My body is my frenemy.
My friend, and my enemy.
As I have written in previous posts, I don’t necessarily trust it. In fact, sometimes my body causes me a world of havoc. Pain. Sickness.
My body has diminished my self esteem almost to the point of no return.
It would be easy to hate my body.
And sometimes, I do.
There have been times that I’ve cried getting dressed — both from physical pain and because I was unhappy with the way that I looked.
It is slowly changing.
I’m currently on a 2-week vacation in Hilton Head Island. We come almost every year. In years past, I’ve spent time crying and being grumpy and having anxiety and covering up because of my “imperfections.”
(The scars, the stretch marks, the cellulite, the roundness of my thighs and my butt, the gentle roll beneath my belly button, the wrinkles and lines that I’m starting to notice on my neck and my face.)
I’d compare myself to the celebrities who I follow on Instagram, to my husband and my in-laws who are all super-strong athletes. (I’m trying to do this less.)
And I’d be sad: sad not just because of the way my body looked, but also sad because of the way it performed. (Or didn’t.)
What’s easy for some isn’t easy for me. The 12 miles we bike to go to breakfast at South Beach is a breeze for others but not quite as simple and carefree for me. The weight I gain is often from medications and is not my fault. Some would say that it’s not that hard: you just get up and get moving, you simply work out to lose weight.
Want to be in better shape?
You work for it.
Except not all of us can.
It isn’t an excuse. It’s just a fact of life.
There is only so much that some of us can do on any given day.
But instead of beating myself up about it, I’ve decided to just go with the flow and embrace it.
Something about living the beach life has soothed my soul and centered me. Yes, I’ll always be a little vain and a little insecure about my body’s appearance and its physical limitations.
But I’m not going to let it consume me, or define me, or ruin my trip.
Honestly: who cares?
I loved a meme I saw recently that said: “the beach gonna get whatever body I give it.”
I love that. Yes, it is.
There is no such thing as perfect, no such thing as a “good body.”
There are just bodies. And you do what you can with it. It’s the only vessel that you have in this life.
Some bodies function better than others and some are defined as more visually appealing by societal standards.
But who sets those standards, anyway?
I was inspired by a recent Inspiring Lives Magazine post about body positivity.
Let’s all try to embrace the body we have: even if it causes us pain or illness.
Even if it doesn’t look the way we would like it to.
Let’s toss aside the notion of “ideal” or “sexy.”
Sexy is whatever you make it.
And fit? Well, fit is whatever is fit for YOU.
Being perfectly taut and toned with rippling muscles may be fit for one person, but it may not be a realistically attainable goal for someone else who works out even harder, eats an even more nutritious diet, and who is overall healthier in general. Looks can be deceiving, and everyone has different body types.
I’ve accepted that I’m never going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model and that is okay.
Anyone who has a problem with that doesn’t know how hard I fight just to USE my body to walk, and to just do normal things.
Anyone who is offended by my bikini body has their own problems and issues that they need to explore.
So often I hear people — some, even, who are near and dear to me — making judgmental comments about other people’s bodies or appearances, especially on the beach.
“Oh, she was this fat pig…”
“People like that disgust me.”
“I can’t believe how much some people eat.”
“I can’t believe what some people wear.”
“Bikinis aren’t for everyone.”
Well, guess what? They are.
Bikinis are for whoever wants to wear them. No one is under any obligation to look pretty or perfect for anyone else. You just have to feel good yourself.
Wear whatever you want. Eat whatever you want. Live however you want. As long as you are not hurting yourself or others, who cares?
Don’t worry that someone is judging you for having another slice of pizza, or for your sleeve of tattoos. Don’t ruin a vacation because of some back flab or because you ate a big dinner the night before and are feeling a little bloated.
It’s not worth it.
One thing that living with illness has taught me is that life is precious and short.
Don’t waste it because a magazine is telling you that you aren’t good enough or that your body isn’t “beach ready.”
As long as you are taking good care of your body, nourishing it and loving it and extending gratitude towards it for all the things it CAN do, then you’re golden.
That last part may be hard to do when you’re ill.
It is relatively easy to eat well. Sleeping and bathing are two things that, although difficult some days, are usually reasonable and attainable goals, generally speaking. And if we’re lucky, we can even get in exercise here and there. For instance, I’ve been riding my bike all over the island, taking walks along the shore, playing with my dogs, and, today, even took a beach yoga class.
But showing gratitude towards our bodies when they are the root of our medical problems?
Autoimmune illness makes it even harder because our bodies are LITERALLY attacking themselves.
But just think of all it can do:
Your body keeps you alive despite the incessant battle going on within.
It keeps you breathing.
Your heart keeps beating.
Your skin keeps regenerating.
If you’re lucky, your eyes keep seeing and ears keep hearing — even if not 100% perfectly.
For some folks, your bodies can create and bear life.
For others, they can’t — but they are still magical.
Your body heals. It fights, and it heals. Think of how it overcomes a flare. How it heals a wound. How it pulls you through surgery.
Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, sometimes we are aided with medications or other medical technology.
But our bodies are a gift — even if they are “broken,” they are ours. And they are a blessing.
So while my body isn’t perfect, I’m not ashamed of it. Or at least, I’m working on not being ashamed of it.
I’m still learning, but I’m trying not to feel embarrassed if I’m walking with a limp, or wearing a cast or a brace. I’m trying to be OK with the fact that my “beach body” may never look the same as it did when I was 18 or 19 years old. I’m trying to remember to be thankful for the things it does for me even if I’m not feeling well. I’m trying not to fret if I’m having a “fat day” or a bad hair day.
There was a time a few months ago when an unflattering photo from a friend’s daughter’s birthday party set me off into a fit of tears. Sobbing, racking, heaving tears. The kind that hurt and feel good at the same time. I remember crying my eyes out hyperventilating over this photo.
And then I got a grip. The party was lovely — as are all of my vacations. Why tarnish that because of a little roll or an unflattering angle in a picture?
We are always told to be accepting and compassionate towards others: but what about ourselves?
Let’s try to find that empathy and that forgiveness, that compassion and that love … and in addition to extending it towards others, give it to ourselves, too.
And if you can’t find love right away, that’s okay. Find “like.” Find contentment. Find acceptance.
And let it grow from there.
At the end of your life, I doubt you’ll be worrying about the circles under your eyes or the new wrinkle you found in your smile. You’ll be grateful for every breath you took and every year you were blessed to live.
So the next time you’re battling a bad flare or feeling down about your looks, just remember that this is your one and only life, and your one and only body. It won’t always be perfect, and things won’t always be good, but we can try our best to do our best and to BE our best on any given day. Hopefully, our bodies will thank us for that, but if not, it will be worth the effort anyway, because in my opinion, being positive and spreading goodness is always better than the alternative.