Ten years ago my friend Andria and I created an informal women’s group called the W’s where a group of us met once a week for dinner at various local restaurants. I hadn’t yet realized that I’m more introverted than extroverted. All I knew was I was worn out by small talk and party chatter and was craving real conversation. So each week I prepared a discussion starter or an activity that would enable the W’s to have a more meaningful conversation than your ordinary dinner chitchat.
One week I asked the group to choose a part of their body they were particularly critical of and write that body part a letter of apology and reconciliation. There was some resistance at first. Most were not happy with this assignment. I could hear the sighs and sensed the “oh no, not this ‘love your body’ nonsense again” sentiments, but finally everyone settled in to write their letter.
After we all finished, we shared them. We laughed hysterically as one of the W’s read her opening salutation of “Dear Butt”. Some letters were sweet, some funny, some very touching. Everyone realized there was a part, if not many parts, of their body they had treated unkindly.
At the end one group member asked, “How is this going to help us if we don’t believe a word we’re saying in our letters?” I get what she means. It’s hard to believe empty words, but we’ve got to start somewhere. We can start by consciously changing the way we talk to ourselves.
What is it that causes us to talk to our body in such unloving ways? Let’s face it, the world tells us not to love ourselves, especially our bodies. Companies sell their products by convincing us that something is wrong with us. Our culture picks a perfect body type to glorify and vilifies everything else. We are encouraged to compare ourselves to others for better or worse. And many of us play along, whether directly or indirectly.
If we look for the “flaws” in someone else’s body, we are playing along. If we hate our own body, we are playing along. When we decide to choose love over hate, we are no longer playing along with our culture. We are rising to something higher. Even if we think our body needs to change for the sake of our health, I guarantee we will make much greater permanent change in our body through loving it, rather than hating it.
What would happen if we chose to stay in gratitude of our body instead? What if we consistently said thank you to our body for carrying us through this life, for enabling us to experience the wonders of this world, for housing our soul?
Thank you body for walking me up this mountain trail smelling the scent of pine all around me. Thank you body for driving me along this windy road with my windows down singing my favorite song at the top of my lungs. Thank you body for holding hands, for hugging, for cuddling with pets. Thank you eyes for seeing that colorful sunset, that bird at my feeder, the wind shaking the leaves on that tree. Thank you lungs and heart and liver and kidneys.
Even when we are sick, our body is fighting for us, protecting us, desperately trying to keep us alive. Maybe it would be harder to criticize our body if we were able to see all the good it brings into our life. Maybe it would be harder to judge it by a number on a tag in our clothing or the shape of our thighs or the sag in our skin. Maybe collectively we could begin to rise above our culture and maybe even change it.
Perhaps this week, this month, this year you could offer up thanks every day to your body for all it enables you to experience. Even if you don’t mean it at first, say thank you anyway. Maybe true gratitude will slowly seep into your spirit and you will realize what a gift you have. Your body is housing your soul. What greater gift is there than that?