Having spoken about loving my “disabled” body for the last 5 years of my life, a common first question I get is always “How did you do it? How did you learn to love your body?”
I am going to tell you a secret: I’m still working on it – every single day. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have most of them, and you shouldn’t trust anyone who says they do. However, here are five things I’ve learned both as a mentor and as a student that might work for you too.
1. Be your own best buddy!
I’ll admit – I have this problem, and I have found that most everyone else does, too. I’m great at mothering and loving up on other folks, but terrible when it comes to myself. When I’m fighting with my body, I think, “What would I tell a friend who felt this way? How about a child or a student?” Somewhere among these possibilities, I usually find a place to start.
2. Find happy spaces.
How we feel is hugely influenced by who we surround ourselves with. Finding a space full of people we love being with makes us happier. It also allows us to be more comfortable to be ourselves and to be in our bodies. This can be a community that directly focuses on these issues or something less direct. Do you love your body because it lets you run? Join a running club. If you feel best when you’re moving, you can take a class in dance, yoga, swimming, or whatever you and your body enjoy. Maybe it’s cooking or painting! So many possibilities. 🙂
3. Associate value with joy.
So often we associate our bodies’ value with ability/inability to meet expectations. On days when it is hard to see our body as beautiful, remember that bodies are made to be lived in. What can we do with our body that brings us joy? This may change day to day, and that’s okay. On the really bad days, when I’ve walked too far, and my legs hurt, I might say, “at least my hands are for writing.” When I’m beating myself up for my inability to do much of anything on a random Tuesday, I might say: “Today my body is for drinking tea and staying in bed.” When we make joy the value in which we measure ourselves, it is easier to find something to like.
4. Learn a history lesson of your body.
Look back at the recent past and ask yourself, “When was I getting along with my body best? What is different between now and then? Was I eating differently? Was I being more social? Was I getting more sleep? Was I in therapy, either physical or psychological?” Don’t use this as an excuse to judge your current body. This isn’t about looking different. It is about a time when you felt better in your body. How can you apply that to the body you have today?
5. Share what you learn.
We can all be life students and mentors. But, we are all at different stages and with different goals. No matter how little you think you know about loving yourself and your body, you probably know something someone else needs. If there is one thing I’ve learned from writing and mentoring, it is that making people feel loved in their bodies is the best thing I’ve ever done. How can I not love a body that serves that purpose?
I recently heard Mary Schmich’s monologue “Wear Sunscreen,” where she gives the advice, “Enjoy your body, use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.” This is awesome advice for learning to love your body – a very hard task that should be so easy for us. I hope you enjoy her advice as much as I did, and use it as your life motto.