Musings on the concept of self/body love
Whether self love or body love, that shit is HARD.
I often talk about my entry point into doing self-development work. When I was 27, my dad died of cancer and I began seeing a grief therapist at the local hospice. I had many counselors/therapists before, but this therapeutic relationship was the first time I ever felt completely seen and heard and yes, loved, from a “helping professional”. As our relationship developed, my therapist told me about a place called Shalom Mountain, a spiritual retreat centre that is a community of intentional love. To me, love was a four-letter word. We didn’t use that word in my family. For six months, I resisted going, even though I was burnt out from my job in child protection, I was still deep in grief, and I was carrying a long-cultivated self-hate which originated in childhood (doesn’t it always?!).
Ultimately, I decided to go to Shalom because I HATED myself. I thought I was the worst human on the planet. Nothing I could do would ever be good enough. My critic was RAGING. Shalom Mountain changed my life, it introduced me to the concept of being a conscious being, one who sought out pleasure and fun and enjoyment in my body, but one who also recognizes the need to allow the “bad” feelings when they arise. In short, I became a person who loved myself.
Love isn’t sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Love is hard. Love is WORK. Love is a goddamn choice, every day. I choose to love myself (and fight for that choice) even in those moments when the hate arises. I choose to acknowledge that the hate isn’t my real, true, adult, conscious self. It’s the judge part of me. And he’s a dick. A mean, knows just where to poke so it truly hurts, dick. A dear friend of mine once said my judge is a cis hetero ablebodied white man…YUP. He is the embodiment of the oppressor and he works at making me feel like the worst human. So, I gotta work hard to counter him.
What I’m trying to get at is that body acceptance/body love/self love…the definition of these aren’t what mainstream society or anybody else says they are. They’re what YOU say they are, in your own particular journey, in your own particular time. And you can have love for something you hate. If you hate your body in this moment, I would encourage you to think about why – is it fatphobia? Is it ableism? Is it racism, sexism, genderism, heteronormativity, diet culture, any number of those oppressive systems that are designed to keep us from living our best, most genuine and true lives? And I would say, it’s okay if you hate your body today but can you love it through that hate? Can you love you through it? No one else can love you like you can. No one else knows you like you do. There is a piece of yourself that wants the best for you, always. It’s that little voice that tells you to keep on going when everything seems shit. It’s the part of you that will tell your best friend how much you love them. Try directing that inwards.
I feel like it's important at this point to acknowledge that the fat/body liberation movement isn't about finding your body beautiful or making your body palatable (read: fuckable) to others. Fundamentally, it's about the same access to resources that humans who fit what culture considers to be "normal" have access to. It's about basic human rights. Fat people, and people in all marginalized identities deserve equal access to resources: health care, employment, education, food, etc. I'm not saying that loving your body/yourself is the be-all end-all of this movement. For me though, part of loving myself is respecting myself enough to realize that I deserve equal access.
I also get that THIS. SHIT. IS. HARD. I’m not saying that you will magically love yourself/your body in every moment if you follow these suggestions. I don’t have that experience. Mental health complicates shit (I’m a true believe that everyone has “mental health issues”, but maybe that’s another blog post…). That’s why we need community. That’s why we need others who know a similar struggle. Reach out. I’m here to listen.