“I love my body,” part 2 of 4

I spent far more than my share of time hating my body. For 20 years, in fact, before I experienced a dramatic mental shift. Ask my best friend, Laura, who started in junior high school trying to get me to see myself differently. We spent a lot of time on beaches or in her backyard pool in Florida, after she and I both moved away from Bellevue, Nebraska, where we met the first day of 7th grade.

“You are beautiful,” she would tell me when I’d tear myself down. For a long time, I’d wonder what she was seeing that I did not see in the mirror and in photos. After many years, I began to believe, at least, that SHE thought I was beautiful.

“You have two choices,” she said to me once. “You can spend your whole life miserably trying to change your body. Or you can learn to love it.”

I figured out it was much easier to put my energy into the latter. (If you’re reading, Laura, I love you. Thank you for teaching me this.)

One day years ago I was at the gym, and a friend I’ll call Dawn, who lived in my neighborhood, changed my life unintentionally. I was criticizing myself for my physical flaws, and she said, “Hm. Well, I love my body. It serves me well.”

I found myself speechless. First of all, Dawn was no supermodel. By the world’s standards, she was 20 lbs. overweight and not particularly pretty. Second, what she said violated the code of women.

For the men reading this, women all know the drill: if given a compliment (that you look pretty or whatever), you must reply by saying the compliment is not true and then saying something derogatory about yourself.

Usually girls have this important social code mastered by, oh, about 7th grade! My oldest daughter has it down pat. She is phenomenally gorgeous and has a beautiful body by anyone’s standards, but if given a compliment, she will say something like, “My thighs are huge,” with a disgusted sigh.

For the women reading this: ask a man. They HATE this. They looooove to give you compliments. They would LOVE it if you just said “thank you!” and it brightened your face into a big smile. (I know this because I used to poll my university students–-the guys would get very passionate in responding to this statement. Male readers can please agree or disagree with what I’ve said here.)

But when my friend Dawn said that to me (“I love my body. It serves me well”), I was speechless. I walked away and saw her differently from that moment forward. I saw her as far more beautiful than I ever had before.

Confidence is beautiful. Confidence and humility are not opposites. Insecurity or self-deprecation is not the same thing as humility and is not attractive.

I have learned to love my body. As I experienced this dramatic mental shift, I changed in numerous ways. I dressed differently: I dressed to flatter my body rather than hide it. (Appropriately.) I learned to spend my time and energy enjoying the positive ways my body serves me.

You can imagine the impact this can have on a sexual relationship. (I have mentioned before that I was once an MSW therapist trained in sex therapy. Many if not most sexual problems in couples point directly to the woman’s negative opinion of her body. If she feels negatively enough, she divorces herself from her sexuality, with potentially dire consequences for her marriage.)

Learning to love yours also has these profound possibilities, which became a reality for me:

I learned to make better choices about what I ate, AND I learned to stop battering myself with guilt if I made a poor choice.

As I learned to love my body, I quit shying away from competitive sports.

When you love your body, you’re far less likely to eat foods that harm it, and far more likely to enjoy foods that nourish it. This will be a natural byproduct of valuing that beautiful mortal place that your spirit and heart and mind reside in.

Tomorrow, more thoughts on this, and my challenge for you.

16 thoughts on ““I love my body,” part 2 of 4

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  1. Beautifully written, Robyn.

    I wish, as a man, that every woman I’ve ever known would grasp what you’re saying here.

    “Confidence and humility are not opposites.” Read that again!

    Girls, your beauty follows and reflects your focus on it. Or vice versa.

    Not in a vain, pompous way, but in quiet, powerful, radiating confidence.

    Feel like your enough now and that starts translating to empirical differences in your appearance and presence.

    Anyway, not my blog- great message for your sister group here, Robyn.

    Keep at em.

    Jason

  2. Robyn and Jason,

    GREAT stuff here. I love being connected with like minded individuals. Keep sharing these powerful vibrational messages.

    Love,

    Dara

  3. When I was engaged to my husband, I asked him what he found sexy and attractive in women, he said “Confidence!” I think it is true. There is a young man in our church group who is not the cutest boy in the bunch by far, but he as more confidence in himself and the girls LOVE him.

    You are also right on when you say that confidence is not the opposite of humility. In fact I think they can be the same thing. Confidence also is not in competition with others. It is alright for everyone to have it.

    Body image has been a huge issue for me as a woman and the funny thing is, that the older I get the better I feel about my body.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Chris P.

  4. Wow. This post was a 2×4 right up side the head. A wake-up call and very profound for me. I am coming out of the hardest year I have every experienced and it has shaken my core. One good thing about ridiculously challenging events is that you can emerge changed! I am going to work on my mind this year. I always say I’ll work on my body or diet (which I will continue to do!) but I haven’t made a mental goal and now I have one. I will TELL myself that I love my body and it serves me well! Thank you Robyn! : ) ~ Laura

  5. This is so true! My husband hates when I do this. In fact, after 25 years now he doesn’t compliment at all. Why should he? He didn’t get a thank you from me. Ugh! Robyn, where were you 25+ years ago? Do:

  6. When someone fires off a compliment, the last thing they want to hear is that compliment being shot down. A compliment is as much about the person giving as it is about the person getting it. Until you say “thank you” or respond in some kind of positive way, the giver will feel unfulfilled.

    I try and think about this when someone says something nice about me – how will they feel if I turn down the gesture! I’ve been on both sides of this situation and it’s never a good feeling.

    Spread some love, but also remember to receive it gracefully.

    Jason.

  7. Hello everyone,

    As usual Robyn is right on the money. I have become very selective and frugal about giving compliments to my partner, because she always disputes my truthfullness. I got tired of defending my honor at least 20yrs. ago, but that has resulted in more damage to the relationship because I now can not express anything positive about others either, without raising ire. It is my position that it is good for us to be in a constant state of appreciation, and the more free expression of it the better. I even thank my vegegables that I am about to juice, for incorporating their lives into ours. I tell them that they are not dying they are just moving up the carmic ladder, but I never show appreciation for any attribute of another woman, even if it is pointless due to the fact that she knows I am aware just silent. If she had appreciation for her positive qualities I would not be hating having to tiptoe around these issues. Confidence would truly add beauty and honesty to our relationship.

  8. Wonderful post, Robyn. I had an experience where I was shown the difference between humility and pride, and you are right on. Pride is insecurity…needing to put yourself down.

    Humility is standing in your strength and loving who you are, knowing that you are who you are because you were created by God, who is divine; therefore, YOU are divine. When you can stand in that knowing and strength, then that is being in humility. Most people get it backwards and think they need to put themselves down and feel ‘less than’ in order to be humble.

    Since it’s Christmas, I’ll thrown this in. The greatest example we have is this is Jesus Christ. He was the strongest of men, yet he exuded the most humility. He did not put himself down….he knew who he was, love himself, and he stood in that strength.

  9. It’s so true. We need to be kind to ourselves. Confidence comes w practice and love for ourselves

    no matter our circumstances. The older I get, beauty is mostly about who we are inside. We shold still take the best care of ourselves inside and out. Our spiritual self shines from the inside out.

  10. Apparently I learned that code so long ago I didn’t even recognize it. It IS a little odd. Thank you so much for writing about this topic. It is so interesting that loving ourselves is such a challenge. If we are waging a war inside how can we ever hope for world peace?

  11. I think it is true that we all begin to love ourselves more and appreciate our bodies as we age. Confidence comes with experience. Youth is wasted on the young. 🙂 If we could only get young women to accept this while they’re still young it would be such a great gift to our daughters. Great article.

  12. We should be grateful for our bodies! They are a gift to us. I learned a long time ago, that when someone gives me a compliment I say thank you! I just really appreciate that fact that someone has noticed something about me that they feel is good. I appreciate someone being so kind to me.

    I try to do the same by complimenting someone else.

    Never, never, disagree with someone when they pay you a compliment!

    I think that that is a thoughtless and insensitive response to a kind gesture.

    Stop, think about what was said and give a heartfelt “thank you”, for a kind compliment!

    If we aren’t happy with our body, we need to do what we can to make it better, but never be ungrateful for a compliment!

  13. A good lady friend of mine taught he how to say, “thank you I receive it”. I had never been able to accept a compliment mostly because I was never given any as a child, my mother never said anything nice to me or gave me compliments and I guess I learned to do the same. I can now say Thank You when someone gives a compliment but after reading the comments here I realize that I also need to GIVE compliments and will start doing that right away.

    Robin, thank you for this blog and all the work you do to get us healthier and loving ourselves.

    Becky

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