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!
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.
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.