask ourselves:
What does my body need from me?
How can I support my body better?
Yes, sometimes we will need the help of a medical professional. But often—especially if we get in the habit of noticing our niggles in the early stages—simple, do-able lifestyle changes can return our bodies to a better state of health.
That is what body love is. Being good and kind to our bodies. Nurturing our bodies. Taking care of the vessels of our souls.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Hilda Carroll
Editor: Renée Picard