There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.
One of the hidden treasures discovered when losing my vision to retinitis pigmentosa, a transformational blessing in disguise, was my revelational proclivity for getting to know people from the inside out. As much as I have always striven to accept all people equally, I must admit that, when I could see them, I found myself valuing people more or less based on aspects of their appearance. This really bothered me about myself, so I worked extra hard to develop higher levels of awareness and acceptance. Then I lost my vision to the point that I could not really see people well enough to base anything about them on their appearance any more. What a miraculous life-changer this was! So now, whether people look like a rail or rutabaga, temptress or troll, high priestess or hobo; everyone is beautiful to me.
Our social conditioning brainwashes us into believing that people are more or less valuable, beautiful, or sexy based on the degree to which they live up to photo-shopped images of actors, actresses, and models. These perfect little pictures are created to make us feel fat, ugly, and unlovable so we will buy the products that bring us a little closer to the mark. But since the beauty bar is higher than human, we are destined to keep buying more and more products to maybe someday be good enough. “Let’s face it, if we all loved and accepted our natural bodies, would we feel so compelled to purchase diet pills, skin creams, plastic surgery, makeup and butt-enlarging underwear?” (Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 offers an excellent expansion of this argument.) Big business benefits from first making us feel inadequate, and then keeping us there through the unreachable standards it creates. It makes people believe that they always need to do more to be good enough, pretty enough, sexy enough. We are already perfect in our unique imperfection. The only thing we need to do to be perfectly beautiful is accept ourselves as we already are.
The Body Beautiful
Beneath the makeup, mini skirt, tummy tuck, and plastic boobs; behind the fake smile, nervous giggles, ego issues, and attitudes; there lives a woman, pure and natural, real and true. Balancing our mind, body, and spirit will bring acceptance, love, and beauty into our lives. As we integrate these elements into the whole of our human being, and as we allow their natural order to ensue; our spirit shines the light of truth, our mind then sees the wisdom, and through our body we make love, joy, peace anew. So our spirit, through its connection with universal consciousness, brings this wisdom to our mind in a form it can understand. Through our body we can then manifest this wisdom via our physical connection with the material world; to help it awaken to the consciousness of truth. Viewing the size, shape, and comparative perfection of our body as all-important is a distraction from its divine purpose. To the degree to which we invest our time, energy, and attention into the pursuit of this impossible dream, we are unable to invest them in higher things. When you step back and look for a moment at the global importance being placed on butts, boobs, and biceps; in relation to the things that really matter; can you honestly believe that we are doing this? Are we, as a species, really this insane? Or are we just so addicted to the eroticism of sensual beauty, so dependent upon it as a source of drug-like pleasure; that we are in denial about the lunacy of it all? I have used women as the focus of this post, since they are the primary victims of this global madness.
Self Acceptance and Health
I believe the solution to the body image conundrum is to accept that all bodies are gorgeous in their own unique way, all minds precious, and all spirits divine. When we look for the beauty in people (including ourselves), there is always more to appreciate than we could express in a lifetime. When we look for imperfections by comparing ourselves to media standards, we will always find them. Why on earth would we do this? If we had a good car, or even a great one; why would we look for a photo-shopped image of the hottest, sleekest, most dazzling car we can find and then compare ours to it? If we did this, then we would always be disappointed with our ride, instead of being thankful for its many attributes. Why not focus on accepting and appreciating what we do have, instead of lamenting over what we do not have? Wouldn’t this make us so much happier, healthier, and more productive?
“Witness actress Keira Knightley’s recent exasperation in Elle UK about online ‘thinspiration’ communities who have claimed her as a mascot to inspire anorexics, despite the fact that she’s actually quite healthy. Meanwhile, even Knightly wishes her body were more like full-figured actress Monica Bellucci ‘just so womanly, female and curvy.’ What does it say about our conflicted culture when those who possess the very bodies we’re pressuring everyone to have wish they had the bodies that people are trying to diet down from?” Not only that, but the type of body the media says we must have changes without notice, so just when we are getting closer to what we believe is the perfect beach body; the rules change, we are now considered ugly or boring, and find ourselves racing in a different direction in pursuit of the impossible dream. It seems like what is currently considered best is big boobs, big butts, and big curves; while the last version was super-skinny, straight, with big boobs, and remember what it was before this? Why the heck would we go chasing such a crazy, crazy fantasy? Why would we spend our lives stressing over our appearance, developing anxiety and depression over what people think of how we look, and throwing money, time, and energy at this delusion? Isn’t it really about self acceptance? When we accept ourselves, we no longer strive to be accepted by others through how we look, the things we say, and what we do.
Self acceptance is encouraged by approaches focusing on health, rather than dieting, cosmetic changes, or model mimicking. One such philosophy, Healthy At Every Size (HAES), promotes healthy bodies that maintain weight loss over time (most diets result in faster weight loss, but the weight is back within 1-2 years). So nurture your body, stop dieting, build a support network, stop with the comparisons, and focus on your many, many strengths. This will help you lose the weight you need to and feel good about yourself in the process. Body Image Movement is a group on a mission to redefine and rewrite the ideals of beauty. Their stated purpose is to harness and facilitate positive body image activism by encouraging us to be more accepting of who we are. Caitlin Boyle started the blog Operation Beautiful, to help us eliminate destructive self talk. Here are 28 ways to develop a healthy self acceptance.
Beautiful Body Books
Here are some wonderful reads that will help us become healthier, happier, and more accepting of our naturally beautiful bodies! Here’s to your health and happiness!
Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary
Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon.
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth
The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care by Judith Matz & Ellen Frankel
Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large by Kim Brittingham
30 Specific Strategies for Overcoming Emotional Eating by Katie McLaughlin
So how do you Become One Delicious You? You already are! Realizing and accepting this truth will allow the light of truth to brighten your spirit, and shine through the eyes of your heart.
What methods have you found useful in improving your body-image related health and happiness? Do you have any friends who are stuck in that crazy cycle? What can you do to help them? What has worked for you?
Photo Credit: Santiago Alvarez