I remember being a little girl of 3-4 years old. Looking in the mirror. Playing dress up. And loving how I looked. I loved my face, my hair, my body. I felt such a delight in being me.
I also remember being a teenager, lying on my bed and being filled with so much self-hatred and self-loathing, that I would imagine myself taking a knife and cutting pieces of my body off.
What happened in between?
What happened to so many of us?
How did so many women learn to hate their bodies?
My family and culture gave me the message that being female was not good enough. Here are some personal examples:
~Parents wishing for a boy and feeling disappointed with the birth of a girl.
~Having the role in the family of being the care taker of men.
~Being told that as a girl you can only play with certain games and toys.
~Being dolled up to look pretty.
~Hearing women in the family being dissatisfied with their body.
My religious upbringing excluded women and girls from participating in many religious functions, my father would not take me with him to synagogue because I was a girl, but he would take my brothers, at school girls were told not to sing in front of men because our voices will lead them to temptation.
While I had no personal history of physical or sexual abuse, many girls do, adding an additional layer of deep hurt about their female selves.
The very air we breath in our culture is saturated with messages about our femaleness.
Those messages are all around us. They are on TV, in magazines, on the internet, in advertising. Every industry is blasting these messages at us; the beauty industry, the fashion industry, the plastic surgery industry, the health industry, the diet industry, the food industry. Those messages tell us in many different ways that we are not enough. That we need to be fixed. That their product will fix us and make us complete. Only it never does and we keep looking for the next product.
As we internalize those messages they cut off any inherent delight and love we had towards our bodies and we start feeling that our bodies are disgusting, flawed, too big, too small, too short, too tall, we obsessed over body parts that don’t look “right”, we obsessed over signs of age, we just walk around in constant dissatisfaction.
Every time you look in the mirror and think a critical thought, every time you feel like you hate your thighs, or think your nose is ugly, or think your body looks fat, or feel like you wish you looked different in any way, you believe those messages and send your body a message of hate.
Our bodies thrive on love and shrivel up when we hate them.
A loved up thriving body is healthy, vibrant, energetic, functions well, sends you clear messages of what it needs to be at it’s healthiest.
A body that is being hated is tired, lethargic, sick, listless. If you don’t love your body it is hard to listen to it’s messages and give it what it needs to thrive.
Let’s stop the body hatred. Now.
I am not judging anybody’s choices, that will be another attack on who we are as women. There is nothing wrong with liking fashion or pink nail color. There’s nothing wrong with not. There is something very wrong with constantly feeling flawed. There is something terribly wrong with the lies we’re told. And there is something fundamentally wrong with feeling anything but sheer delight in our physical selves.
Our relationship with our body is in need of repair. A very powerful and healing step is writing a letter to your body. Write it from your heart. Look at and acknowledge all your feelings. Apologize to it. Recognize all the ways you appreciate it. Make a commitment to treat it better. Make a decision to start loving it. Now. Completely.
Here is a version of a letter to inspire you, it is based on my own as well as many clients experiences. After you read it, take some time and write your own.
I want to start by thanking you for being there for me from the moment I was conceived. For making sure my heart is always beating, my lungs are always breathing, my digestion is always working. For helping me function in so many ways, legs that walk, arms that perform endless tasks, eyes that see, ears that hear. You have always worked for me in the best possible way. Thank you.
Every baby is born with an inherent delight in their body. So was I. There was a time that I thought you are wonderful. And then I forgot and believed some misinformation about you.
I have spent many years thinking that you are ugly and fat. I have wasted so much time hating you and wishing you were different. I have fantasizes about getting plastic surgery. I have fantasizes about getting rid of parts of you. I have tried to control you, shame you, abuse you and treat you in horrible ways. I ignored your health needs, poured poisons and harmful foods into you and ignored the messages you sent me.
And yet, you always kept working for me. Forgiving, finding your way to health and sending me messages to remind me to love you.
I am so sorry.
I know I have a lot to learn and undo. I am willing to start loving you and treating you better. I promise to listen to your messages. I might not always do the most loving thing but I vow to try. Every day, I will find ways to take care of you in a loving way.
Every day I will give you nourishing and healthy foods.
Every day I will drink plenty of water.
Every day I will make sure you get enough sleep.
Every day I will move in some way by doing yoga, walking, dancing.
Every day I will send you a loving message by telling you how good and beautiful you are.
There may be times when I forget and still go back to a behavior that is harmful for you by eating unhealthy foods, by overeating, by being too sedentary, by forgetting your needs. I promise to “catch myself” as soon as I can and continue my journey of health. I know I will not be perfect. But I will do the best I can.
I also promise to not be hard on myself because that never works. Just like you have been forgiving and loving towards me, I will be forgiving and loving towards myself.
I am looking forward to a long and healthy life together.
Now it’s your turn. Write a letter in your own words, reflecting your own experiences, committing to changes you are ready to commit to. Every little thing you do towards taking care of your body goes a long way. Your body has a miraculous ability to heal and function in amazing ways. All it needs is a little help from you and a lot of love.