The Tough Work of Loving Your Body

The Tough Work of Loving Your Body May 16, 2017

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to liken self-acceptance to a yoga or mindfulness practice: it takes daily work, and it IS work, but it’s rewarding.

Photo in public domain (from Pixabay).
Photo in public domain (from Pixabay).

Bodies are weird. I say this when I’m teaching dance, or sexuality topics, or academic body studies topics. We’re stuck with our bodies, and we have to coexist with them, but that’s often more work for those of us on the feminine end of the spectrum facing tons of conditioning to loathe our bodies if they’re not perfect.

Sex educator Elle Chase has a great post breaking down five steps to radically accepting your body. Many of these steps involve introspection and being as kind to oneself as one can in the moment, both of which are techniques I try to employ on a daily basis. I use these techniques both for body acceptance and for anxiety reduction, since I often feel like I should be working, even when I’ve already accomplished a lot in a given day.

I’ve written a bit about my own body image struggles, such as how wearing certain kinds of outfits helps me feel better about my body. To some degree, this is a normal body art practice; the self is the first audience, and we generally want to wear what makes us feel/look good.

But when feeling or looking good feels out of our reach, because the internalized body-negativity or sex-negativity is too much, Chase recommends starting with a neutral technique, a removal of shame rather than a surge of love that might feel out of reach:

Accepting our “unloveable” parts is a dynamic assertion, and in those moments where we find ourselves challenged by our inner demons, negative thoughts, self-hatred and old tapes, self-compassion is the only healthy way out.

Self-compassion is tough, and I know I need more practice applying it to myself whether in workaholic moments or body-negative moments. Sometimes I hear people poo-poo mindfulness techniques, but it helps to remind myself that it’s a practice. And anything we need to practice – like yoga, or balance, or dance, or critical thinking skills – feels clumsy initially, before it becomes second-nature. That’s why it’s called having a yoga practice or a dance practice; nobody’s good at it at first!

So, even though starting a positive self-talk practice might feel awkward initially, I think it can be really helpful. That’s why I wanted to share Chase’s points in her blog post, in case they’re a useful leaping-off point for anyone. And I’m always looking for more tools to add to my teaching skill set, especially since I focus on teaching dance in a shame-free way. Make no mistake, this is work, but I think it’s worthwhile work, which is why I make it a priority to share these ideas.

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