My Only Wish: To Wake Up One Day And Like This Body

But I don’t love my own body like I love other women’s. I can’t tell you why, except that part of me thinks my body should be better, more perfect. Totally perfect, even. 

Lately, I've been waking with a single wish: I want to like my body today.

I want to feel powerful, like I’m not a failure. I want to feel at home in this body and be grateful for it.

Not long ago, my body and I were on good terms. Sure, I saw what I considered to be imperfections, but I also felt the power of this body — the deep sense that it was mine and it was worthy. But in a pattern that’s become all too predictable, I’m out of touch with the joy that comes from being happy in my own skin. Once again I’m gripping at my flesh like I hate it.

This isn’t new. I feel horrible about my body, and then I feel OK. Then I feel horrible again. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just broken.

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What is this body? I wonder lately as I look in the mirror. Despite the fact that I’ve had this body shape for years now, it feels unfamiliar. I feel like it doesn’t reflect who I really am. But what body would reflect that? It’s not like there’s ever been a time when I put on a bikini and thought, “Now this body is really very me.”

I need to be blunt here and tell you that I’m slender. I’ve never faced discrimination or bullying because of my body size. I don’t want to pretend I’m writing a fat acceptance story. I love the fat acceptance movement, but I don’t belong in it. This is just a story about my brain, which is sometimes quite disordered.

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I love women’s bodies. I love observing women at the beach. I love the curves of stomachs — the ones with rolls and the ones with six-packs. I love arms with softness and dimples underneath them, and I love arms that are ripped. I love breasts, pretty much all of them. I love the diversity of skin colors, and I love to think about why each woman chose her swimsuit.

But I don’t love my own body like I love other women’s. I can’t tell you why, except that part of me thinks my body should be better, more perfect. Totally perfect, even. That is a horrible admission to make, that I hold myself to a higher standard than I hold everyone else, and I’m ashamed to say it. But it’s my truth and I’m here to tell you the truth even when it’s ugly and makes me look like an asshole.

A therapist might say that I don’t think my body, as it is today, deserves love. But that doesn’t seem right, either. I do think it deserves love, but maybe I think it doesn’t deserve my love.

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So how did I get to the point where my body politics doesn’t reflect the way I treat my own flesh and bone? Do I really believe that every other woman’s body deserves more respect than mine?

These are complicated questions, and I think they point to the diseased part of my brain as primary culprit. I’m capable of reasoning through all of the ways in which my body is good, and yet another part of my brain says, “Stop trying to get better. The only way to love yourself is to get back on this self-destructive roller coaster.”

I say “diseased” not as an insult, though I can see how some people might feel it’s a bad choice of words. For me, I see my disordered relationship with my body as a medical condition, not unlike my celiac disease. I’m not ashamed of my celiac disease; I just treat it with the medical advice of my doctor. I manage it, and live the healthiest life I can. I need to do the same here.

The outside world may not understand it, but the way I sometimes see my body is not something I can just wish away. Pep talks and telling me that I look great are nice, but they aren’t treatment. In fact, sometimes being told I look great can make me feel worse. I start to wonder why I need to hear from others that I look good in order to feel good.

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What I know is that these bad phases of body hatred pass, and it’s up to me when they come up to do the healing work that gets me past them. Despite the fact that when I’m feeling good, there are often low-level messages of body hatred coming at me from somewhere in my mind, most of the time they’re quiet enough to ignore or talk over with healthy thoughts. The awesome body politics I truly believe in helps me with this, too.

Sometimes I reach out to friends who understand for support, and they give me the love that I need. Just last week I texted a friend and said I wished I could be past this phase of my life, and just be happy with who I am. She reminded me lovingly that it may always be with me, but that I’m doing well at battling it. That kind of stuff is helpful, and I’m grateful.

I know I always feel better eventually, and with more experience as a healthier person, I know that I can hold on tight and ride through the rough seas when they come up. As Louisa May Alcott famously wrote, “I am no longer afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my own ship.”

And isn’t that really what happiness is about? Knowing that even when things get tough, you’re the one in charge of your own destiny?

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