I recently saw a post on Facebook about an obese young woman taking revealing photographs of herself, with the words “Be beautiful” written on her body. I applaud her bravery, but I couldn’t help thinking, why does it require courage to think of ourselves as beautiful? Why does this seem like such a radical notion?
The reality is that we’re largely taught to look at ourselves critically. Facing our image in the mirror, we don’t think about what we like; we start listing the problems to be fixed. Thunder thighs, heavy underarms, cellulite, blotched skin, unsightly hair, chest too small (or too large) – the list is different for each person, but it can go on and on.
When I was heavy, I assumed that I’d be immune to this condemning approach once I lost weight. After all, isn’t thin the goal? Except it turns out that even those of us with an “acceptable” body weight and size often still feel that anguish of not being good enough, not being beautiful. The criticism in our heads doesn’t turn off when the scale hits a magic number.
It also seems like this is how we’re expected to be. It can almost become a competition, to say negative things about ourselves while assuring others that they look lovely. To break out of that pattern does require courage, to say to others and internally, “I like my body, and it’s beautiful.”
Yet this is the only way I’ve found to quiet those voices, by accepting my body as it is. This means ignoring what society tells me and instead acknowledging that this is me, this flesh and blood and bone, and it allows me to do and experience wonderful things.
When all you feel is ashamed and depressed by your body, though, accepting it is a challenge at best, impossible at the worst.
That’s why I’m daring you to consider what you find beautiful about your body. Maybe you want to start with small things – your eyes, perhaps, or your fingernails, your teeth or hair.
Or maybe approach it from another angle. For instance, recognize the beauty of your heart that keeps your blood pumping, or your ears for being able to hear music and laughter, or your lungs and diaphragm for enabling you to laugh.
Whatever your shape or size or ability, I hope that you take this challenge and find something of beauty in your body to celebrate, to cherish and remember in those harder moments. And please, dare to be beautiful!