Last week, I was looking online for the perfect photograph to use as a background on my computer. I found a shot of a lake surrounded by snow dusted mountains. The mountains were ragged and brown. The lake sat haphazardly at the bottom of the scene and dark clouds loomed over it, allowing only a few slivers of light to shimmer on the water. I wondered what made this picture seem so beautiful.
Nothing in the scene was painstaking. I mean, the snow didn’t worry about where it landed. The mountains didn’t discuss where they thought it would be best to rise out of the earth, and they didn’t agonize about the shape of their peaks. And the clouds didn’t care that they blocked out most of the sun. The photographer took the perfect photo, but what the camera captured was imperfection. And yes, these are inanimate objects, and I am, well, I’m human, but that landscape is proof to me that beauty in nature, including our bodies, is perfect in its imperfection.
I used to aspire to have the perfect body. I thought I could control exactly how it looked by going to the gym and following the latest diet. But no matter how hard I tried, it never looked the way I wanted. And the harder I worked to get it to fit my ideas of perfection, the more out of control I became. Like many women, this was one of my main thoughts day and night, and it led to bouts of depression, anxiety, bingeing and for some years, purging.
By the time I began my binge free journey a couple years ago, I had already been through body image therapy. I can remember how agonizing it was for me and all the women in the group to say even one nice thing about some part of our bodies. I was relieved when the course was over.
For a long time after that, I tried hard to love my body. But no matter how hard I tried, that did not happen. I couldn’t make myself love it, just like I couldn’t make myself love a person I didn’t respect. But once I began to nourish myself and not restrict foods, something in my psyche shifted and I decided it was time to respect my body.
I began by appreciating what it did for me. I started with things we take for granted, like -my lungs expand and contract allowing air to enter my body, my blood gets infused with oxygen, my heart beats and distributes that blood through my body, then my cells use the oxygen rich blood to nourish themselves. How amazing is that?! I don’t have to force my heart to beat and I don’t have to remind myself to breath, (well sometimes I hold my breath, but you get the gist, breathing is natural!)
I couldn’t make this process happen if I tried, its automatic. And the body does much more work at a deeper level. So much more that scientists don’t fully understand everything our body is capable of.
This awareness that my body functions pretty darn well without me having to tell it what to do, helped me to trust it to eat when I needed to. And once I ate with no guilt or shame, I became aware of true hunger cues. This took patience and practice, and it was imperfect. But it happened.
My body may have lumps and bumps, but it has kept me alive even when I tried to force it into someone else’s mold. It is imperfect perfection in its function and design and I appreciate every inch of it. It is the representation of me on this earth. And whether it is thin or fat or in between, I love it enough to present it to the world in the best way I can, but I respect it enough to allow it to look and function the way it was meant to. And most of all, I don’t worry about what other people think about it.
“I believe there is perfection in our flaws, grace in our missteps and beauty in everything that surrounds us. I am perfect in my humanness, no matter what it looks like.” MD