Image: Recipes for Self Love
If magazine headlines are any indication, we are all supposed to LOVE our bodies. You haven't achieved maximum winning as a woman unless you do, and if you don't, there's definitely something wrong with you!
So why do I use the term body acceptance and avoid talking about loving your body?
1. Because loving your body isn't a requirement for a fulfilling life.
News flash - you can have an absolutely amazing life without loving your body!
Regardless of your body shape or size you can travel the world, have great sex, love and be loved, go on adventures, kick ass in your career, on and on and on.
But wouldn't life be better, you say, if I loved my body? Sure it would! But life would also be better if we got to pick all our coworkers and family members and had unlimited money,
While a poor body image, like hating or even not liking your body, certainly harms our self-esteem, physical health, and emotional health (more on this in future posts!), having a "good enough" relationship with our bodies is really all that we need.
One of the crazy bullshit things with our culture is that we are made to walk a tightrope, balancing between messages of "your body isn't good enough" and also this expectation that as women are supposed to love our bodies. That we're somehow failing as women if we don't love our bodies. That if we don't love our bodies, there is something wrong with us, NOT with the beauty standards of our culture.
See how insane that is?
To that I say, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK and NOPE, NOPE, NOPE!
The issue is with the cultural beauty standard and it's inaccurate and judgmental as hell to blame women for not loving their bodies. Not to mention, totally unfair!
2. Because loving your body is often out of reach when our culture is constantly telling you your body is wrong or not good enough.
Hopefully by now you're thinking, "yeah, why the hell is it our fault if we don't love our bodies? Isn't that totally victim blaming?
Not only is it not our fault, but the constant messages telling us we're not tall enough, thin enough, large-chested-but-not-TOO-large-chested enough, tan enough but still white enough (and on and on and on) make loving our bodies a very tall order. I mean think about it - there is ONE type of beauty that is held up as what we should all aspire to. And probably only 1% of the population (if that) that actually meets it.
Not to mention, the beauty standard totally and completely excludes women of color, women with visible disabilities, women with larger bodies, and women who don't express their gender in the way our culture has deemed to be "feminine."
But oh wait, it takes it a step further. Not only are these women excluded, but on the rare (thankfully becoming less rare) occasion they get to see women that look like them in the media, often times these bodies are portrayed in a less desirable light than white, apparently able-bodied, thin, "feminine" bodies.
Again, I say, WHAT THE HECK.
Let's get real: if you're living in this nutty and oppressive culture, it may not be realistic to love your body, because it is going to be a daily, uphill battle.
Now, women of all sizes, shapes, colors, and abilities can totally love their lovable bodies. And if you love your body, good for you. Seriously. That rocks.
But if I were to try to help you love your body right off the bat, for most of you, I'd be setting you up for failure, which is going to make you feel WORSE and like YOU are the problem. How helpful is that?
Finally, sometimes our bodies do things that are seriously frustrating or painful. Having to love your body doesn't allow room for those feelings, but body acceptance does.
3. Because all that is needed is to have a good, respectful, working relationship with your body.
So if you can have a good life without loving your body, and if it's not realistic to be in love with it, what SHOULD you be aspiring to?
Enter, body acceptance.
In short, body acceptance is having a relationship with your body that is good enough.
Pursuing body acceptance is a much more compassionate and authentic stance, because it validates that sometimes (or maybe all the time) it's just not possible to LOVE your body and that you loving your body isn't required to be winning at feminine adulting. And it acknowledges that not loving your body isn't your fault, it's our culture's fault.
It's also more realistic, so you're more likely to be successful with it, and it's the most EFFECTIVE for optimal physical and mental health since it allows you to be you and to be good for yourself.
Stay tuned for future blog posts about how you can move toward accepting your body!
Befriend Your Body with Dr. Linda Baggett
Blogging with expertise, compassion, and humor (and occasional swearing) about all things trauma, sexuality, body image, and diet culture from a feminist, Health at Every Size perspective with psychologist Dr. Linda Baggett.
Dr. Linda Baggett