When we take ourselves seriously,
we accept the responsibility
of knowing and loving our body.
Has anyone ever told you not to take yourself so seriously?
The message behind, “Don’t take yourself so seriously,” is that you need to lighten up. Sometimes it’s true, and sometimes it’s not.
When it comes to your relationship with your body, taking yourself seriously is exactly what you are invited to do in today’s reflection. Taking yourself seriously in its highest expression means that you know and love your body.
For the overwhelming majority of women, knowing and loving the body is unfamiliar terrain — a road less traveled.
In To Receive Is To Grow, I talked about how Western culture has a split personality when it comes to the female body. This split creates what seems to be an irreconcilable tension between the glorification and the debasement of the female body, that exists in both women and men.
How are we to know and love our bodies when we are taught through images, impressions, and unspoken rules that we must do everything in our power to make ourselves perfect — an impossible task for mere mortal, flesh and blood women?
When you truly value yourself, you take responsibility for knowing and loving your body.
Physical pain, injury, eating disorders, emotional pain that becomes expressed through the body, and sexual problems are all invitations to knowing and loving the body. Here are some common, and dysfunctional, ways women respond to these invitations:
- Denial. We ignore the pain and pretend like it’s not happening.
- Numbing. We reach for something that will stop the pain NOW. There are many options for numbing — addictions of all kinds, including compulsive “serving” in the name of helping others.
- Outsourcing, or handing over the care of the body to another. In outsourcing, we are aware on some level that we need to tend to the body, but we treat the body as an object that we present to a professional or even a lover, in the same way we would take our car to a mechanic. There is nothing wrong with body work, healthcare, doctors, or medicine, but when we take a passive role in knowing and nurturing the body, we have — on some level — abandoned ourselves.
Accepting responsibility for knowing and loving the body means going inside, becoming acquainted with the body in a deep, intimate way. Knowing our body intimately is the only way we can nurture and love it.
What truly nourishes the body, nourishes the soul.
When you think of a woman you love very much — your daughter, sister, mother, aunt, or friend — what would you think if she treated her body the way you treat your body? Your answer to this question is a wonderful source of information and direction.
Here are a few examples of what it means to know and love the body:
- You have a beginning understanding of the primary parts of your body and the way they work.
- You know what your body needs on a daily basis for nurturing: sleep, nutrition, basic self-care, how your body likes to move (aka exercise), and you respond according to its needs most of the time.
- You are in touch with what pleases your 5 senses — sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch — and you take action to provide yourself these pleasures.
- You can sense into what your body is hungry for, including stillness, warmth, solitude, or quiet, and act on what you sense.
- You know how to protect your body from what is harmful, including what you consume with your eyes and ears, along with self-hating self-talk.
Invitations for reflection, exploration, and action:
- Ask, and answer as honestly as you can:
- Do I know my body?
- Do I know what nurtures my body and how it works?
- Do I know how my body likes to move?
- Do I know what causes my body to want to move toward an experience (expansion), or what causes it to want to pull back (contraction)?
- What do I need to do to more fully know my body? Do I need more information, or do I need to spend more time with my body, exploring and learning?
- What one, small action can I take in my daily life (less than 5 minutes) to nurture and love my body more?
- Ask, and answer as honestly as you can:
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer (2021)
Photo courtesy of Romi Burianova
Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body and Soul (©1998)
By Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick
(Reprinted with permission)
*This post is from the Coming Home to You Series. Visit this page for the backstory of the CHTY Series.