How do you feel about your body?

I was asked the other day how I feel about my body.  What a good, direct question to ask; perhaps, especially of someone who does body image work.  And I’ll answer that question, right after I tell a story. 

My family, originally from Puerto Rico, moved to the United States, specifically South Carolina, when I was two years old.   There were times when I wanted “my life” to be easier then our status as immigrants and all the layers that come with that allowed.  And, then, one day I had this epiphany that many of the parts of who I was and of my family that I loved most were wholly informed by our history.  Without the immigration, without our Puerto Rican culture, without our military background, without all those things, I couldn’t be who I was.  I couldn’t wish away half of it– the hard parts of it, let’s say– and still enjoy the richness that came with the other half.  Because it was the whole of my background that allowed me to become who I had.  The tough stuff- the being spit at, the condescension, the considering away that all came because of my ethnicity- had really allowed for the other stuff, too.  There are no parts to our existence.  There is our whole.  We are a collection of lenses that make up our whole.  Without the lens of my immigrant experience, the artist in me, the activist in me, those other parts of me, wouldn’t have been informed in the same way, wouldn’t have resulted in the same person. 

So, when I was asked how I felt about my body, I was reminded of the reality of how I felt about my experience– how I couldn’t just have affection for the easy or rich part of my experience without also having a heart for the tough part, the trying part, the part that made me tougher and kinder, more outspoken and more compassionate.  It’s like that with my body, too.  I am not a traditional beauty.  But I love my body because it has been the vehicle of my expression- it is the thing that allows me to hug warmly, play with my boy,  express joy, give love, feel the difficulty of the run- both literally and metaphorically- and do it anyway.  It would be impossible for me to fully appreciate it if I was always wishing for it to yield or bend or change in some dramatic way and so, instead, I choose to be kind, to appreciate it, to refine the way that I treat it over and over again so that I move towards ever more goodness to it- that I return to it the kindess that it has offered me.  

How do you feel about your body?  How would you like to feel about your body?  How can you treat your body with the kindness it deserves?  What advice do you have for others who are trying to treat their bodies with goodness?

This post is modified from a post that ran on October 4, 2010.   

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4 responses to “How do you feel about your body?”

  1. PJ

    It is a very good question, because it really does make you think. You could just say ‘fine’ but you’d still be thinking about it for a while after 🙂
    I actually like my body, my shape. I’ve always felt I was lucky to be naturally slim, reasonable tall and nicely in proportion. My body carried three very large babies with relative ease (ouch). My stomach is stretched from the pregnancies, but I’m happy to just conceal this with one piece bathers and still get in the water at the beach every summer. I like my arms because they are strong and lean and have well defined muscles. And although I wouldn’t mind slimmer thighs they allow me to run fast, and for long distances. My joints don’t ache and I’m flexible enough to touch my toes (just).
    But that’s the outside. The appearance side. Not the side I actually have to take care of and nourish. The inside I do not treat with the same kindness and respect that I should. I don’t listen to it and I don’t respect it’s needs. But I try to use my love of running, my desire to increase my energy levels and decrease my stress levels as motivation to allow my body to receive the fuel it requires to work effectively.

  2. Kessia Reyne Bennett

    I am a perfect replica of my mother’s body, but in petite proportion. The long torso, the long neck, the long arms, the small chest and flat stomach, the tiny waist– and then all of this sloping outward into broad hips, sturdy legs, dense calves, and strong and flexible ankles into able feet.

    My face? I owe that to my Norwegian grandmother. But my body is all my mother.

    I’m so glad she gave it to me! I have to put up regularly with rude comments about my size and it’s impossible to find clothes that fit me off the rack, but my favorite part of my body is that it works! and it’s mine! When I looked around and realized that “woman” came in very different shapes that somehow revealed to me that mine was its own type of beautiful. I’ll never walk a runway, but I have a wonderful, laughing time chasing wildlife in my backyard and racing my husband to the grocery cart.

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