Musings on Body Insecurity (as a Disabled Woman) + a Letter Thanking my Body

No matter how many “self-improvement” products are created, marketed, and sold, we still have plenty to feel self-conscious about–our bodies, our skin, our hair, all that fun stuff. So many skincare products, hygiene products, hair products, makeup products…so many diets, weight loss supplements, specially made foods…even dime-a-dozen gyms that feel like the fitness version of drive-thrus (looking at you, Planet Fitness)… Despite it all, we peruse Instagram and watch TV commercials that bombard us with Facetune, Photoshop, etc. and instantly remember our flaws.

As a human being and especially a woman, I relate to feelings of inferiority born from comparison. I shell out big bucks for indulgent skincare products and usually feel self-assured in my not-perfect-but-relatively-clear face. Then, I see a beautiful girl upload a selfie with glowing skin…AND perfectly striking eyebrows…AND long, voluminous eyelashes…AND AND AND. I’m reminded that, despite my nice skin, I’m not as fabulous as “the other girls” on several fronts. I exercise regularly and stay pretty toned, but since God blessed me with a short torso and long legs, having some amount of belly is basically inevitable. Still, I put in the work to earn my body confidence. Then, I scroll social media and see a girl wearing a bikini whose abs are flat as a board; the insecurity creeps up again.

We all have those attributes we nit-pick about ourselves.

As a person with a disability–particularly a progressive one–these feelings take on more facets. Maybe I have some power over how my face and stomach look, but how about when I see a girl standing in a fun, flattering pose for the camera? I cannot change my inability to stand unassisted. Fixating on this would drive me crazy, and I’ve watched as the inevitability of it all sent FA’ers into a spiral of self-loathing. Thank God, those thoughts don’t drag me down most days; I pray for inner and outer strength and simply do what I can (at the least, stay in shape). However, even that is complicated by progression. Yes, I’ve basically come to accept myself and focus on what I can control…but the “what” in that equation keeps changing. Year after year, some abilities quietly slip away (like my ability to walk without my left ankle turning) while others increase in difficulty. Working out, along with everything else (like getting out of bed and getting dressed), takes longer now because my limbs seem to be set on “slow motion.”

With all of society’s influences, typical human insecurities, and my personal struggles circling around my head, I just feel exasperated some days. Though many of you reading this hopefully don’t share my struggles, I’m sure you have also felt negatively towards your body for your own health issues, stubborn areas of fat that won’t go away, a body part that doesn’t work quite right, some perceived imperfection like a crooked nose or lazy eye, etc.

As I worked out at home the day before writing this, I felt frustrated as per usual. As I tried to move and complete the exercises, I felt like I was wading through molasses. I don’t know why (perhaps the result of people praying for me?), but I had a surprising epiphany in the midst of it…

What if I gave my body grace, appreciating what it can do, working patiently with it on the hard things?

I’m going to try and take a different, kinder approach to myself from now on (emphasis on “try,” as patience and gentleness are not virtues that comes easily). With abilities, appearances, and everything in between, we need to give ourselves more grace. We can spend so much time wishing our bodies were somehow better that we forget how much they do for us. To remind myself of these things, I’m writing a letter to my body. I encourage you to think of the good things your body does for you!

Dear Body,

Thanks for waking up and keeping me alive every day. I know combating this progressive disease is hard on you, so let’s make a pact: I’ll be good to you if you’ll work as hard as you can for me. I understand that dynamic will change with time, and you won’t always be able to do what you can now. I’ll be forgiving; just don’t give up fighting.

To my eyes, thank you for allowing me to read books, appreciate the beauty of creation, and see the faces of my loved ones. To my ears, thank you for enabling me to hear music, chirping birds, and the sound of ocean tides rolling into shore. To my nose, thank you for enabling me to smell pizza, pie, and that “just rained outside” aroma. To my tongue, thank you for enabling me to teach classes, preach sermons, and lick ice cream cones. To my brain, thank you for enabling me to appreciate the intellectual and the spiritual. Shout-out to my other inner organs for doing your thing–you’re the unsung heroes. Lastly, to my hands, arms, feet, and legs–well, you tend not to do what I tell you, but thank you for all the little things from typing this letter to stepping in the shower.

Love, Lily

Thanks for reading! Are you critical of yourself and your body? What are you thankful to your body for? Let me know in the comments.

35 comments

  1. Hey Lily,

    I’m actually overwhelmed by the almost tear-jerking beauty of this post. I loved reading it so much. Sorry if that sounds too gushing, maybe it’s because I’ve been feeling low, but it’s true. I love your approach and (though maybe not to the same extent) guys struggle with all of these kinds of thoughts as well. We look in the mirror and hate the way we look sometimes (or I certainly do).

    It’s one of the negatives of capitalism that we’re constantly made to feel afraid, guilty, and self-conscious, so I salute you for taking such a positive approach to dealing with the marketing onslaught!

    Brilliant post! ❤️

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Hey Steven, thanks so much for your kind words! It makes me so happy when someone is touched by something I write. We are pressured to feel “less than” so we will strive harder to find whatever will make us “enough.” We have so much compared to others in the world, but if we had a mindset of gratitude, money would quit ruling our lives–a big no-no in the first world today. I’m trying to stop feeding into this cycle.
      Glad you found this relatable! 🙂 ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely suffer with the comparison game too. While most guys don’t care, I do notice that I’m much shorter, not as ruggedly handsome, and as strong as other guys my age. Unfortunately as I focus on this I get way into my feelings and struggle with feelings of self-loathing. I know I should and can focus on inner qualities but society and particularly social media isn’t geared for the internal. If I could cut back on social media, I’m sure it would help but it has become addictive and can give us the attention and affection we feel is lacking.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your input, Ryan. Your last two sentences are so true and even profound. Social media focuses on approval for the external and gives us attention and affection we crave/lack. I think it’s put many of us in an unhealthy cycle of vying for virtual validation (yay, alliteration!) instead of working on our interior selves and seeking real-life connections.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I definitely struggle with this too. Physically related to my body and also my age as I have entered my mid-30s, chronic pain now for over ten years which thankfully isn’t as bad most of the time as it used to be, and for the last 5 years, a new struggle to write with a pen at all. Awful predicament for someone who loves to write.

    What is hardest for me is watching others even younger than I who are so productive and successful, while I carefully manage my time and the energy I do have between a job and things at home, blogging and music—sometimes being unable to do all of the latter things much at all even though they bring such joy when I can. It’s a challenge not to compare or covet the seeming ease others have.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh no, I hate to hear that about writing with a pen! I know exactly what you mean about comparing or coveting the ease others seem to have. All I can do is try to be patient and feel grateful for my blessings. Thanks for sharing your input, Amanda.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Lily LOVE this blog as a straight man with cerebral palsy. It is so difficult to feel attractive or feel good in my body. I hope you don’t mind but I want to use some of these ideas in my own blog.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Precious girl, I think you’re beautiful inside and out and second Steven’s comment about “tear-jerking beauty” of this post. I too struggle with body image as I’m too weak to exercise at all and the pounds have piled on my short self. But like you, I am a fighter and we carry on with trying to persevere with bodies that seem to work against us. I do believe we will make it! We are strong. 👍❤🤗
    I’m praying for you and I’m so thankful for this post! 🤗🙋‍♀️❤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hey, friend. Long time no comment, but here I am again. Ready to catch up on you and your fabulous writing.

    Girl. My body and I have a complicated history. Mostly with weight gain and loss and my frustrations as I get older about how to best care for my individual body.

    I started wearing a FitBit almost 9 weeks ago and, I have to say, this is the best investment I’ve made for myself in a long time. The sleep tracker alone has been an eye opener about how to improve my rest, which always makes me feel better about my entire being.

    Deep breathing exercises. Tracking my exercise and hours spent active – these things are helping me immensly.

    I have weight to lose, but for the first time, I haven’t stepped on a scale for motivation or tracking. I’ll be going to the doctor every month for a while for some new hormone treatments and I’m allowing that to be enough monitoring of my weight.

    The rest of the time, like you, I am focusing on being thankful for what my body already does for me, what it CAN do, and how blessed I am to be in it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yayyy, I’m so glad to see you back around the blogosphere. You’ve piqued my curiosity about FitBit, so I’ll have to see what all it does (I had assumed from the name that it was a daily steps counter). Keeping better tracks of things like sleep and physical activity sounds like it would be so helpful in assessing what improvements to make in one’s lifestyle. I’m glad you are getting to a better place with self-care and not stressing over a number on the scale. Thanks for your input, Allison! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this. We truly forget how much our body does for us. Regardless of the “scale of imperfection” we may place ourselves on.
    I believe when we remind ourselves that we are beautifully and wonderfully made; in His image we are reminded that we are who He calls us – Good regardless. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Lily, I know I haven’t responded in a while! I’ve missed seeing your smiling face on Sunday mornings! We all have areas we don’t like about our bodies! I am not going to go into that now, for sure I have room for improvement!lol I am Thankful that my body allows me to be able to do all I have to do to take care of Roy and myself. As you know he isn’t able to help out much, I’m thankful he can and does take our plates to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher after our meals. He does what he can, the tempertures do not allow him to be out he can’t breath. Sometimes my body tells me it’s time for a rest! Well that isn’t always possible, Last weekend my back gave me a fit! I rested Saturday on an ice pack as much as possible, but I still had to fix our meals and do outside things. I know without a doubt God is with us every day! Thank God for being with us. Thank you for your post I enjoyed reading it as always. I have always thought you are a Beautiful girl, young lady, woman and you atill are. Not just on the outside but inside as well! Take care and know you are in my prayers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deb, it is so great to hear an update on you and Roy. I know you both have struggles, but I’m joyful you are doing so well. God is good! There are always things to be thankful for. I love you both and hope we can be together again soon.

      Like

  9. Wow, Lily! I loved reading your letter to your body and how you approached it in a different way. We can focus on all the things that we cannot control or try our best to focus on the things we can control. I have been learning that as well! The little things that our bodies do for us are huge blessings and we tend to take them for granted until it’s taken away from us.💗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Kylie. I know you relate to being frustrated with your body due to your health struggles in the last year. I’m glad that you are keeping a positive attitude. There are always things to be thankful for! ♥♥ Wishing you the best in this crazy time since you are training to be a teacher!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I absolutely love this post. It’s so empowering and thought provoking and beautifully written. I know I definitely have insecurities about aspects of my body that others may not even notice or some might quite like but after reading this post I’m going to try at least once a day to be thankful for the fact that 90% of my body does work the way it’s supposed to and remind myself of that.
    Thank you for this very straightforward and inspiring post. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Your three adjective choices are the best compliments I could get on a post like this. ♥♥♥ I’m so joyful this post could inspire you to be thankful for the parts of your body that do work properly. 🙂

      Like

  11. I enjoyed reading your take on “Body Musings.” I struggle with self-conscious thoughts as well. I do try to remind myself of some aspects of life such as hearing and sight (Helen Keller) as you mentioned in your letter. It’s kind of old, but have you seen the My Perfect Imperfections Tag floating around Youtube? It was really popular a few years ago. If not, you should look at some if this interests you or whenever you’re feeling a little self-conscious. There’s even a model that feels she has imperfections! And, keep in mind, the most aesthetically beautiful person can be extremely ugly due to his/her inner beauty (pretentious vs compassionate, selfish vs kind, etc.).

    Like

  12. Ahhh Lily!! Love the ending to this post❤️and the desire to give yourself grace, focusing on the positives!
    I, too, get down on self image (insecure over my 4’10” stature) but I’m finding that as I “grow” more mentally and spiritually healthy I don’t even focus on the physical aspect.
    Love your inspirational post❤️keep shining!!

    Like

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