Earlier this week, I was looking in the bathroom mirror absentmindedly taking note of my familiar flaws- a weird distribution of fat via cellulite, a post baby stomach, some acne on my chin. As I ticked off each one I slowly became aware of the running narrative in my head and the tragic strangely accepted norm that we call these parts of our bodies flaws or labeled as flawed. I immediately had a flash of realization -every body is imperfect. Every single body is imperfect. Our idea of what a body should be is impossible to live up to. We know this, we read and write about it. But the narrative doesn’t change in our heads. We still look at these perieved flaws regularly and wish we could will or work them away instead of accepting them as part of our embodiment of our human experience. What if our bodies were just bodies?
When I am single, I find a general panic wells up inside over things that appear on my body against my will. Acne must be immediately fixed, extra weight eliminated though daily hang out time with my bathroom scale. I better never ever get a bump anywhere or have an itchy anything or the fear of the unknown on my body might overtake me leading to a frantic call to a friend.
Where is this overreaction coming from? If we dig down deep enough, it can only come from one fear- that we will be a less desirable mate… that the proof of my imperfection will be too much for that fictional man. And I’ll tell you what, until this moment, I never thought that consciously. I never put two and two together to understand the origin of the fear. I just walked around, panic-stricken trying to fix whatever ailment had graced me with its presence. I walked around with the fear that my appearance would make me unlovable.
My best friend used to call me on the phone anytime she had a fear about her body. She called once, panic rising in her voice when I answered the phone,
Her: “My lips are wrinkled! How do I fix this?!”
Me: “the skin around your mouth?”
Her: “No! My actual lips!”
Me realizing she was in panic mode, “Babe, we all have wrinkles on our lips. I am staring at mine as we talk.”
We continued chatting and she explained that photos of women she admires have smooth lips and she started to worry hers were not smooth. I explained the power of lipstick and lipgloss in photographs and that underneath it all, we all have wrinkly lips. We need them to make our many delightful and varied smiles, grimaces and any other variety of movements the 6 muscles of our lips need for daily life. We had a good laugh about it and moved on to other topics.
Was this panic unique to her? Not even a little bit. I have never had a straight man ask how his body looks in something. And I worked with thousands of men as a personal stylist. But I heard it every day when I worked with women. What the hell and where is this coming from? Implicitly and explicitly my best friend and every person born with a female identity knows we better look the best we can because we are women and the world expects this of us. We cannot get old or have anything wrong with our appearance. If perfection can’t be maintained, not to worry. Science will fix us- by rubbing $1250 creams into our faces, injecting poison under our skin or going under the knife to resemble an ideal that was never achievable to begin with.
The truest statement we can make here is this: Every part of us, including our bodies, are beautifully imperfect. We do not want to sound the same, think the same or god forbid, look the same…regardless of the media jazz hands song and dance to the contrary. We don’t need to plan what we eat around our size, cut calories or starve ourselves. The clothing we wear does not need to be sexy or flattering (which you could also read as sexist because a woman should show off her body in whatever she chooses to put on but a man can wear a generic man suit and no one even takes a second glance, unless he look delectable in that suit. I digress.) What if we took the enormous leap to try to just enjoy the body we are in? Move into the house that is us and start to pay attention. Maybe your body needs meaningful movement today, or we could taking care of our sweet selves with nutrient-rich foods not because of the size of our bodies but because good food makes you feel so damn good.
This is certainly one of the longest journeys I will embark on as a woman- accepting all of me. As is, today without the qualifiers. Not loving and accepting me if I weigh this number or wear this lipstick or have a dewy complexion. Love me when I can’t zip my jeans and just finished alllll the oreos. Loving me like I love my daughters, my mother and my closest friends. I am the only one who will be here each and every moment of my existence. I guess I better get started.
Favorite and Resources on Body Love, Self-Love and Acceptance
- Making Peace With Food video and printable PDF
- The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should be Easy
- Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of the Buddha
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Paperback)
*Photo by Nappy