You don’t have to love your body.
Yeah, I said it.
Hey listen, living in a world that is constantly telling you that your body is the opposite of worthy takes its toll. I’m not going to tell you that it’s going to be easy to love your body, or that even if you dedicate years to doing the inner work of radical self-acceptance, that you will love your body every single day.
I don’t love my body.
I don’t always love my shape or size. When I come into an inversion on the yoga mat and my belly confronts me face to face, I’m not always stoked about it. Sometimes when I catch my reflection in a mirror, the old self-hate tapes start playing again. But the choices aren’t binary – it’s not like I’m either 100% body positivity or full-out body hate.
I want to talk about a more reasoned response to our bodies, which is body neutrality.
I’ve often said that my yoga mat is where I have a cease-fire zone and make peace with my body. Notice I said cease-fire zone, and not “love affair” or “body love zone”. I have found that for most of us, coming to that neutral place where you’re not berating yourself, criticizing your body’s appearance or ability, or fixating on your imperfections – finding that cease fire zone – that’s a big accomplishment.
Learning to appreciate your physical appearance and learning to love your body is one path toward self-acceptance, but fixating on just the outer stuff is another trip down the same road of placing value and worth on appearance.
If you base your self-worth on appearance (whether that is dieting to shrink your body or buying the perfect outfit to flaunt your curves), then that leads down the rabbit hole of never feeling good enough, no matter what you weigh or look like, because beauty standards are a moving target.
Love what your body allows you to do.
Love the way your body allows you to feel.
Love what your body is capable of.
My body might not be considered “beautiful” by conventional standards, but it is mine. It keeps me alive, it gets me around, it makes me take care of it, it lets me feel pleasure and pain and ecstatic joy and sorrow and enchantment and anxiety and thrill and contentment.
I can’t hate my body because I have come to appreciate it as it is.
I don’t look in the mirror every day and feel actual love toward my cellulite or my belly or the way my face looks, but I have learned to stop the negative talk and hatred.
Instead of looking at my dimpled thighs and thinking, “gross – you’re so fat and that cellulite looks terrible,” I can say, “Well, my thighs are bigger than some people’s, smaller than some others. Lots of women have cellulite, even thin ones. It’s normal.”
Changing a negative thought to a neutral thought is a proactive way to practice self-kindness and move toward the “body love” end of the spectrum, even if you don’t ever make it to an all out love affair with your body.
And that’s a big deal.
Oh such an important difference. I also find SELF LOVE to be rather aggressive and shouty for the most part. I find it offensive when I’m struggling to get through the day. Neutral is a huge step forward. I’m trying to thank my body each day for what it does do well. Not easy when you have a chronic illness and you used to do triathlons.
THIS! I do try and view my body in this very way but then those tapes start to play……I just asked my best friend the other day: “How can I love my body when I want to/feel I need to change it most of the time?”
Like with all things life it truly is about balance and that seems ever elusive some days. It is all in how we process and relate that makes the difference and sometimes “neutral” is indeed the only answer. Xo
I love the idea of “body neutrality”! I’d rather feel neutral than shameful anytime. Great post.
What a refreshing perspective. I’m certainly going to share this.
Love this. My mat has recently become a place where I give myself grace. I often start my yoga classes by suggesting we treat ourselves with kindness by offering the same compassion and understanding we offer to a best friend. As I speak the words, I am really reminding myself to be kind, telling that voice in my head to stop and quiet down. I have judged my body my whole life – I have been heavy and lighter and everywhere in between and yet that voice never stops except on the mat.