As we sat at the table, my friends picked my body apart. They told me I used to be more “bootylicious”, that I was skinny that time I returned from that trip and that my mother compared me to a pin.
Not to mention that a few years back I was a bit chubbier but mostly in the face. I felt awkward. I was confused as to why my body was being picked apart. I was born a slim, lanky kid. I was never big and getting older, I just became a slender woman. I replied that I am always “bootylicious” (cause that’s what Beyonce taught me!), that when I put on weight it’s often just in my face…etc. I was basically coming up with explanations as to why my – always been slender – body was the way it was. I know none of them meant any harm by it. Still, in that moment, I was forced to criticize my body too and then to defend it. Later, it hit me: why did I owe an explanation to anyone for their idea of what my body should be?
Sometimes we forget our bodies belong to us. As women, we allow our bodies to be picked apart and scrutinized. From the people, closest to us to society at large, it seems everyone has a say on how our bodies should be. It’s funny how it’s not often analysed as a whole but in bits: your thighs, your arms, your stomach, your legs. Compliments often come in “you have great legs”, “I love your hair”, and the list of body parts go on. We forget that our bodies are the sum of us as whole human beings. A vehicle that carries our experiences, who we are and isn’t an empty shell.
My body represents my life. The experiences that formed and shaped it.
It tells the story of the time I fasted to be closer to God but then had to learn to regain my appetite and understand that maybe fasting wasn’t for me. It tells the story of the time I lived in one of my favourite cities on the planet. It was one of the happiest times in my life, so my cheeks grew bigger with every smile, with every laugh. It also tells the story of a time when I lived abroad and spent my days hiking, in the wild, at one with nature. That time I was the most athletic and survived on many fruits and delicious salads, acai bowls and the occasional chunky piece of meat. It was the time I finally accepted my athletic arms and embraced them. Yes, I lost weight but mostly because of how active and excited I was about life and discovering a new place. These are just a few things that influenced my body but essentially, I have a healthy diet and I love food. I have the type of body that allows me to eat whatever I want and it remains the same aside from minor fluctuations. That’s just how it works.
Today, I may be a bit stressed out and anxious about my future but I am also in love, optimistic, grateful and my body tells that story in its slender curves. See, our bodies are never just parts but a reflection of our lives, of our current experiences, the story of wholesome beings. It accompanies us through everything, shaping itself and adapting to our state of mind.
That’s where I find my body’s true beauty: in the knowledge that it never abandons me. It understands me, it reflects me. Suddenly, it hit me that I never have to defend that. I love it for always being true to me and most importantly for never abandoning the shape God chose to give it. As I remembered that conversation around the table, I wish I had stood up for my body more, defended it just as it defends and protects me all the time. I wish I had been truer to it.
So, I decided that I will always defend my body. I will always tell people how much I love it and that yes, it’s changed but it’s never given up on me. It’s always been true to my state of mind. My body is my one of my truest life companions and for that I will always, always love and take care of it.