A Letter to My Body – Part 2

This is my body.

This is a photo of my body that I purposely took myself, and took without employing any photo-posing tricks to make it look different/better. This is a photo of my body after I’ve just eaten a cheeseburger the size of a basketball. And a mess of fries. This is a photo of my body that has not been altered in any way. (OK, I tried to clone out the fire extinguisher, but it was too damn hard.) This is a photo of my body in an outfit that does NOT emphasize my best physical features.

See how incredibly average-shaped I am? I’m a normal woman, in every way. And yet I spend inordinate amounts of energy hating this perfectly normal body. My own and only body.

As I mentioned, I have been mulling over the Letter to My Body project launched by blogher.com. Although the assignment encourages conceptualization of your body as a separate entity from your mind and spirit, many of us – myself included – do that instinctively anyway. And I feel like the time has come for me to enter a different type of dialog with my body. Perhaps this is the ideal way to begin that conversation.

+ + + + +

Dear Body,

I owe you an apology. Several, actually.

You have kept me safe from major illness and injury my whole life. Despite coming from a family that boasts both poor genetics and poor lifestyle choices, you have managed to preserve me from any sort of dire health situation. And despite spectacular clumsiness, you’ve bounced back from every tumble and scrape. In fact, you seem to possess an almost superhuman ability to adapt – to the point that I need to stock and rotate 3 types of deodorant lest you become immune within a matter of weeks and make me stink to high heaven. You also go to great lengths to heal. You are so determined to keep me safe that you actually produce an overabundance of scar tissue. You have kept me healthy and strong for 31 years.

And I have repaid you with indifference.

You have provided me with several natural assets that I recognize as enviable. Your hair is thick and strong and abundant; curly but not kinky, and wavy but not lank. Your facial features and complexion are such that I have never had to learn to apply makeup beyond a little lip gloss and eyebrow pencil. Your nails are healthy to the point of appearing to have a constant French manicure. Your fingers and toes are delicate and perfectly proportioned, and your nose is a shape that people pay surgeons to emulate.

And I have repaid you with dissatisfaction.

You have reacted with resilience to every diet and exercise regimen that has been inflicted upon you. From junk food and laziness, to South Beach and perfunctory gym visits, to Lean Cuisines and frenzied biking, you have adapted and shifted and transformed. You have slimmed down, gained muscle mass, reverted to squish, and everything in between.

And I have repaid you with revulsion.

I often wish for “more” or “better.” Wish my spare tire could vanish, arms could hold muscle tone, hips would slenderize, boobs would enlarge, skin would clear up. My wishlist is long, but it contains items that I feel are quite normal. However, when I wish, I wish for different things than what you can naturally provide for me, and my wishes are insulting to the abundance of goodness you offer me.

So I am learning to work with you instead of against you. I am learning now, after three decades, that I should climb stairs and bike and walk to utilize your incredibly strong leg muscles. I am learning that you need far less fuel than I typically give you, and far more water. I am learning that you WANT to be a certain shape and weight – and that smaller or larger just isn’t sustainable. I am learning that, even though I resisted all activity and exercise as a young girl, I really do enjoy pushing your muscles to soreness.

I was so afraid of you, Body. But I’m slowly overcoming my fear. I’m pleased and excited to be meeting you all over again – or maybe even for the first time. I am truly sorry for taking you for granted, for remaining indifferent to your natural beauty, and for hating everything you offered me. I see now how GRATEFUL I should be to you.

I hope to remain in conversation with you, and I hope to keep learning. And in learning, I hope to accept. And in acceptance, I hope to eventually hack out a path toward love.

And if, somehow, we manage to make all that junk happen together, maybe we can teach some other women what we have learned.

Love,
Sally

  • Imelda Matt

    Sal, this is such a brave and honest post to write and something a lot more of us (as in you, me and people our age) should do. I was reading and nodding alone and thought ‘fuck’ this the letter I’d write to myself (expect the women’s bits).

    It’s this kind of brave honestly that keeps me coming back to blogs written by women and would explain why 99.9% of my friends are women – you get it! It’s such a simple exercise, but you get!

  • drwende

    Yup, you are extremely normal. I’m trying to avoid posting photos of myself, but you may have convinced me that I’m wrong.

    Love your blog, btw — we apparently starting fixating on the same issues at the same time, and we also have almost identical tabby-with-white cats. Creepy.

  • In Yr Fshn

    What a nice letter to your body. I’m almost at the point of apologizing to myself, but not yet. I still have to tone up the arms a little more… kidding. I really like this idea. It’s hard to remember sometimes that everyone else has the same issues…

  • caroline

    ah, that is so refreshing. i need to do the same & come to terms with my body (oh, my poor body). but… i won’t get ahead of myself just yet.

  • Hammie

    Sal, I think you look great. I hope you think so too by now.
    I was chubby in adolescence too. And I went on for the next 22 years thinking I will be pretty just as soon as I ………..

    Which in my mind never happens of course.

    I saw a picture of myself at my Grandma’s house a couple of years ago. It was pushed to the back by all the Great Grandchildren, but there I was in my school uniform, smiling and fresh faced and GORGEOUS! And yet I didnt think so at the time. Maybe it was because I was pale, a bit freckled and auburn haired in a culture that valued tanned blondes, maybe it was because my Mum never told me. But I felt ugly and insecure growing up and completely missed the pleasure of having all that lovely soft smooth skin.

    I still don’t like to be photographed as I don’t feel I look like I want to. But I have come to terms with my little body. I am a lot smaller and lighter than I was back in my school days; having two kids and a lot of nervous worry sees to that. But I am also fit and strong, I will never play competition basketball, but I fit into aeroplane seats Very comfortably, and I can wear all the great things that heavier people have to donate to charity shops. I guess I have made my peace with my body. Even my tiny little boobs, which since my sister got B.C. two years ago, I am taking a lot more interest in.
    We take our health for granted, we punish and disrespect and will our little bodies to be something else
    When really, as you say, they are just swell.
    Thankyou. love the post, love the blog.

  • fresca

    I had fun doing this the other way round a while back: letting my body write (with my left, nondominant hand) a letter to me.
    Which raises the question, what’s the difference between “my body” and “me” anwyay?

  • enc

    Sal,

    This is an eye-opener and a gut-wrencher.

    xx
    —enc

  • Tiffany

    Sal, I got goosebumps reading this. What a beautiful letter. Not quite as beautiful as you, but almost.

    Thank you for always saying so eloquently so many of the things I am thinking but can’t quite articulate.

    You rock.
    Tiff

  • Tamron Lohan

    that was gorgeous, and truly, so are you!!

    and i’m loling at this:
    I’ve just eaten a cheeseburger the size of a basketball.

  • ambika

    Wow. I might have taken on this task had you not done such an amazing, wonderful job. Honest to God, I’m blinking the tears back because this is such an enormous, tremendous post that speaks volumes about the multitude of things we don’t appreciate (physical and otherwise) and just how out of whack perspective can be.

    You look fantastic in the photo, by the way, which only emphasizes just how strange our views of ourselves are.

  • K.Line

    Hey Sal: Just read this post and I have to say it’s fantastic. Wow. I have to undertake this exercise… Thank you. K

  • Iheartfashion

    Well said, Sal. I’ve read that something like 80% of women, no matter their size, hate their bodies. I’m hoping to make it into the 20% some day.

  • Imogen Lamport

    Sal – this is a beautiful letter to your self and your body. It has brought tears to my eyes. I spend so much time with so many women who have body image issues – I think this is a wonderful tool to help them deal with their issues.

    xx

  • The Raisin Girl

    I find myself in about the same place as Hammie. Whenever I stumble across a picture of myself from just a few years ago, I marvel at how cute my figure is, how shiny and perfect my hair looks, how smooth and perfect my complexion is, how nice my smile, how bright my eyes. I just glorify every inch of my past self. But at the time, I felt positively awkward and ugly and fat. I hated every aspect of my appearance, and now a lot of those things are different, or gone, and I do the same. But I think, will I look back in ten years and envy THIS body, too?

    I love your honesty on this blog. It not only comforts me to know that I'm not alone in the struggle for self-acceptance, it encourages me to try harder for it.

  • http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/ Rachel

    I’m a new reader and just wanted to say THANK YOU for this. I’m 37 and I could write a pretty similar letter myself. Indeed, perhaps I shall.

  • Pingback: A Letter to My Body, Part 1. «()

  • Roxarina

    such a wonderful letter. I’ll have to write one to myself.