These are tumultuous times.
A global pandemic. A historical revolution that has found major traction in recent months to expose and demolish racism and the systems that allow it to thrive. Another presidential campaign that takes its cues from the best (worst?) dystopian novels. A world that is literally on fire. Intense hurricanes. A derecho.
Where do I fit into this world? What is my role? Is my message of body acceptance, respect, and love still relevant? Is now the time to share it? Is it appropriate to speak up when other voices have been silenced for far too long?
I’ve been thinking about these questions for a while. I’ve gotten quiet to just let things marinate. And here’s what I know to be true:
Encouraging women—ALL who identify as women—to accept, respect, and even love their bodies is more critical than ever.
1. This is the truest kind of self-care.
If ever there was a time that we needed self-care, it is now. And I’m not talking about lightweight self-care, although those practices have their place.
I’m talking about the kind of self-care that will sustain me to be introspective and accepting of myself, no matter what I discover, so that I can grow and learn and do better. The kind of self-care that will allow me to speak my truths, to live in integrity, and to show up for myself and for other people, even, and especially, when it is hard.
This is a season in my life that feels like a crucible. On any given day, I’m overwhelmed. Exhausted. Scared. Anxious. Hopeful. Tender. Grief-stricken. Joyful.
Only by staying grounded in who I am and listening to my body’s wisdom can I make it through. When I begin to shame my body, or try to control her because it’s familiar and easier than listening to her, I forget how wise she is.
So with relentless conviction, I have to choose myself and my body over and over again.
2. Too many women still have no idea how worthy they are.
I almost always write in first person. I do this partly because my own stories and experiences are what I know best. When I write about “you,” I often feel like I’m projecting and preachy, things I want to avoid.
The other reason I write from the first-person perspective is because I know it is the easiest way for a reader to slip into a character’s experience. And while I’m not a character in a fictional novel, I am telling stories.
I want women to envision themselves in my stories, to change the details to match their own experiences, and to remember that when I tell my body how grateful I am for her miraculous existence, that they are allowed to feel the reverberations peal through their own miraculous bodies.
All bodies need to know they are worthy of respect, acceptance, and love, just as they are. I want us to become our own best friends and advocates so we can shut out all the voices that try to tell us something different because of our size or shape or skin color or ability or whatever.
3. Body image bullshit is rooted in patriarchy and white supremacy.
I am still learning a lot about this, so I am not going to try to enlighten anyone with my newfound knowledge. There are educators out there doing a fantastic job at this, like Sonya Renee Taylor, author of The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, and Sabrina Strings, author of Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia. I hope you get curious and begin your own research.
4. When I stop judging myself, it’s much easier to stop judging everyone else.
It’s a bit like being on the dance floor. When I set myself free to let my body move however she wants to, I find some bliss. But when I worry about messing up a move or looking sweaty or feeling too much jiggle, then I can barely move because, suddenly, everyone must be watching me. And then I start to judge how silly, sweaty, and jiggly everyone else looks as a defense mechanism.
My husband, Terry, likes to remind me that I quit picking on him and his old-man eyebrows when I made the choice to stop taming my own. I didn’t realize I’d stopped harping at him to just rip those suckers out until he brought it up. But it’s true. I don’t even think about his eyebrows much anymore unless one gets really funky. And then, I’m just like, “Wow, dude, that is some eyebrow you’ve got there.”
Letting myself just “be” also gave me permission to let everybody else just “be” too.
5. We need to support each other.
Remember how I mentioned these tumultuous times? I can’t make it through alone. I need y’all. And I want you to know that I’m in your corner, rooting for you too. Together we can breathe through every hard, uncomfortable moment.
So in case it wasn’t already clear, I’m going to keep broadcasting how glorious my body is. And I’m going to invite you to do the same, as loudly or quietly as you please. I’ll be sharing the messages of a multitude of other wise women who have awakened to these same truths.
It’s not possible to take a deep dive into ourselves while ignoring what’s happening in the world. We can’t wait until we have figured out how to fully show up for ourselves before we begin to show up for other people. This is simultaneous work. Both are valuable. Both are important. Both are necessary.
And as we strengthen our relationships with ourselves and our own bodies, we liberate ourselves to devote our time and energy to what is most important to us.
You with me?