Body Positives: Getting Personal but Keeping It PG
In a world where we, if no one else, know all the millions of physical flaws we carry on our bodies and are reminded of our inadequacies in almost any women’s magazine, is it possible to love your body? Don’t we women constantly look for what’s wrong instead of what’s right?
I’ve observed several bloggers partaking of an exercise to list 10 or more things they love about their bodies. I tried the exercise but kept getting bogged down in “buts.” As in, I love this about me BUT I’m in my 40’s and it’s not like it used to be when I was 21. That sort of thing. Then I realized, when earnestly trying this exercise, that if I could intentionally stop LOOKING for “body negatives” and simply focus on “body positives,” then lo and behold, I actually like more things about my body now than I did at 21 when I was what our culture would consider much more physically desireable. Surprise! In fact, there was almost nothing I liked about my body when I was a lithe 21-year-old.
It’s a good exercise to try for yourself, too. I did it as someone who has never been completely at ease with her body-not at 40, not at 15, not as a 100-pound college student at 21 who used to walk on footballplayers’ backs or even a 118-pound gym rat when I was 33 and the mother of two and incredibly sculpted. I can blame it on my Southern Baptist heritage of “Wo-man, thou shalt be a-shamed of yer dirty, filthy, sinful body” or the anorexia-loving media or a variety of overly critical men in my life. None of those outside influences are improving, and as I get older, they seem only to get worse and the feedback on physical appearances is entrenched in every form of communication. So it’s a good time to focus on the positives of body image. Right now.
I’m sharing some of my own positives to give you an idea of how this exercise went for me. Yes, only “some” because I’m trying to keep this PG! There’s a funny conclusion, too. To me, at least.
1. I love my lips. I have naturally full, pouty, soft, kissable lips. When I was a kid, they got me in trouble all the time! Adults would yell at me, when there was a disagreement, to “get that lip back in your mouth!” or “stop poking that lip out!” I distinctly remember getting swatted more than once for it and being totally bewildered. As a teenager (and later as a wife), I was often accused of pouting if I didn’t get my way, and almost always, I wasn’t pouting. When I discovered men, I started hearing compliments instead of complaints. The other thing that changed was when I met my first Manhattan celebrity in the early ’90s and she’d had her lips injected to the point where she looked bizarre to me. Then it became common place to have cosmetically-enhanced full lips, something suddenly desirable whereas I’d grown up feeling there was something wrong with me. I also rarely wear any color at all on my lips because they’re usually pink enough without the artificial stain. I never thought much about it until various women applying their lipstick in the women’s room before a conference commented on what I was wearing, and I wasn’t.
2. I love my blue eyes. I love the way they sparkle when I’m happy or in love or very passionate about a subject. When you see that sparkle, I’m showing you my soul.
3. I love my feet because of the joy they bring me. I’m a barefoot Pisces girl. Always have been, always will be. If I’m stressed, I go outside and put my feet in the grass-or in sand or on stone-and I seem to soak up the stabilizing energies of Mother Earth and relax. Five minutes with my feet in the grass is more rejuvenating for me than a 2-hour nap. I love foot rubs and adore men who do them well. When my feet are cold, I love it when warm hands hold them or massage them. I find it incredibly comforting, relaxing-and erotic.
4. I love my…twin toes. I’ve always called them that. My second and third toes on each foot are webbed at the middle joint. It doesn’t hurt or bother me in any way, and I’ve been fascinated with them since I was a small child. When I went for a pedicure, I was stunned when the technician suggested I have them surgically altered so they’d be normal. I like them the way they are!
5. I love my hands and fingers. Rather than dainty, I have strong, powerful hands that played the piano for many years-those Hanon exercises are great for agility! My hands are shaped exactly as my Dad’s were and as Shannon’s are, with an unusual gap showing between my middle and ring fingers. I’ve read in palmistry books that such a gap usually indicates a dichotomy in that person, almost always between their creative and analytical sides. I love my fingernails, too, now that they’ve gotten long enough to scratch pleasantly but not so long that they interfere with pulling on stockings or typing or playing the piano or gardening. I take good care of my hands, pausing each night to rug them with a scented lotion from fingertip to wrist, making them extra soft to the touch.
6. I love the indention on my lower back. A former lover of mine once said that when he embraced me, his hand fit perfectly in the indention on my lower back where muscle attaches to spine. His comments always conjured up the image of some Indiana-Jones type movie where the adventurer put his splayed palm into a palm print on the wall above a secret room and unlocked the door to the treasures and….oh, I did say I’d keep this PG!
7. I love my strawberries. I have a dozen pin-head-sized or less little red dots on my body. I associate them with women in my family and with being a woman, but that’s a sweet childhood memory for me. Most of them are hidden away and can’t be seen except in close-up or intimate situations.
8. I love my ankles. I love the way the look in high heels when I’m sitting or have my feet propped up. I can’t stand in heels indefinitely, but I can certainly recline and enjoy them that way.
9. I love my cleavage. I was definitely a late-bloomer in this department and didn’t NEED a bra for 40 years and went braless as much as possible. Still do at home. I’m glad now that I never had any type of augmentation surgery done and I’m happy with my “natural-ness.”
10. I love my legs. I’ve always considered my legs to be one of my best features. From the time I was an early teen, my legs took on a lean, muscular shape with toned calves and plenty of definition. With my knee injury still taunting me on occasion, I keep my legs twice as strong to maximize my mobility and so no one notices my rebellious knees. Much of the muscle in my body mass is in my legs.
11. I love my height. I’m 5′ 4″ -and that’s not short. It’s FUN-SIZED!
12. I love my hair. I especially like it when it’s a shade darker than my natural hue, so that it’s more like high-quality dark chocolate than store-bought milk chocolate. My hair is superfine in texture and has a little curl or wave to it that I never had growing up. I love it at shoulder length, long enough to feel sexy but easy to handle or be handled.
13. I love my tan or lack thereof. When I tanned as a teenager, it was without baby oil and all the stuff my contemporaries broiled themselves in. I was told it was my Indian heritage that made me naturally dark after a little while in the sun. Since I don’t spend as much time in the sun now, I enjoy my “Moon Tan” from walks under a full moon and I like my current winter paleness as much as I do a glow in summer.
14. I love the side of my neck. A whisper of a touch there is always overstated.
15. I love my ______, my _______, and my ____________. In keeping this PG, I’ll have to fill in those blanks in person…if you know me that well.
So what did I discover from this exercise?
1. Many of the things I love now, I used to hate. For decades. What changed my mindset was positive experiences that re-configured the way I viewed myself physically. Some of the positive experiences just happened and others I sought out.
2. The more things I found to like, the more things I found to like! I had a hard time at first with coming up with 5 things, but once I started and started actively looking for things I liked, I finally had to stop the exercise because it was getting too long.
3. Most of the things I really love about my body are things that other people, the media, our culture, all consistently view as flaws or inadequacies or would find the flaws or inadequacies in. For me, I love them because they’re unique and they make my body like no one else’s.