This is a project I’ve been talking and thinking about for a long time, with lots of people. Social norms about beauty and attractiveness are extremely powerful and extremely narrow, so lots of us fall outside of them, and painfully so. We can feel a lot of pressure to change our bodies, especially the fuck right now, in the new year.
But what I’ve learned through years of living in this body is this: changing my body will not make me healthier, will not make me sleep better, will not improve my digestion or my sex life or my maximum deadlift potential. Achieving those things might change my body, or might not.
One thing that trying to change my body will definitely do is remind me every day that I don’t like my body. And say I do change it. Say I get to a place where I like it better. I know that I will be constantly on guard against it changing back. And even more certainly, I know that one day, I will get older. My body will change, and it will change in ways that we have all learned to think of as bad.
So WHAT IF, y’all. What if I learned to like my body how it is, however it is? That won’t stop me from doing things to make myself healthier, better rested, stronger, faster, calmer. Actually, for me, it helps. Knowing that my body is my teammate, that it’s doing the best it can for me, helps me do the best I can for it. But what it needs isn’t to look a certain way. It needs me to treat it well, with love and respect.
With help from Bethany, I put together this list of activities, and called it Project Bodylove. I’m imagining that folks would do one of these activities each day. I also can imagine that it would be helpful to return to them after a few months and try again. You could skip ones that you don’t find useful, but I would encourage you to try each of them at least once.
You could do them with a partner, or in a group setting. You could talk about them together, or write about them in your private journal (or even just in your phone’s notes app). You could even do most of them completely on your own, but I think that an important aspect of the project is normalizing by sharing:; countering shame by talking about these things that are difficult for us to talk about, and hearing others’ perspectives on your thoughts about your own self-image.
1. When do you feel best about your body during the day? Write it down. Are there particular times, situations, interpersonal interactions, or environments that cause you to feel positively? How can you bring that positive feeling into other situations?
2. When do you feel worst about your body through the day? Write it down. Think about what it is that makes you feel bad in that situation. Is there something you could do to change that, or other times, situations, interpersonal interactions, or environments that cause you to feel negatively?
3. Choose something about your body you dislike. Talk about it with someone you trust. What would you normally do to try to change it? Don’t do that. Instead, talk to the disliked body feature, tell it you’re sorry for judging it, whenever you start to feel negatively.
4. Find a photograph of a friend or a loved one that you think is a good picture of them. Think about what you like about it, why you think it’s a good picture. Find a photograph of yourself that you like. Think about why you think it’s a good picture. Set that picture as your phone background, if you want.
5. Think about something important that your body is capable of. What is it, how does your body do it, and how does that make you feel? Talk about it with someone you trust, or write it down.
6. Follow these Instagram accounts:
For each, write down at least a couple sentences about your reaction to them, or talk about them with someone you trust. Unfollow social media accounts that only feature thin, white, conventionally attractive people.
7. Take down one or cover up at least one mirror in your house. If you feel up to it, take down all but one (the bathroom mirror is a good one to leave, usually)!
8. Choose something about your body that you like. Do something special for it. Get an accessory or an article of clothing that highlights it. Take a picture of it and share it with a friend. Tell someone “I like my [chosen feature].”
9. Ask a friend (not a romantic partner) to identify a photograph of you that they like. Ask them to explain why they think it’s a good photograph of you.
10. Make a creative work about your body. It can be visual art, music, a poem, a dance, an interestingly-composed photograph, something crafty, or anything else that you can think of. Share it with someone you trust.
If you feel like sharing, I’d love to see what you come up with. Tag @candorzine or me (@ozark.swamp.witch) in your post. Body love is a hell of a journey, and I love sharing the road with others.