“What do you hate about your body?”
My Weight Watchers leader posed this question to our group at the opening of a recent meeting. A supportive group of survivors, we were understandably confused.
This meeting was our sanctuary. To encourage us to be openly critical of parts of our bodies was incredibly uncomfortable, like ripping a loose fart during a quiet moment in a Sunday church service. Image: Augustin Ruiz via Flickr
The exercise encouraged each person to write down the parts of their bodies that garnered the most criticism from that mean inner voice that we all seem to have. I held the scrap of paper and stared at it, my mind as blank as its white surface.
I have not regularly looked in a mirror since I was a kid. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I learned not to look too carefully at my own reflection, as I was afraid to see the unearned shame and guilt I carried. In addition, I simply couldn’t see very well.
I was born with a permanent cataract in my right eye. Colors appear dimmer and I have an intense sensitivity to light. My depth perception is screwed up, making night driving difficult. Eventually I will go blind in this eye, probably sooner than later.
And do you know how often I think about it?
I don’t stare in the mirror and berate my right eye because it isn’t what I imagine it could be. I don’t call it names and complain to others about it and allow it to hold me back.
In fact, I don’t think about it at all. I use my bum eye the best that I can and I appreciate it, because for the most part, it works.
Why can’t I think that way about the rest of my body? Why can’t I employ that kind of appreciation for what my body looks like and does for me?
It is easy to look in the mirror and be meaner than we would be to anyone else. It is frighteningly simple to let our inner critic snark at our squishy guts or wing-like triceps or dimply thighs.
I refuse to give that inner critic voice my attention, because my body continues to serve me without fail. I nurtured two humans inside this body, walked hundreds of miles, and traveled to Africa. I have arms that can embrace people and a heart that continues to pump and a brain that sometimes forgets how good I’ve got it. And I have a fantastic ass for wicked good dance moves.
I recently purchased a full-length mirror for the first time in my life. I hung it in a prominent place and practice looking into it.
I appreciate my body because it works hard. I have scars and bruises and curves and sags. I have earned every one of my marks of survival, and they are beautiful.
And I’ve got this bum eye that still shows me the world, at least for now.