Tolerating Your Body, Loving Yourself
by Bracha Halberstadt, LMSW
Love your body, they say. Embrace it, be one with it, fall in love with all your imperfections.
I think they have a point (whoever they are). I think it is beautiful to reach a space of body love, where we can wholly and completely fall in love with all of ourselves. I think for many people, this may be an aspiration to work towards.
At the same time, this doesn’t need to be the goal (if it’s not a goal that feels right for you).
There are a lot of misconceptions about what healthy body image is about. The truth is, a healthy body image doesn’t have to mean looking in the mirror and feeling thrilled with what you see. It’s about looking in the mirror, tolerating your body, and realizing that the body you inhabit is just that, the body you inhabit. And it doesn’t define you in any way, whatsoever.
So what exactly is body tolerance?
Body tolerance is radically accepting that the body you have today is enough. It is about treating your body with respect by feeding it nutritious and yummy food, by sleeping enough, and by working towards recovery from any self-destructive behaviors. It is dressing in clothes that feels comfortable and make you feel confident. It is about knowing that there is no right way to have a body. It is about living the life of your dreams no matter how you feel about your body on any given day. It is about choosing, again and again, to not compare your body to anyone else’s. It is about adopting a softer internal voice to describe your body, even if you don’t agree with it all (yet).
Body tolerance, like virtually every aspect of recovery, is a very non-linear journey. (I know, I’m sorry ☹). It is a journey that requires courage and work every day, that gets progressively better, and that will inevitably have setbacks along the way. But that goal of body tolerance is something you can reach, especially if you hold onto the knowledge that you are worth it.
That's because tolerating your body means remembering that your worth has nothing to do with the way you look; it is recognizing that your body is a sacred vessel, there to carry you through your life, to allow you to follow your dreams. And that your body is beautiful just because it houses a beautiful person (yes, that’s you 😉).
Appreciating and loving yourself for who you are on the inside can be difficult. Often, there are layers of trauma to unravel. It may mean challenging old beliefs and perspectives, and fighting the demons that were living rent- free in your head. It may take reevaluating your values, goals, aspirations. You may need to start with the abc’s in self discovery, learn what makes you feel alive, learn what special you-ness you have to offer the world. It is about forgiving yourself for your imperfections, getting up gracefully from falls. It is about owning who you are, and all that you have been through. It is a journey that, again, takes time, and will definitely not be linear.
But, little by little, as you get to know yourself, accept yourself, and love yourself, the way your body looks will take on less significance. You may like the way you look more on some days and less on others.
But throughout it all, my hope for you is that you can hold onto the message:
You are so, so much more than your body.