You’re not obligated to love your body
I’ve been thinking a lot about the terms body-love, body-positivity and body-confidence. These are all important, yet separate things. And for those of us on a path towards all 3, it can also create some unexpected challenges when we are faced with the reality that we don’t indeed always love or feel positive about our bodies. Many of our often faulty beliefs about our bodies stem from the internalized messages we received growing up and in media that we all must strive to look, move or eat a certain way to be loved, accepted and admired.
Moreover, it creates anxiety when we realize that, despite our most herculean efforts to comport our bodies into sizes and shapes it doesn’t naturally want to be, these ideals are often unattainable.
Let me be very clear. I don’t always love my body or feel good in my skin. No one does. Like many, I struggle with the changes in my skin, hair and body as I age and I’m angry at or frustrated with my body sometimes when I fall ill, get injured or even when I’m bloated. I also sometimes want to change things about my appearance, like many do.
We get tattoos
We get ear piercings
we remove warts, moles and varicose veins
we change the color of our hair
and the style of our clothing
Its in our very nature to present ourselves the best we can in our appearance. The peacock shows off it’s colorful plume of feathers, male guppies grow long ornate tails to show-off to a potential mate and the male frigate bird inflates their throats to a large red heart-shaped balloon to attract its mate.
And yet….today we feel like we absolutely have to love our bodies and our weight and size and shape unconditionally to be body-positive.
This is not true.
You are not obligated to LOVE or be in love with your physical body. AND, you are allowed to want to change it.
Being body-positive is less to do with unconditional love of your own body and more to do with lifting up, showing dignity towards and being in marvel of all human bodies, despite the color, size, abilities and even health of the body. Its about changing the conversation about where beauty resides and about ending the marginalizing and shaming of fat bodies, differently abled bodies, broken-down bodies and even sick bodies.
There is a foundation in certain modalities of psychotherapy called “Unconditional Positive Regard.” The term and philosophy was coined by Carl Rogen and is one of the staples of Rogerian or client-centered therapy.
In this modality of treatment, the therapist agrees to have unconditional positive regard towards the client despite his or her actions and words. The therapist is not required to love or even like the client. But he or she agrees to show the client the utmost dignity, honor, and respect no matter who they are or what they’ve done or said in their lives.
As we continue to navigate our journey towards respect, acceptance, self-love, can we agree that even if we don’t love our physical bodies in its current form, can we show ourselves unconditional positive regard, which can be the foundation and blueprint of admiration and maybe even love down the road?
Can we stop judging other people’s choices around how they look, what they eat and how they move their bodies? And yes, can we even stop making people feel bad for wanting to change the appearance of their bodies?
While I personally no longer coach people to lose weight and my whole brand is about getting “beyond weight loss,” I accept and honor when one of my clients wants to lose weight. I don’t begrudge them if they do lose weight unintentionally from our work together. I’m happy for them when the outcome is one that gets them one more step closer to being comfortable in their skin.
My work will always ultimately be about honoring and working towards helping the client achieve their deepest wishes and desires in their lives, without the need to change their bodies in anyway.
But I also realize that as a culture, we have a lot of work to do before enough of us are even aware of the internalized and conditioned messages that stymie our sense of worth, dignity and self-determination. No one – not society, peers, parents or media can take that away from us if we don’t let it. But the first step is having consciousness about where our beliefs and thus our behaviors stem from in the first place.
A friend recently lamented to me that she knows she should love her body right now but she just doesn’t. Who are we to decide for her that she must love anyone or anything?
My advice to her was not to force herself to love her body but rather bring respect, honor, self-efficacy, sovereignty and deep communication to her body instead.