I Love You And I Like You: The Ebbs And Flows Of Body Image
Quick poll: who has ever been frustrated with someone they love?
Think about your lasting, enduring relationships. They can be with friends, family members, or significant others. There are definitely times you don’t like them, like what they have to say, or like what they’re doing. That’s life.
With vulnerability and intimacy comes the universal truth that we don’t always like what we see. Because that’s what a real relationship does: it creates a safe space to explore what we like and don’t like so we can learn more about ourselves and move forward on our own journey.
So why should it be ANY different with our bodies?
Yeah, the ideal is to love it and like it. But as with the nature of any relationship, that’s not always the case.
What holds us back from true body love – and, therefore, self-love – is this idea that we are supposed to LIKE our body 100% of the time.
But chances are, if you’re a living, breathing human being, that’s just not going to be the case. Like, ever.
What ends up happening is that we confuse LIKING our body with LOVING our body, insinuating that what we don’t LIKE in the moment must be an indication that we don’t LOVE ourselves fully and completely.
Since the word “love,” like the h-word and the f-word, is an emotionally heavy word, it’s what both the media and everyday people use the most often. It’s easy to cling onto. It’s easy to empathize with. There’s a lot more tied to the word love, so it’s become our natural default – making us all believe that we can only love or loathe ourselves. The “love” language we use toward our bodies basically assumes the role of “like” language as well.
In reality, it’s so much more complex than that. To say we like or don’t “like” something usually begs for more justification, especially if you’re a solution-oriented person (like you probably are if you’re reading this). It requires us to actually think and hone in instead of rest on a general feeling/emotion. “Like” has more nuance to it. What do you like or not like? Why “like” and not “love?” If you don’t like something, then what do you like?
Real talk: I don’t like my body all day, every day. Let me tell you, when I’m in the first 24 hours of my period and it feels like my whole lower half has started its own Fight Club, I do not like the way my body feels. When I’ve had a few too many drinks or a little too much processed food and my organs are responding with superpowered inflammation, I do not like the way my body looks. When I haven’t exercised or done yoga in a while and it would basically take an act of god to get me to even touch my toes, I definitely don’t like the way my body moves around in space.
But none of that – NONE of that – speaks to how I really feel about my body. I love my body despite those things, and I love my body for those things. I love my body for telling me what’s up, for waking me up to parts of myself that need some TLC. Sure we fight sometimes, but my body and I know how to fight fair. We know how to keep respect at the core, use “I feel” instead of “You are” turns of phrase, and we are always, always solution-oriented.
It’s highly unrealistic for us to think we can mantra our way to 24/7 body “like.” Love, maybe. But the idea that disliking our body every now and again is a sin is utter bs. It’s shoving issues under the rug. It’s igorning things that need to be discussed. And if you’ve ever been in a relationship where issues are pushed aside and things are ignored…you KNOW that leads to nowhere good.
When you’re trying to express how you feel on a bad body day, put “like” and “right now” back into your vocabulary. Instead of using the h-word, confront your body on what’s coming up for you in the moment. Play fair, play respectfully, and play to find solutions. Play by reminding your body you love it unconditionally, but right now it’s a little hard to like it.
Seems like such a small, inconsequential shift, but it really makes the world of a difference. Because what “I don’t like when/how you [fill in blank] right now” does is separate WHO your body inherently is from HOW your body is choosing to respond to a given situation in the moment. The love is there. The love will always be there. But right now, it’s a little rough to get on the same page with that one glorious body you love.
There’s a lot of buzz around the body-positive movement right now, which is phenomenal and something I am so proud to (hopefully) be contributing to. Yet if we only focus on the black-and-whites of love and loathing, we’re missing a whole gray scale in the middle that is desperately seeking attention. Because no matter how deep you have to dig and how without basis it seems on the surface, we never dislike something “just because.” Politics, people, parts of ourselves. Maybe it’s because of deep-seated beliefs or temporary sensations. Maybe it’s because it triggers something unrelated. Or maybe, it’s just because we know we can do better. We never dislike without good reason, whether we want to admit it or not.
Recognizing what you love and what you’re fighting for is the first step toward any real, lasting change. And part of that means pinpointing those small-but-sometimes-huge things that can be better. It’s all in the language you use: Hate breeds hate, fear breeds fear. The sometimes becomes the always, and the reactions become deafening battle cries. But working on those things you don’t like in the midst of unconditional love is the essence of being proactive, not reactive. You’re fighting for what you ultimately love, not against what you temporarily loathe.
It’s okay to not like everything all the time. I’d even go so far as to say it’s healthy to not like everything all the time. Because even though things sometimes get rough and we don’t agree all the time, our body always wants to kiss and make up. It always wants you to listen. We just can’t be too stubborn to shut it out.
Do you relate? Do you find yourself saying the dreaded h-word when what you really mean is you don’t “like X right now?” Tell me below. What’s something you can “fight fair” with your body on next time you’re feeling less-than-stellar? Or on the flipside, what do you love AND like about your body today, in this very second?
photo credit: Vulture