For people who don’t have eating issues (hello? are there really any people out there without eating issues?) anyway, as I was saying for people without eating issues all of this body acceptance stuff must sound completely bizarre! I agree. We shouldn’t be so messed up about our bodies, but we are. So, on with step number three. For step number three I guess we should get into the issue of shame. Why do we have so much shame around our bodies? Now, I’m not saying you should immediately throw off all of your clothes and parade around naked (although some people like to be nudists, it really isn’t my thing. I enjoy clothing). What I’m saying is: there is nothing to be ashamed about. I still struggle with this one. For years I would not even allow myself to be naked around my own self for longer than taking a shower or bath or changing clothes! You think I’m kidding but I’m not. Let’s see if you have the signs of someone who is full of shame when it comes to their body.
1) Are you able to look at yourself in the mirror and NOT JUDGE your body?
2) Are you even able to look at your naked body in the mirror at all? Do you ever look at your naked body?
3) When no one else is around, are you able to feel comfortable being naked for periods of time without freaking out?
4) Are you able to establish intimacy with another person and eventually enjoy being naked with someone else? Or do you always feel embarrassed that you don’t look perfect?
5) Do you feel comfortable in your own skin?
Enough questions. Suffice it to say, I think if you answered no for one or more of these questions, you might have issues with body shame.
So, how do we get over our body shame? This is no easy feat. First, you need to look at your body objectively. Try to think about all of the amazing things that your body does for you. It transports you. It helps you learn and breathe and grow. Think of all of the interconnected systems that have to work just to get you out of bed in the morning (or afternoon or evening). If you have studied any biology at all, you will know that I’m telling the truth when I say even at the molecular level the body does AMAZING things! So, try this: the next time you are naked in the bathroom or wherever, look at your body and start to think about all of the wonderful things it can do. Don’t think of what it can’t do or how you can’t move or bend or what is wrong with your body, just try to focus on what it can do.
I’m just saying…this is my advice. I don’t know if it will help, but it is better than nothing. So, why not give it a try? Instead of just scrubbing away at dirt and germs and noticing everything that you think is a flaw on your body, step back and begin to look at it objectively. But while you are doing this, remember to stay connected to your own body. Feel yourself in your own skin. Own your body. This may sound really simple, but it might be harder than you imagine. If you have spent your entire life focused on what is wrong with your body instead of appreciating how it works and how it feels this may be weird for you. Perhaps even unsettling.
So, take a good long look at your body in the mirror. One thing I am reminded of is the drawing classes that I have taken. I really enjoyed the figure studies we did…in other words, we were drawing nude models. I would even suggest that if you have a quiet place where you can be alone for awhile, you should try to draw yourself in the buff or with clothes. It will change how you view yourself. At least drawing class really did that for me. We had to do self-portraits and we did the figure drawing, and you just come to realize (hopefully) that beauty is sublime and grotesque at the same time when it comes to the human body. And I mean to use the word grotesque in as lovingly a way as possible. We have all of these weird bumps and curves and shapes and all the time we spend our lives trying to make our round and misshapen bodies into flat boards. It really makes no sense now, does it?
Well, I know some of this sounds outlandish for some people and for others it is old hat. For me at least, I need to take my own advice and remember how terrific my body has been to me, even though I have kind of been crappy towards my body. You know, all those years of starving it and forcing my finger down my throat to make it throw up when it really didn’t want to. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Thinking I could just will my body into a new shape without first consulting my own body! How dare I! I’m not even going to mention all the times I tried to do my body in either!
Gah! What was I thinking? So, let’s just remember to practice NOT being ashamed why don’t we? What have you got to lose? Shame? Yah, I thought so. What do you need shame for anyway? Now, I’m not suggesting that you turn yourself into a sex object and go stripping in front of people for attention. THAT is not what we are going for here. Just try to be comfortable in your own skin. Study your body every day. See how it changes. Take a moment or two to thank your body for all the hard work it does to keep you alive. Now just put that record on repeat for awhile and let me know what you think. :)