Your Body, Your Friend

body image quote

 

So that Marcia Hutchinson quote sounds a bit harsh, no? And yet it’s an amazingly effective concept to keep in mind if you find yourself devolving into body-bashing: All those accusations you’re flinging at your thighs, wrinkles, bony joints, cellulite, and age spots? Would you ever consider saying those things to someone you love? Or even say them aloud when you’re AROUND someone you love? You’ll be amazed by how quickly your negative self-talk is put into perspective when you compare it to the thoughts you would consider expressing to others.

But let’s also examine the”friend” portion of this idea: If you’re thinking nasty thoughts about your own body, you may be separating your body from your mental and emotional self. Creating a rift that makes you feel as if your “true” self isn’t a physical one at all, and your body is fighting against that essential self. And even if you’re not deepening that particular rift, you are treating your own physical form as something other than your friend. If you conceptualize your body as some kind of cumbersome object that you’re saddled with, it becomes much harder to care for it, live with it, love it. Your body should be talked to, treated as, and conceptualized as a friend.

Naturally, those of you facing down illness will have a much, MUCH harder time cultivating friendly relationships with your bodies. There are ways, but they are challenging. Regardless, there’s no arguing with the fact that expending loads of energy actively hating, berating, or separating from your body can become harmful and counterproductive.

You and your body? You’re in this together. And working as a united front is likely to lead to more good things than bad.

Much of the language we use to address our bodies is fraught with struggle: Fight the bulge, beat acne, conquer frizzy hair. But our bodies are not enemies or foreign entities to be beaten back or subdued. They’re important participants in our inner lives and integral elements of our whole selves. And unless we treat them as our friends, how can we expect them to look and feel their best? How can we expect ourselves to look and feel our best?

Next time you’re furrowing your brow into the mirror, swearing silently at some physical attribute, pause and consider: Are you treating your body as a friend?

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  • So wise, grasshopper! This is a lesson I needed to hear, as I am occasionally one to be angry with my body. At yoga class, I have learned to do check-in…kind of like taking attendance at school. If I had a student who wasn’t feeling well, I would NOT yell at them and berate them. For a chronic pain paitient, this is really something to think about! Thanks, great guru.

  • ‘ But our bodies are not enemies or foreign entities to be beaten back or subdued. They’re important participants in our inner lives and integral elements of our whole selves.’ ….This is so true! Thank you Sally!

  • Wonderful, Sal! I wrote something similar today – we really can’t hear this enough, to counter the negativity out there. You’re a great warrior!

  • TinaPete

    Great post! Just gave myself a kiss and promised to so some eliptical and stretch this evening after a what will be a extra hard, all-sitting day at work. Thanks for sending me off with this body-kindly essay.

  • This is a really good tip – never really thought about body image that way before. Oh, and I think my body is pretty cool, lean legs and a nice booty 😀

  • Great post! I’m trying to learn to be nicer to myself- your blog always helps!

  • Eleanorjane

    Good thoughts. I’m guilty of using my body as just a container to carry my mind about – and not putting effort into maintaining that container! I need to remember that my body is just as important as my mind and spirit and that its needs are not optional extras.

  • I’ve always loved this perspective. Totally saves me when I get some body blues.

  • i really enjoyed this article. much food for thought here. thanks for it.

  • Love it. I can’t add a single word more. Fantastic post.

  • Angela

    I sometimes dislike my body, and moan about my butt size, big shoulders, etc, etc

    Then I remember a former work colleague that is 45 and in a wheel chair, cant wash or dress himself with MS, all by himself, and I thank my body for what it can do

  • Molly

    Totally true–every word from the mind-body duality (Eleanorjane’s “container to carry my mind about”) to the words we use. The change in my tone has made a surprising difference.

  • Meg

    I find this an interesting concept. Having heard the ‘wouldn’t treat your friends like that’ mantra before, I used to think it to myself quite often. But then I once said it to a phsychiatric counsellor who found the thought quite odd. She postulated that ‘friends’ quite often don’t treat each other very well and have hidden agenda (I suppose she’d see this a lot as a councellor!) and so I started to question my acceptance of it. I still haven’t found an easy way to counter her arguement. But I suppose I was thinking that someone who has a low opinion of themselves anyway might not have the kind of friends who are accepting and forgiving in the way this conept urges you to be about yourself. Anyway, like I said, an interesting concept, but I find it hard to take at face value any more!

  • Anne

    Thanks for the reminder Sally. I have been struggling with some knee& hip injuries for the last 6 months. I have had to dial back my usual training schedule and it’s no surprise my weight has started creeping up as a result. If a friend of mine were struggling with the same issue I would tell her to relax and heal her body first. I would remind her that injuries happen and they don’t make people lazy or less committed or wrong in anyway. They are just hard lessons in patience and tuning into your body. I would never show my kids or my husband the kind of impatience I show myself.

  • Kenzie

    This extends far beyond just body image. Many people are guilty of constantly telling themselves they aren’t good enough in a myriad of ways and this outlook is great to put that into perspective.

  • Thanks for this post, and for the link to last April’s post about chronic illness. As I’ve mentioned in comments here before, it’s an issue I struggle with often — daily, hourly, sometimes several times a minute, depending on how much my illness is acting up at any given time. I hadn’t heard the sentiment about saying these sorts of things to a close friend, but it sounds like a good rule of thumb. Living with this illness for more than eight years now, if I had a friend who was chronically ill, I wouldn’t dream of getting angry at her for not being able to keep appointments or do chores or walk quickly or wear pants, or any of the myriad of things I hold grudges against my own body for failing at.

    I think a lot of it comes down to really believing, in the darkest corner of your heart, that you are deserving of compliments, of help, of care. I generally like myself as a person (and as much as I fight my body, I’m actually pretty happy with how I look, all things considered), but the thing that’s getting to me lately is how unbelievably sweet my husband has been. This illness hit the week before our first wedding anniversary, and we just celebrated our ninth anniversary last month. We didn’t even get a full year of marriage before I got sick, and yet as the years go by and I get more and more disabled, he only gets more supportive.

    I don’t know how he does it. I don’t know how he goes to work every morning — when I can’t work any more — and comes home to me in pain every evening, and is willing to take things at my pace. He’s taken over more and more of the household chores, even the grocery shopping now. And I feel worthless, like I can’t contribute to our home, but he just smiles and shrugs it off. Of course, he says, you’re worth it, sweetie.

    I’m not sure I believe him, in that deep dark corner of my heart. I’m not sure I am worth it. I’m not sure I’m worthy of this much love and care and patience. So is it any wonder that I have trouble believing that my body is worthy of *my* love and care and patience? But I trust my husband’s opinions on most things, so I’m going to have to get better at trusting him on this. If he thinks I’m worth this much effort, maybe I should start treating myself that way, too.

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  • I have a real hard time being nice to myself. It is such a foreign concept for me to take care of “myself”! I NEVER think of myself. I give and I give and now, I have nothing left to give. I gave it all away.

    This clearly isn’t working for me so I’m trying to untrain my brain. That means that I have to take care of myself first. For some reason, I dislike myself. I need to learn to accept me for who I am, not for who I think I should be. Thanks for your insightful article.

  • Sally, I love this post. We get so used to thinking of our bodies as these entities that are somehow separate from our “true selves,” like our bodies are just these fleshy containers for the real us. The truth is, our bodies are who we are. Your body has been with you from the day you were born and it is the only thing that will be with you through your whole life, until you die. It deserves to be treated with respect, simply because WE deserve to be treated with respect.