When we talk about loving our bodies, the conversation usually begins and ends with image — our curves and pockets and pouches. That’s not surprising, given that weight, shape, and height are the pieces of us that other people can see, comment on, chastise. It’s what’s reflected in and controlled by the media, it’s what we’re told is important; it’s what’s okay to obsess over because there’s no denying your appearance exists and has to be acknowledged.
But man, our bodies are so much more than surface area and image. There’s a lot more of us to accept and love than what’s happening on the outside. You’ll know this the first time your body does something “wrong,” the first time it gives you a responsibility you didn’t sign up for: whether that’s asthma or cancer or diabetes, you will become acutely aware that your body isn’t just a shell that exists in pursuit of outer beauty.
And this is why we need to love our bodies more — because when that happens, when you’re thrown a curveball (whether this curveball disables you physically or alters the way society views and treats you — or both) there are two ways to react. The first way is unavoidable — you’ll initially feel betrayed. Your body is broken armor, a burden that cannot be lifted, a trap. And this is a terrible way to feel — that your own body is working against you — because technically, you are trapped. You do not get another body when the first one fails you. For better or worse, you’re in it together for the long haul.
But after that, you can try your best to love your body. Even when your body surprises you with something you weren’t prepared for, remember that your body is amazing. There are more living organisms on the skin of a human being than there are humans on earth. The surface area of a lung is equal to a tennis court. Your aorta is almost the diameter of a garden hose, and it takes ten capillaries to equal one strand of human hair. When your body deviates from the plan, when all you want is to control it, remember all of the pulleys and levers and systems formed within you that you have no idea about, remember if keeping yourself alive were something you actually had to control, you’d have no idea where to begin. The fact that you are alive and existing is a f-cking miracle.
Loving your body is about so much more than loving what you look like naked. It’s about accepting what’s already happened to it and laying a healthy foundation for yourself so that you might cope better with what’s handed to you in the future. If you haven’t yet had the experience of leaving a doctor’s office with your resolve ripped to shreds, count yourself lucky and take some time to think about how anomalous it is that you’ve come this far sans permanent damage. And if you have? Well you know that anger, fear, and depression are part of the deal, but also that your body — autonomous enigma that it is — is going to do what it’s going to do, and you can either focus on the handful of things it’s done wrong, or the millions of tiny things it’s doing right, like allowing you to digest these words and form a reaction to them.
Healthy or not, loving your body is an absolute necessary step toward loving yourself and if you’re lucky, loving someone else. You will never meet a more stubborn, unpredictable, complex, elusive, beautiful mate as your body — once you love it, you can love anything.