One of my favourite extracts from Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted is this:
“My terms amount to cultural heresy. I had to say: I will eat what I want and look as I please and laugh as loud as I like and use the wrong fork and lick my knife. I had to learn strange and delicious lessons, lessons too few women learn: to love the thump of my steps, the implication of weight and presence and taking of space…
…to understand myself as more than a brain attached to a bundle of bones.”
That book has meant a lot to me over the years, and the likelihood is that if you’ve read it you’ll understand why. In today’s society, they body isn’t just a body, as nature intended, but a display. It is to be used, not for walking and breathing and living, but as a billboard to the world about Who You Are. Our bodies have become frivolous additions to our brains. Somewhere along the line, we have lost our sense of the body as necessary, as part of us, and I know from my experience that it can take a long time to rebuild that understanding of our bodies being just as much a part of us as our minds.
We get used to looking in the mirror and seeing something other than what is there. We look, and we see our face, probably the only part of ourselves that we may still associate with our cerebral minds, and then ‘the body’. Hornbacher also points out that, when reffering to themselves, most people will say “I have a body”, rather than the correct “I am a body”, for our tangle of limbs and hair and two left feet and the butterflies in our stomachs are not out there on their own – they are one with our minds! We need to look at ourselves and see a whole, not a body “inexplicably attached to [our heads]“.
It has taken me a long time to learn this. Maybe you are far more advanced than I and knew this long ago; maybe you’re where I was a few years ago and this concept is totally alien to you, filled as you are with the loathing of “my body” (which should really read “myself”, both in the sense of viewing oneself and one’s body and mind as a whole, and in the sense of body-hatred being symptomatic of a problem you have with yourself on a more cerebal or ‘personality’ level). I know how impossible this must seem. But trust me: you should keep trying. One day, you will understand.
Understanding my body as as much a part of me as my mind is has freed me in ways I once could not have imagined. Once you have this understanding (and let me say that if you’ve never had a distorted body view or disordered eating, it may come as a shock to you that people ever feel this way, but trust me: they do) you can begin to treat your body with the respect it deserves, grow in appreciation of yourself and start on the journey to Radical Self Love. Don’t ever forget how amazing you are – and that includes your body too!
Give it the right tools, like good food and practice at doing physical exercise, and it is capable of amazing things, just like your head. By acknowledging my body as just as capable of being amazing as the rest of me, I have a new found respect for it, akin to the respect I have for my mind, my personality. I am feeding it better things. I am taking it for walks. I don’t hate it any more.
Now while I say all of this, sometimes I forget it. It is an uphill struggle, fighting against how you’ve viewed yourself for years and years, a way of looking at yourself and the world that is so deeply ingrained. It takes time to change, to persist, to stand up for yourself and say no, I AM beautiful. I am loved. I am incredible. It takes courage, after years of hating what your body looks like, to give it some love after all that time.
Try this today, and try it again tomorrow. When you look in the mirror, try to adjust your view so that your concept of self to encompass all of you. If you’re anything like me, it won’t come easy. Keep trying. Never give up.
Today, I gave myself a little extra help with never forgetting this concept. In George Orwell’s 1984, the same thought is echoed when Julia says:
“Don’t you enjoy being alive? Don’t you like feeling: this is me, this is my hand, this is my leg, I’m real, I’m solid, I’m alive!”
As a nod to this quote, which sums up the essence of what I’m trying to say here, I got this tattoo:
Now there’s no getting away from it – my arm is me, and so is the rest of my body. Rebellious though it may be to say it: I am more than just a mind. So are you. Make this year the year that you love yourself: all of yourself.