NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
Those of us who grapple with body image issues tend to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on our physical imperfections and lamenting all the things we feel are wrong or missing. We are often so keenly attuned to the perceived negatives of our physical being that we completely lose sight of the many positive aspects inherent in having a body.
An Exercise on Gratitude
Today, I completed exercise #3 from “200 Ways to Love the Body You Have.” This exercise, simply titled “Gratitude,” challenges us to list all of the ways our bodies serve us, those things we wouldn’t be able to experience if we didn’t have a body. Surprisingly, I had no trouble at all creating my list and within a short fifteen minutes, I had listed 25 blessings for which I feel gratitude toward my body.
My list mostly encompasses the many joys of experiencing life through the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Below is a sampling from my list of “body gratitudes.”
I Am Grateful To My Body For:
- Looking into the kind and loving eyes of my husband.
- Seeing all of the beauty in nature – a sunset, the ocean, flowers, animals, mountains, the sky, etc.
- Going on long walks along the water with my husband near where we live.
- Hearing beautiful music of all types and to fit my various moods.
- Feeling the warm sun on my face on a bright summer’s day.
- Smelling the salty aroma of the fresh ocean air.
- Tasting all of my favorite foods: frozen yogurt, salad, pizza, popcorn, etc.
- Reading books, magazines, emails, blogs, web forums, internet stories, etc.
- Feeling my own strength while working out.
- Typing on my keyboard and using my mouse to write, send emails, and surf the internet.
- Smiling and laughing with friends, at my cats’ funny antics, while watching episodes of “Seinfeld,” etc.
- The love and warmth of hugs, kisses, and touches.
The list could go on and on… In truth, our bodies carry us through life and are the vehicle through which we experience all of the many pleasures that are available to us. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact when we are looking at our bodies through the punishing filter of our unrealistic size and shape expectations. This simple exercise powerfully illustrates, however, that there is so much more to our bodies than what they look like!
Thank You to My Body!
In the present moment (which is where true power always resides…), I am in awe of all of the many blessings for which I have my wondrous and magical body to thank. I am abundantly grateful that my body has resiliently endured despite the debilitating abuse which I have wreaked upon it over the course of my life.
For many years, I was focused so completely on the exterior appearance of my body that I lost sight of its miraculous functions. I allowed what I viewed as imperfections to completely color my view of my body as a whole.
Vision For the Future
Although I cannot guarantee that I won’t continue to experience challenges in the way I view my body, completing this exercise has allowed me to start to shift my perspective. Every time I reflect on the function of my body instead of merely its form, I escape a bit from my self-imposed prison of body hatred. Each moment in which I am grateful to my body for the gifts it offers, allows me to experience a shred of freedom.
These moments of escape and freedom can compound to create a happier and more peaceful experience for me – and for all of us. Now that is an empowering vision that I can wrap my arms around!
In order to stay present to the powerful lessons which I learned today, I plan to revisit this exercise and my answers. I will also continue to work through the exercises in “200 Ways to Love the Body You Have” and other resources as I continue my “body image rehab.”
I will close with a passage from “Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth (if you have not yet read this book, I highly recommend it!):
No matter how much you loathe yourself or believe life would be better if your thighs were thinner or your hips were narrower or your eyes were wider apart, your essence – that which makes you you – needs the body to articulate its vision, its needs, its love. Inhaling your child’s baby-powder perfume requires flesh, nose, senses. Presence, enlightenment, insight are only possible because there is a body in which they unfold.