As I was laying on my yoga mat this morning, experiencing a breathwork and healing session, I put my hands on my belly.
Not just on my belly, but like, under my sweatshirt on my skin. I actually put my hands on my belly. Granted, my hands were cold, and I was trying to warm them.
But when this skin-on-skin sensation happened, I actually felt a tingle. My skin was actually responding to the touch of my own fingers. Wow, I just realized this sounds like the opening of a bit of softcore porn, but that’s not actually where my mind was headed with this share.
I started to realize how little we actually touch our bodies in loving, nonsexual ways. Besides rubbing your hands together, brushing something off your face, or scratching an itch, when was the last time you had skin-on-skin contact with yourself?
Even when we need lotion, we rush the experience. We slather it on quickly in mechanical motions to just get it over with.
Your body craves contact
Your body craves human touch. However, we are shamed by society into hating our bodies, so we hide them. We cover them with bulky clothes, we shy away from others’ contact, we learn to loathe our thighs, bellies, and arms. We live our lives in dim lighting, avoiding eye contact with the figure in the mirror.
Society tells us that to love our body when it has fat is disgusting, and a misplaced ego trip…that we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Why do we hate ourselves for not looking like the models in a magazine?
Why do we have this expectation that all human bodies should look alike?
We are not all made up of the same genetic code, and we are not all of the same nationality, race, or body type. But yet, we have this expectation for ourselves that in order for someone to love us, be it another person or society as a whole, we must conform to one specific ideal.
In order to love ourselves, we should be flawless.
Reimagining Body Love
Well, this whole concept is ridiculous. And it’s mind-boggling when you stop and think about it.
How conditioned we have all become to one standard of beauty. My ancestors were Northern/Western European. We were early settlers. Women were built stocky with extra layers to survive tough seasons, to work hard to provide for our family. We were hunters and gatherers, we held onto calories in case of a drought or famine.
Why in the world would I ever expect to be skinny and tall and lanky? It’s not in my genetics. I am never going to be in the same category as a woman with an African tribal genetic makeup, a Mediterranean heritage, Native American genes, or Asian background.
It’s insane that western media has told me—told us—that we can only be beautiful if we are thin, and blonde, and pale, and our breasts are perky, and our limbs are lanky.
Well, we all fell for it. We learned to critique ourselves, and we were taught to be ashamed of ourselves.
We were told that fat is a sign of laziness, not a sign of fantastic childbearing and heartiness of health. Would you ever look at another woman and say to her the things you say to yourself in the mirror?
So, we stopped touching our thighs, because ew, there’s fat there (even though there is supposed to be fat there, and it is natural and normal to have a layer of fat on your body).
We stopped touching our hips and being proud of them, for bearing our children and supporting our movement.
We hate our stretch marks, even though the reason for them—those smiling little cherub faces looking up at us—are the most fantastic reason in the world for stretch marks.
Actually, if you really think about it, why aren’t we flaunting our stretch marks for the world to see in one big declaration of “Look what my body did!”
A Return to Acceptance
I long for a return to a culture that values a little extra padding as a sign of a life well-lived. Of a life of abundance and love. A sign of childbearing and fertility.
And how can we get back to that?
Our body is merely a vessel that contains our spirit, our soul, our divine being.
It should be honored, it should be adored, it should be revered with the wonder that it is. It is a gift from the creator, from the universe, and it is quite honestly, pretty badass the way it all works.
We should start with ourselves. Learning to love ourselves exactly as we are today.
To be able to run your fingers across your belly and be happy to feel that contact—that gentle loving contact.
Mindsets should be shifted to just accept that this is how your body is, how it looks, how it protects your organs, your vitality, and your soul.
And learn to love yourself exactly as you are. That fat is not a curtain of shame—it’s a badge of honor for all you have accomplished and experienced, it’s a showing of your human-ness and of life itself.
Each and every body is a celebration of our differences.
Body Love in Action
I am reminded of my first trip to Bali, in 2017 when I challenged myself to wear a bikini in public. As I was packing, giddy with excitement, I set my goal to actually step out with my belly out. The day came, and I stood there, pacing in my room, having a debate between my mirror, the bikini laid out on my bed, and how I felt about my body.
I was totally alone, far from home, for the very first time, and now, what was I thinking, trying to be so brave. I had been so sure I could do this, I was a strong and powerful woman, it was a foreign country where I knew no one, and yet, the moment came, and it was terrifying. However, I had already come this far, so I walked out onto the beach, sand between my toes, and I took a deep breath. And off came the cover-up.
And no one cared. No one gave me a second glance. It was all in my head, all the worries and fears about what other people thought of me, it turns out it didn’t matter. To everyone else, I wasn’t brave and strong and powerful, I was just another woman on the beach, wearing a swimsuit.
The reality in my brain was way more difficult than what reality turned out to be. Maybe everything society taught us about ourselves, only resides within ourselves. It seems so obvious, the ego is so huge, and we let it stop us from living the fullest, most enriched life possible.
But perhaps it is time. It is time to ditch society’s obnoxious lessons that damage our psyche, time to hold ourselves accountable for releasing the negative thoughts, apologize to ourselves, and begin the healing process toward a truer, deeper, more freeing level of love for our bodies. I will be doing my part for myself, and encouraging those in my zone of influence to start the healing process. I hope each reader will find the courage to do the same.
A Brief Exercise in Celebration
Put your hand on your belly. Yes, your whole hand, fingers, and palms—all of it.
Directly on your skin, nothing standing between you and the love. Now, run that whole hand in a clockwise circle around your belly button. Give yourself a good rub, feel it all, this is all you, and you are okay just how you are.
Say it out: “This is amazing, I am amazing.” Say it again, with feeling, like you mean it.
And then start to mean it.
You are amazing, your body is amazing, you are pure love, you deserve pure love, you are worthy of pure love.
Then maybe next time you will be brave enough to do this with your thighs (maybe even your inner thighs!), you know, that part that is all mushy and gushy and soft and flabby.
Maybe even dare to feel the dimples in your fantastic booty with your bare hands.
Maybe even declare that you have a fantastic booty, because mostly it’s fantastic because of all that extra cushion, with all those amazing dimples.
It’s time to buck our societal damages, and do this for ourselves!