You Don't Have to Love Your Body to Accept It
Today’s guest blog post is by Hannah Chapman, another member of our Nourishing Minds Tribe. Today she is going to share with you her own journey on body image and her advice on learning to accept instead of love your body.
Body positivity is an inclusive, intersectional movement based on the radical acceptance of ALL bodies, regardless of shape, size, color, gender, etc. and I’m so here for it. It’s amazing to see representation of marginalized bodies in social media and in life, but I know from experience how difficult it may be to cultivate that love for our own bodies. I realize that as a white, able- bodied woman in a smaller body, it should be easier for me to love and accept myself but that certainly hasn’t been my story and though I know the body positive movement isn’t as much for me as it is for marginalized bodies, I think it’s important to recognize privilege to make space for those without a voice. In that spirit, I want to get you to start thinking less about loving your body and more making peace with it instead.
It’s commonplace to get cliche, overly-simplified and positive advice such as, “Just love your body as it is!” It sounds nice, but for nearly every person, that just isn’t possible and that’s okay. Diet culture has ingrained us with messages that we’re not beautiful unless we conform to a generally intangible standard that praises thinness. For many of us, being thin isn’t an option yet we try to force our bodies to change again and again to no avail. I’m here to tell you that your body IS acceptable and beautiful as it is, you don’t have to change your appearance to be loved, and it is totally okay if you don’t love your body right now (or ever).
In my experience as a woman on the higher end of the thin spectrum, my eating disorder was praised and my unhealthy habits constantly reinforced. I was taught that losing weight was good and that I had to continue to restrict myself and shrink my body to be worthy of love and acceptance. Once I achieved thinness, I disliked myself more than ever; all I could see were imperfections, things to be fixed, fat to be lost. It was exhausting and kept me small, thinking only about my body size and appearance and neglecting all of the amazing parts of me that had nothing to do with how I looked. I wish I could go back and give past me a hug. If you’ve ever struggled with something similar, I wish I could give you a hug too.
Body love is a beautiful thing and I truly hope that all of us get to experience it someday but for some people, it will never be a reality and it’s okay to accept that. Promoting unconditional body love creates an unrealistic expectation for our relationships to our bodies and produces a black-and-white model of body acceptance. Saying that you have to love your body negates all the nuance associated with body acceptance and introduces a sense of failure if someone feels unable to love their body. So rather than putting pressure on learning to love your body, let’s try to hate it a little less. To partner with it and treat it with respect instead of disdain. To refuse to shrink it, change it, or force it to take up less space. Let’s choose to be in our bodies rather than constantly trying to escape or modify them.
You don’t have to love your body, but you do have to live in it. We can cultivate deep acceptance of ourselves when we take the focus off of our bodies and place it on intrinsic values instead. When our bodies aren’t front and center, space is made to appreciate the deeper parts of ourselves such as empathy, ambition, generosity, kindness, and whatever else makes you wonderful. I think true body acceptance comes with realizing that you are more than your body and that your worth is not dependent on your size. Even if you never get to the point of loving your body, you can come to terms with the fact that it does so much for you and allows you to go through life doing the amazing, impactful things that make you and others happy. Our bodies do so much for us and ask little in return, yet the majority of us continue to fight against them. I promise you that life gets a whole lot bigger when we choose to stop fighting and start being in our bodies as they are, even if we don’t love how they look all the time.
We all deserve to feel at home in our bodies regardless of our size, sexual orientation, gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc. By shifting the focus from our external appearance to our internal values and focusing on becoming the people we want to be, we can dismantle the idea that thinness amounts to worth and start living the large, fulfilling lives we deserve outside of diet culture. You might never love any or every part of your body, and that’s okay; you owe it to nobody to fall in love with the way you look since our society teaches us that there is only one acceptable form of beauty. You can, though, fall in love with who you are, what you’re doing, and what your body allows you to accomplish in life. By appreciating and making peace with your body, you take your power back and assert that your sovereignty over your own self is prioritized. You deserve a life that goes beyond worrying about your body and external appearance 24/7. You are beautiful, you are worthy, and you deserve to take up space.
Thank you Hannah so much for this insightful and honest post!