Good body image: it’s okay not to have it

Okay, bear with me on this post. I will explain. And you kind of have to philosophically take yourself out of the box and think in a different way – maybe thinking this way will really help you accept things in a round-about, crazy, Buddhist way like I do…

When I was (briefly) in an intensive eating disorder outpatient program last winter, there was one amazing Body Image group run by a woman called Mariah. She was awesome. But she said one thing several times, we even had a whole lesson about it, that really hit home for me and helped me.

Let me say as an aside that this treatment center was absolutely the worst ever, condescending and degrading, and I would not recommend it to anyone. There are two major e.d. treatment centers in Denver, and the GOOD one is Eating Recovery Center. The other one is the one I went to…so without naming it, if you live here, you can probably figure it out. (They let us out early every night so the therapist “could get home to watch her favorite show”, talked to people like 5-year olds, and one therapist made a fellow patient lick her plate clean like a dog…yeah, not okay.)

However, you can just join Mariah’s group on your own, once a week, without the formal treatment program.

Sometimes I get really annoyed by all this positive body image push I see everywhere. NOT that it is a bad thing to have good body image or to encourage it, just that there is almost a disdain for people with poor body image and/or a general idea that you HAVE to like everything about yourself.

Mariah said you don’t have to like everything about yourself. Think your thighs are fat? THAT IS OKAY. Do you hate your nose? THAT is okay. Do you wish your stomach was flatter? THAT IS OKAY.

For me, I do not have much body fat. But I obsess over the cellulite on my upper thighs and butt. It drives me nuts and makes me very sad that I can’t workout much because of my nerve disease and so my legs aren’t toned there. I know in my rational mind that every single woman will have some cellulite type of skin at some point in their life – this is why I HATE airbrushing that deludes us from this fact. It is biologically a part of being a woman.  But I can’t tell you how many days I have cried about this. I won’t wear dresses anymore (used to be my favorite).

But note here the difference between not liking something and at the same time not letting it affect your self-love of you as a whole body or person.

The point is this: Mariah said that it is okay for me to not like the skin on my butt, to lament how it doesn’t look like what it used to. BUT, I SHOULD NOT let not liking ONE part of my body translate into hating/abusing my WHOLE body and self. I should not let not liking this one thing deny me from pleasure, make me abuse myself.

Maybe the big goal is to like/accept that part of your body, but for now, it’s ok. We don’t have to be perfect in liking our bodies, just like we don’t have to have the perfect body. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like that is what a lot of articles imply alot of times.

We just have to love ourselves enough not to hate the whole and abuse the whole.

I read this post recently about wearing a two-piece swimsuit. Like, “embrace yourself, wear a bikini proudly no matter what you look like.” She kind of yelled at people couldn’t get over their body image and just embrace themselves. I’m sorry, I can’t wear a bikini. Maybe I never will. I would rather wear a one-piece or a cover-up and go to the beach than not go to the beach at all.

Isn’t that ok? To me, that is loving myself enough to be assertive and wear what I want to wear and allow myself to enjoy going to the beach without obsessing about my body the whole time. I deserve to be comfortable.

For instance, I went to San Diego in July. My sisters wear their bikinis proudly (which is awesome), but I couldn’t. Instead of not going to the beach at all, which I have done before, I wore a tankini top and my shorts. And I enjoyed sitting on the sand and smelling the sea air. I am sorry I can’t be like them, but I am not going to punish myself by not going at all anymore.

I am going to do the same thing in Thailand. My boyfriend gave me money to buy a one-piece. He said, “I think you look good in anything, but I want you to get what you want and feel comfortable so we can just have fun together.” That is so special to me.

I am not saying that you should give up on trying to improve your body image, just that it is helpful sometimes to accept that you aren’t perfect in this way too, and to break things down. It is okay to be angry about your stomach, but just don’t let that define everything about your body or your self-worth. I prefer the approach of thinking about the things you already DO like about yourself, and thinking that everyone has at least one thing they don’t like.

This is something I am always working on, the whole package doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to like my cellulite (I can even cry about it), but I still have to love it as something that is a part of a whole and treat it nice, not hate myself for it and make it worse.

It is the art of accepting your dissatisfaction and NOT JUDGING YOURSELF for it, while still believing you deserve to improve it. The not judging is the key.

Does thinking like this help you at all? Or is it just me….Or maybe I am not explaining well. I just thought at the time that everyone in the class was SO relieved by hearing it was okay to think this way.


5 thoughts on “Good body image: it’s okay not to have it

  1. I liked this post. i think at the point your at right now is great! its great you went to the beach, that shows progress. I also think we need to accept where we are at now and not push ourselves to feel a certain way! With that being said, I think one day you WILL be able love your body completely. Never think you are permanent Hedda! we are constantly changing and we all have an astonishing ability to change ourselves if we wish. I think right now there is NO problem with the way you are but that doesnt mean you will be this way forever! We can accept ourselves the way we are right now but still wish to change things. In the end a body is just a body and you dont have to ‘love it’ but you shouldnt ever have to live with hating it. Thats is my main goal when I talk about body image, I dont want people to hate their bodies or who they are.

    Dana xo

  2. I have absolutely tried to stop judging myself based on my perceived shortcomings but I fail. I fail every time. I feel like even though my stomach looks great, it will never be as flat as it was before I had Maya and this often consumes me! I think it has to do with my stress level that day though.

    I think this is really interesting though. I’ve never really heard anyone say it’s okay to hate something about yourself. It’s refreshing actually!

  3. I’ve never thought about it in this light before, but it does make sense. If we go on about loving ourselves despite imperfections then that should include loving ourselves despite still feeling imperfect too. And while I do agree it should always be a goal to embrace parts we don’t care for, it doesn’t mean we love ourselves any less until we can get there.

  4. I think that you’ve just hit on a very necessary point….especially given the whole Marie Claire scandal that’s going on right now. It’s almost like these days the pressure is not only to be “thin,” but also to be 100% accepting and loving of your own body. Like you said, it’s definitely still important to *strive* to accept and love your body the way it is, but you’re not a horrible person if you don’t!! We’re all human. We’re all imperfect. I think it’s important to accept those imperfections, acknowledge that we might not *love* them, and learn from it.

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