This post is about how you can become friends with your body this summer.
It’s that time of year when we start seeing advertisements like this:
Get your body beach ready.
Get a bikini body fast.
Whip your body into shape in time to hit the beach.
Advertisements like this can make us feel like the following are true:
We do not deserve to have a good summer unless we whip our body into shape.
The only way we can have a fun time on the beach is if we look a certain way in a bikini.
And the right way to prepare for the summer is stressing out about our body.
The most important thing about the summer is how our body looks to other people.
Think about how odd these beliefs are. Why would we assume that the worth of our summer (and our personal worth, in general) boils down to how our body looks in a particular style of clothing?
Clearly there are people all around us of different sizes, shapes, and appearance having a wonderful life.
We understand on one level that these beliefs are false. And yet, they have such a hold on us. Many of us cannot shake the feeling that our summer will be bad, or at least not as magical, if we do not look a certain way or reach a certain size or weight. Because of this, the summer becomes a time in which we focus on shrinking ourselves or changing our appearance through various means. And we worry the whole time that we aren’t good enough.
This is no way to spend the summer.
One of the reasons we get sucked into pursuing a beach body or getting ourselves bikini (or swimsuit) ready is because media messages frequently communicate this. They suggest that the way to a magical life is controlling and shrinking our body into a certain size or weight.
Advertisers know we want a magical life, and they make a lot of money convincing us that they can help us have a magical life if we buy their product. So, advertisers regularly communicate some version of this message in order to pressure us to buy their products.
I call this message the Perfect Body and Life Story. This story suggests, generally speaking, that if we can just lose enough weight and change our appearance enough to have the perfect body (and look), our lives will magically fall into place.
We will feel good about ourselves all the time, so the myth goes. And we will finally be worthwhile; we will find romantic love; everyone will think we are great; we will live our dream life; and everything will be perfect.
The Perfect Body and Life Story is a very seductive story because it promises all the things that most people want the most: love, happiness, peace, meaning, and purpose.
And all of these things are certainly good. But I want you to know that you are worthy of a magical life right now, no matter your body shape, size, or weight and that you already have magic within you.
That word magic may strike you as odd in this context, but this is what I mean by magic:
In the fairy tales we read, magical people have the ability to create cool stuff seemingly out of thin air. And these fairy-tales are partially based on an ability that all of us have.
You have a unique ability to bring creativity, compassion, love, and wisdom into the world. And you have the ability to do so in a way that changes your life and other people’s lives for the better. This creates moments of adventure, joy, and wonder. You have this magic (everyone does) because of your unique personality, life circumstances, your body, and your experiences.
Your magic allows you to create and discover meaningful experiences and relationships, as well as a meaningful purpose.
I will come back to your magic in just a bit, but I want you to know that finding, enjoying, and sharing your magic with the world is possible no matter your shape, size or weight.
You are the boss of your body, so you get to decide how to treat your body this summer. But I would like to ask you to consider doing whatever you do out of a place of love and not of fear.
To help you do this, here are three important truths about your body that you should know:
One: You are worthy right now, no matter your size, shape, or weight.
No matter your size or weight or body type or appearance, you are worthy right now. To help you realize this, take a minute to think about the word worthy. What does this word mean?
Usually we think of something of worth as having value. To help us understand value better, let’s think about money. People often think of money as valuable because money can get us things, help us be safer, provide us with beautiful things and comfort.
But let me point out something you already know. Money in itself is actually worthless. It is the people behind the money using it to do creative, life-giving, comforting, and ingenious things. So, it is actually the creativity, wisdom, and ingenuity of people like you (like everyone) that is worthy, not the money.
For instance, here are just a few of the things you have the ability to do, no matter your weight, shape, or size.
Imagine: You can imagine good things, beautiful things, true things, wise things, better things, hopeful things, practical things. The fact that we can imagine something more and different means you are never stuck where you are.
Create: I realize that we may sometimes imagine things beyond the scope of our creation. But we can create almost anything we imagine in some form or another. Right now you are imagining a better life or job or joyful relationships or an art project or practical home renovation.
You may not have the ability to bring that complete dream to fruition right now. But you have the ability to bring part of it into reality in some form or another.
Love: You have the ability to reach out with kindness, compassion, respect, and joy to people in your life who deserve it (and even some who don’t if you choose to do so). Whenever we love, we create something new like hope, happiness, healing, connection, and insight. You can love others, and you can love yourself. And when you do this, you bring new, good things into the world.
Express Compassion: You have the ability to support yourself and others in their suffering by showing compassion. Compassion just means suffering with or alongside someone. Showing compassion may seem like it is not that big of a deal, but it is the emotional equivalent of bandaging a physical wound.
Think of the last time someone sat with you in your suffering, acknowledged your pain, and said, “I am sorry it is so hard”. If you are anything like me, these kinds of compassionate gestures have the ability to soothe our hearts, help us relax, and eventually move on. Think about how powerful that is.
Become Wiser: You know far more than you think you do because you have deep wisdom inside of you, even when you don’t feel like it. You can think of this wisdom coming from your Higher Self or from the Universe. Or you may think of it as the Light inside you or God’s Spirit inside of you.
However you think of it, when you make time to be still and listen, you invite that wisdom to become present in your life. Becoming wiser helps you to use all the previous skills you have (mentioned above) more powerfully and beautifully.
These are just a few of the abilities that comprise your worth, and they have nothing to do with being a particular size or weight or body shape.
Two: Beauty is present in every size, weight, and shape.
One of the most insidious things about the Perfect Body and Life Story is that it suggests that only people who have a certain kind of body (usually very thin) are beautiful. And the further message, connected with this, is that only beautiful people (defined a certain way) have a good life. This message is continually present in the media. Usually only very thin women and muscular men are portrayed as the desirable people and love interests in movies.
This is unfortunate and cruelly deceptive. The truth is that beauty is present in every size, weight, and shape. I love to follow the careers of plus-sized models because they are a very clear contradiction of the cultural myth that a person must be very thin or look one certain way to be beautiful and have a magical life. Here are five of my favorite plus-sized models: Tess Holiday, Ashley Graham, Iskra, lovecurvy_laurabrioschi, and paola_torrentereal.
Here’s another list of plus size models you can follow on Instagram. I like this list especially because there are a lot of women of color on it. Notice the style, sass, and exuberance of all these women of different sizes and shapes. You have this same style, sass, and exuberance, too, even though you don’t feel like it sometimes. (Male readers, I’ll have a list for you in a minute, too.)
If you look at these women, you will see that all of them are much curvier and bigger than they typical fashion model or movie star heroine. Yet all of them are stylish, confident, healthy, sassy, and beautiful. And this should be no surprise to us if we consider the natural world. If we look at animals and trees and flowers, we find a variety of shapes, sizes, and appearances that are full of beauty. In nature, heavy, light, massive, small, large, tiny, and every size in between all have a radiant beauty.
Okay, I know woolly mammoths are extinct, but they are fun to draw.
In nature, beauty isn’t tied to a particular size, it is expressed in each natural organism brings its own unique good into the world. You have your own unique good, too (it is in your unique worth), and when you express that, you express your unique beauty.
Of course, there are some people who aren’t going to appreciate your unique beauty. There are also some people who don’t appreciate lilacs or daisies or squirrels or wooly mammoths or gazelles (those people are weird, in my opinion.) But your beauty is still there, nonetheless. And people who understand beauty will see it.
And for my male readers, I am sorry I don’t have as long of a list of beautiful men of all different sizes and shapes, but I will give it a shot. I love the beauty of Mr. Rogers, Barack Obama, Jesse Eisenberg, Stanley Tucci, Kevin James, John Cusack, Tom Hanks. They all have really different appearances but are beautiful men.
By the way, I follow Zach Miko in Instagram who is one of the only male body positivity influencers I am aware of. He’s awesome and beautiful inside and out. You can follow him here.
Three: You are lovable right now
One of the most painful parts of Perfect Body and Life Story is the message that love is based on being certain size or weight. This is untrue. Authentic, healthy love is based on attraction to the good in someone else’s mind, body, spirit, and it flows from a desire to support and nurture each other. People of all sizes and shapes can have this.
By the way, you already know this deep down. If you look around you, you will notice people of all shapes and sizes who have meaningful love, and you will also notice some people who have the “perfect body” according to movie star standards who are miserable.
And while there are some people who are only attracted to very thin people, there are many more people who are attracted to people of all shapes and sizes, including larger, more curvy body sizes. If you doubt me, take a look at some of the Instagram accounts of curvy models I have mentioned above and look at the comments.
And I know that you may be saying to yourself, “Well what about those women and men who have the perfect face and body? And everyone is madly in love with them? They are certainly proof that finding love is easier if you look a certain way.” I would like to point out that just because people idolize or lust after men or women with a certain appearance does not mean the idolizers love the person they idolize.
There is nothing wrong with idolizing another person per se. But often when people get caught up in this pattern, they view people more as an object to possess, rather than someone to love, nurture, and support. This possessiveness is often fueled by social competition and jealousy. For example, the desired person becomes a status symbol to pursue.
To have a movie star appearance and to be continually chased by others might sound attractive initially. But consider how lonely and exhausting it would be eventually.
After the initial high of being admired by throngs of people, you would quickly realize that these people didn’t really love you or want to support you or nurture you.
You would realize that they only wanted to possess you to gain some kind of recognition for themselves. In other words, you would realize that their ostensible love of you was just love for themselves.
The point here is that having the “perfect” face or body is no guarantor of love. And a further point is that people of all shapes and sizes have found meaningful love.
Meaningful love is about connecting with someone’s spirit (certainly their body is a part of this) and committing to them. And this is possible at any weight or size.
This isn’t to say that authentic love is always easy to find. And if you feel a lack of love, especially romantic love, in your life, I am so sorry Friend. I know this is painful. I just want to tell you that your lovability is not tied to you being a certain size or weight. And I also want to tell you that you are not bad or a failure if you do not have the love you want in your life right now.
I also want to recommend Milan and Kay Yerkovich and also Gay and Harmony Hendricks because I think they write some helpful things about love whether you are in a relationship already or are looking for one. They have different approaches to relationships.
Milan and Kay Yerkovich give advice that is probably more mainstream. Gay and Harmony Hendricks give advice that may be more alternative. I think they are especially good at helping people understand how healthy self-love plays an important role in helping us find the love we are looking for.
You are the boss of your body, and you get to decide how you pursue health, eating, movement, magic, and adventure this summer. However you pursue these things, you are worthy to pursue them knowing that you and your body are worthy, beautiful, and lovable right now.
Here is the second part of this post:
How to Be Friends with Your Body This Summer, Part #2