Sunday, August 15, 2010
Seeing our body in realistic terms is, unquestionably, a difficult step in the journey to love ourself. The world we live in bombards us with images of the perfect body. Television, movies, the print media and the internet continually shape our perceptions of what is considered the ideal physique. But once we get beyond the hype, we are left with the fact that there is no such thing as an achievable ideal. Everyone on this planet has his or her own unique body, each with its own size, shape, and idiosyncrasies. And no matter how much time, money, and effort we spend trying to change it, it will basically remain in the same general shape all of our lives, at least until scientists figure out a way to genetically modify our DNA, which will be no help to anyone reading this blog. Of course, there are certain behavioral patterns that can alter the body shape to some degree, but for the most part we must come to accept our body as it is before we can begin to move forward. Acceptance is the key to doing this.
Accepting your body as it is at this present moment enables you to start anew on a positive footing and begin to move forward. Without acceptance you will remain stuck, denying the truth of yourself. All the help in the world will do you no good until you are ready to accept yourself. Once you are, however, the stage is set for recognizing the detrimental behaviors you engage in and understanding their impact. The need for change will become evident and all that will be required then is a willingness to make the changes.
Your body is your physical presence in the world. There are almost seven billion bodies on the planet, but each individual one is different from all others. They come in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. While they are generally similar in certain basic ways -- arms, legs, head, torso -- each is also unique. This uniqueness comes from many things but the genetic makeup is the most important. It is the hand that each person is dealt in this game of life. For the most part it is impossible to change its basic outline. Tall people cannot become short. This obvious statement may seem silly, but in reality, it is one of the most difficult ideas to accept and yet one of the most important to understand if you are to get productively in touch with your body. You need to understand that there are parts of you that cannot be changed and then accept them as inevitable and not subject to judgment.
How often do people complain about their physical characteristics? I hate my hair! I wish I were taller! My feet are too big! My hands are so ugly! Brown eyes are boring! On and on we go. Of course all of us have a tendency to bemoan the body we were given while at the same time coveting attributes we don’t have. All the while those around us are doing the same thing. Yes, all too often the person with the curly hair we like so much would give anything to have straight hair. Most people find it difficult to be content with what they have and spend their lives believing that if their body were different, their life would be different. This could be true, but then the whole equation would be different and a new set of circumstances would arise. With a different body we would be a different person and most likely that new person would be just as discontented as the old one.
In order to gain true awareness of the body, the first step is to approve of the body you have right at this moment - not the body you want, not the body you are going to have in six months after you work out, not the body you had last year or ten years ago, but the body you have right now. Oh no, you say, but yes, the body with the belly that pops over the belt buckle or the thighs that rub together, or with the yellow stained teeth and hacking cough, or whatever best describes what is wrong with it in your perception. Regardless of all the faults, real or imagined, it is the only body you have. If you have to live with it, you might as well come to terms with it instead of fighting it. Acceptance of that fact is like opening a door to a new world.
True Seeing: Try this exercise when you are alone with no chance of interruption. Stand naked in front of a full-length mirror and look at yourself. Don't judge yourself, just look. Look at your feet. Slowly move up and look at your legs. Continue to move up and look at your hips and torso. See each part of your body for just what it is. Remember, don’t make any judgments about any part of it. Look at your chest and look at your arms. Look at your neck and your face. Observe carefully without overlooking any part. This is your body. It makes no difference how you looked in the past or how you want to look in the future, this is your body now and that is all that matters. You have no alternative, no healthful alternative at least, to accepting it. Neither does it do any good to lie to yourself if you think there are parts that are unappealing. This is true even, or especially for people with bodies that have been disabled by genetics, disease, or accident. To hide them or convince yourself they don't exist is pointless, there's no one else in the room but you. There is no one to fool. In fact, you are not even to allow yourself to call them unappealing. That is a judgment. The important thing to remember is that all you are doing is looking at your body. You are making no judgments nor allowing opinions to intrude as to whether it is good or bad. True seeing like this can be a very challenging exercise. Don't be afraid. A wonderful door is opening up for you. Step through and learn to accept yourself just as you are.