Bodies are amazing things. There are so many small functions they perform that we don’t even think about. The number of times our eyes blink or our heart beats or every second of every breath we take; it’s part of a beautiful creation.
Most of the time, we stop to think about our bodies only to offer judgment on them. Perhaps when something is wrong; when feel a pain in our ankles or our knees or within the parts of our bodies we can’t see. And then we consider these pains a disruption – at least for the many of us who are privileged not to have any major disabilities. Oftentimes, only when we are stopped in what we consider “normal,” in terms of our bodies, do we take the time to wonder about it.
Of course too, the more common types of judgments we inflict on our bodies are superficial. Everything from not being thin enough, to not having the “right” curves in the “right” places. We critique everything from our eyebrow shapes to the shape of our feet, our booty sizes and our waists. Our bodies have become a site for our most violent rhetorical judgments.
Maybe that’s why we spend so much time judging other people’s bodies in our media and culture – because we do it to the person we see in the mirror too.
And when we do it to ourselves, we continue to participate in the culture that is always ready to pounce on the imperfections of one’s body. It’s a vicious and seemingly-endless cycle if we do not become participants in our own lives in changing how we look at ourselves.
I (used to) judge my body a lot. (I’m working on it.) As a child and teenager, I was always athletically skinny, but the kind of skinny that still gets made fun of because people think you don’t eat enough. The kind of skinny that gets you told that guys will not be attracted to you because you don’t have real women’s body parts. In my late teens, when I finally got some of those real women’s body parts, it was at the cost of putting more weight than I wanted. I was then not skinny enough.
I now hover somewhere between size 5 and 7, depending on what the clothing designer says. My boobs are still small and I go back and forth between wondering whether my derrière is “good enough” for my body size or not. I run, I work out, I eat healthy for the most part, and I don’t care much for scales. And yet far too often, I still find myself thinking, “I need to lose 10 pounds.” It’s hard to be at peace with our bodies when we exist in them because they are imperfect by their very nature. But we find it hard to embrace this imperfection.
So that’s what I’m trying to do – focus on embracing the imperfections. But not only that, I question the who I want to change my body for? Society? Men? Other women? Myself? All of the above? The question is a difficult one because it’s hard to admit that even as someone who tries to be an independent thinker, a confident woman who aims to free herself from the shackles of society’s endless judgments – I still want other people to like my body. When you start asking and answering difficult questions though, you can change your thinking; you can move forward. You can be free.
Learning to love my imperfect body while making sure I treat it the best way I can – healthily, in all the ways that means – is not the work of a splendid moment, or a series of good days. No, it’s the work of a lifetime. So I’m committed to doing that work. Treating my body like it’s a war zone all the time – a place to be fixed, a place never at peace with itself just wasn’t working anymore. It’s time to change that. Because in the end, I have to live in this body. And I’d like to enjoy the place I live.