by Joni Edelman
It seems of all the things we love, it’s hardest to love ourselves. Maybe it’s the ideal we are being sold by the media. Maybe it’s borne out of comparison. Maybe there’s no real explanation at all. I’m not really certain, though I suspect it’s a bit of all of those. We love our partners, our children, even our dogs (even though they chew on things and poop on things). But at the end of the day, we look in the mirror, we poke, we pull, we loathe. Many of us do it. Most of us do it. I don’t know why we exhaust ourselves to be something besides ourselves.
Here is what I do know, if you can’t love yourself (or at least just be OK with yourself), right now, as you are, you’re wasting your time. You’re wasting your energy. You’re wasting your spirit. You’re wasting your life. I spent most of my adult life fighting the body I live in. I tried to change it. I dieted. I exercised to excess, to self-harm. I starved myself. I wore things to try to squish my body, to shape my body — anything, to change it into something I would love.
And then one day — literally one day — I decided I was done. I was done hating. I was done starving. I was done with disgust, anger, envy, loathing. I was done comparing myself to people on TV, people in magazines, people in the grocery store. I was just… done.
Am I 100% successful, 100% of the time? No. Some days are better than others. Some days I see myself in a photo, and I think, “Well. Your stomach looks there is a baby in it [there isn’t].” Some days I briefly entertain going back to the not eating and obsessive exercising. And then I remind myself of all the following. I hope you can remind yourself too.
You are not your body.
Your body is part of you, but you are not it. You may be lot of things; human, a female/male/transgender/non-binary, 41 years old (in my case anyway), a mother, a partner, a sibling, an artist, a writer, a gardener, a cake aficionado. You are not your body. There is more to you than your physical form. So much more than what the mirror reflects.
Your body is working for you.
You are breathing and moving. Your blood is circulating. Your stomach is digesting. You literally have to do nothing to make all of that happen. Sometimes it’s good to just pause and recognize that your body is giving you a lot. Maybe instead of loathing it, you could thank it for all the stuff it is doing that you aren’t even asking it to do.
Your body is impermanent.
Whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Earth, Zeus, Physics, Oprah or Tom Cruise, we can all agree (I think) that at some point our physical body will cease to exist. Whether we go to heaven, or the sky, or Venus, or into oblivion, or are reincarnated into a whole new thing, or if our particles just go back into the universe, we won’t be this thing forever. At some point this thing will just be a thing that existed and then didn’t.
Capitalism wants you to hate yourself.
There are industries based on your self-consciousness. If America got up tomorrow and said, “Yeah, I’m actually done spending money on things to make myself look ostensibly better.”, ENTIRE industries would completely cease to exist. The cosmetic industry makes $60 billion dollars a year IN AMERICA alone. That said BILLION. DOLLARS. The diet industry? Twenty MORE billion. That’s like $80 billion dollars. We could literally cure world hunger with $30 billion dollars a year and we are spending $20 billions a year trying to lose weight. Just let that simmer for a minute. The commercials you see? They are designed to make you feel bad. Don’t be fooled. Be angry.
You are the only one who really cares.
At the end of the day, your stretch marks only matter to you. Your partner loves you regardless — and if they don’t, you have another problem to address. Not one of my five children, not the 20-year-old not the three-year-old, quite literally none of them ever have said, “Wow mom I really hate your stretchmarks.” Never once. Your fat, your wrinkles, your spider veins, you are the only one who cares. Until you don’t.
There are other things you could be doing.
If you even spend 15 minutes a day thinking about your body, can you think of anything else you could do with that 15 minutes. Can you think of anything? Could you read a book? Learn a language? Knit? Crochet? Spend time with your kids? Your partner? If you stopped worrying about your body, what else could you do?
At the end of your life, you WILL NOT EVER say “I wish I looked better.”
I’m an RN and I used to be a hospice RN. I solemnly swear, of all the people I watched die (and it was a lot), none of them ever said, “I wish I were skinny. I wish I had fewer stretch marks. I wish my stomach were flat.” NONE. Not even one. Ever. I bet you want to know what they did say. I’ll tell you. 1. I wish I had spent more time with my family. 2. I wish I had been more open and expressive with my love. 3. I wish I had mended fences sooner (or not broken the fence in the first place).
Why not start doing those things now? You don’t have to be diagnosed with a terminal illness to shift your focus.
You get one body. You get to do this whole thing one time. What if you could just enjoy it? How would that change everything?