So many people in America are sick right now.
We’re overrun with toxins in our food, our homes, and our personal care products, and our cultural norms produce a lot of stress.
This week, I was reminded of just how problematic our culture’s relationship with our bodies is while following the news of the Trump administration’s decision to roll back protections for trans youth, and seeing the negative comments garnered by this recent viral video of a woman practicing yoga while her period bled through her pants.
In this piece on NPR, former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory seemed most worried about transgender and cisgender youth sharing showers. So a cisgender boy sees a transgender boy with a vagina. So what? Why is this so unacceptable? And is this even a realistic fear? When I was in middle school and high school, us girls censored our own bodies—no one dared to use the shower in the locker room for fear of anyone seeing us naked—so McCrory’s concern seems baseless.
Our collective fear of genitalia, menstruating, defecating, fat, and our bodies in general causes great harm. It perpetuates bullying, sexual violence, and eating disorders, among other things. More subtly perhaps, it keeps us disconnected from our bodies and makes it difficult for us to appreciate all that they do for us.
I believe very strongly that in order to heal from illness, we must be in loving partnership with our bodies.
Cultivating that kind of relationship is a big ask when you grow up in an environment that teaches you to hate your body, and that your body is something to hide and to be ashamed of. Hating our bodies and ourselves is a social norm in America. Even some of the wellness movement perpetuates it. We value self-deprecating humor and we’re taught that abusing the body is cool, whether it’s through drinking, doing extreme sports, or simply just pushing ourselves to do everything.
This is a big part of why we are so sick. So many of my clients, in addition to having a chronic illness, have a super negative body image and self-image in general. They also see that they’re awesome, but they believe that they’ve only achieved what they have by beating themselves up. The result of that outlook is health challenges.
The body is pleading for a different way of doing things.
The good news is that we can choose to be non-normative in our body relationships. We can choose love and healing instead of hate and disease.
We spend so much energy covering or hiding our bodies out of fear, shame, and hatred. When we accept our bodies as our partners in healing, we can shift that energy to listening, observing, and being present to what the body wants. And when we are present, we get a lot of valuable information.
It could be that a certain food is a bad fit, or that a particular exercise is really helpful. Over time, all these little bits of information can add up to a whole new way of living.
There’s no one way to get there—it takes time and some trial and error, but it is possible for everyone to build a loving partnership with their body.
If you decide to be a lover instead of a fighter when it comes to your body, you’re probably going to want some support. You might meet with a yoga therapist, a coach, energy healer, or some kind of spiritual mentor. Allow yourself to try a few different paths. If you hate the first thing you try, it doesn’t mean you failed. You may love the next thing! And just like with romantic relationships, there will be ups and downs and you will question your body just like you’d question a lover.
Know that all of that is normal.
Keep breathing, keep listening, and remember that your body already loves you. It is doing everything it possibly can for you. So, just like the girl in French class who has a crush on you, you might give your body a chance.
Author: Noelle Janka
Image: Khashayar Elyassi/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman