If your body works, it is beautiful.
I am pretty sure this is a fairly obvious point, but I still feel the need to reiterate it. Your body is made to sustain life and consciousness. If it is doing that fairly well, you should consider it the most beautiful thing in the world. Because sometimes, for some people, their body doesn’t work. And when that happens, all you want is for your body to work again. To feel better. To let you live life. Maybe not a perfect or great life. Maybe not the absolute best life you could live with a 100% perfectly functioning body. But a life anyway.
Ask anyone who has been through a serious illness that threatened their life, or seriously limited their functionality. After you go through something like that, judging the external beauty of your body seems almost completely ludicrous. It’s not that you don’t do it. It’s completely programmed into our culture to judge the external beauty of women’s bodies in particular. So you notice and judge sometimes. But even as your brain automatically judges, you also note how ridiculous that is.
I can be walking through the grocery store and see a magazine with a celebrity in a bikini, and a headline about how great/horrible the person looks, and almost start laughing out loud about the stupidity of it. I’ll think, for half a second, “shit, I need to lose weight,” and then just laugh and think, “5 years ago I couldn’t work a full day. Why the hell would I worry about my weight for any reason other than my health?”
Girl culture makes this really hard. The longer I have been mostly well, the easier it is to worry about these things again. This is particularly true because external changes are easier for others to see and comment on. And other girls note and comment positively on changes in physical appearance frequently, reinforcing the standard.
I understand this, and that most mean no harm whatsoever, but I still find myself being somewhat offended by it. I have made some monumental physical changes in recent years: I made a myriad of lifestyle changes over a twelve year period that were incredibly hard, harder than you could ever imagine, that have allowed me to go from bed-ridden and completely non-functional, to running my own law firm and living an almost normal life. I also lost 50 pounds. Which do you think I get more congratulations for? Worse yet, which do you think I got more offers of help for? Even from people who know quite a bit about the length and seriousness of my illness. I appreciate the congrats on my weight to an extent, but a part of me thinks, “well, bfd.” It was hard, but not anywhere near as hard as being sick.
This isn’t at all (well, usually) a reflection on those individual people. They are usually being very sweet and trying to support me. They are just reflecting the values of our current culture. Now I am trying to support other women, and men, who live in a beauty-obsessed culture by asking you all to consider a perspective change: If your body works, it is beautiful. Period. You can whine and complain about your minor imperfections – we all do. Just try to remember that to someone whose body hasn’t always worked very well, you sound spoiled. I sound spoiled to my own ears when I do it, and I think that’s a really, really good thing.