Gratitude for my body is still very hard to find. The amount of appreciation and positivity I feel toward it varies on the day. Sometimes I feel confident and comfortable in the skin I’m in. Other times I wish I could rip it all off and just float around like a ghost.
I either think too much about my body, or I forget that it’s even there. The priorities I place on what’s important or not can range from the best intentions to downright unhealthy. I have put my body through the worst, and I’ll always have that urge in me to self-destruct.
That is where I need gratitude the most. I could easily not be here today. I have abused myself beyond comprehension. My physical self and mental self don’t really know how to coordinate. What my mind wants usually leaves my body screaming for mercy. And usually I don’t see that until it’s about to give up on me, or people with clearer visions can snap me back.
From a very early age, my relationship with my body has been difficult. It started with skin-tight leotards and tights, and a developing brain prone to misfiring neurotransmitters. It turned to a culture focused on weight loss and the increasing importance of numbers on pairs of pants and bathroom scales. What were thought to be new practices to promote a healthier lifestyle were actually an addiction to exercise and an endless game of how many calories I could restrict every day.
And through it all, my body stuck around. It certainly spoke in protest, whether that be a pounding heart while climbing up a single flight of stairs or clumps of hair falling down the shower drain or constant need to shiver to find some sort of warmth, I’ve basically been in extreme survival mode, as if I was a starving castaway on a desert island.
In the journey toward finding gratitude, I have learned a few things along the way. Setting my priorities with myself beyond the outer appearance of what I hope to see in the mirror, beyond labels and numbers and arbitrary nonsense. The human body is an amazing, beautiful thing, how complex it is and how everything works simultaneously to keep each of us alive. The minute details in how that all works goes above my head, but I know that every little component is a cog in the machine, never stopping for a second, responding to the environment and situation. When my mind and body tend to work independently, that whole seamless process becomes much more complicated. That just means I need to be more conscious of that disconnect, even if that means taking the extra effort to thank those parts of me I can easily leave behind.
I thank my body for carrying me through the day, for allowing me to experience and enjoy life. I have a body that is healthy and functioning. I have stable legs that carry me wherever I need to go. I have arms that I can wrap around my loved ones. I have the ability to smell wonderful scents and graze my hands over soft surfaces and feel the warmth of a freshly brewed cup of coffee in my hands and taste all of my favorite foods. And despite all of the times I have neglected my body, its complete processes continue to function. My heart continues to beat in my chest. Others in my shoes cannot say that. And for that, words cannot express my gratitude.
I am by no means across the finish line on my journey to body acceptance. It’s a process that may very well never have a true ending. Nonetheless, it’s a strained relationship I always want to work on. We only have one body to get us through, and in that time, our body deserves the utmost care we can provide it. No matter what it looks like. No matter what number it might fall under on an insignificant sizing chart or BMI measurement. Those numbers do not measure my health or my worth.
We each only have one body in our lifetime. When we look back on our lives, we won’t be thinking about how great it would have been to have fit in a certain pair of jeans or to not eat that extra cookie that random day. We’ll think of the times are bodies enabled us to make memories and celebrate time with others and appreciate life. The dieting and constant worrying only hinders our time to truly thank our bodies and take care of them. They are so important, but ultimately they are just physical vessels, our “earth suits.” They carry our souls. They are our temples. And it’s time that we treat them as such.
Am I hypocrite for promoting body positivity so strongly when it’s so hard to feel it myself? Maybe. But that won’t stop me from trying my darnedest today and every day to thank the body I take for granted. To nourish it and take care of it the way it should be. No mirror required.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie