It’s easy to throw around cute phrases like “dance as if no one’s watching,” or to tell people to love themselves with wild abandon.
But in the real world, we have stress, and bullies, and hierarchies, and media, and relationships, and a myriad of other factors that contribute not only to who we are, but to how we perceive ourselves.
I spent a lot more time than I’d like to think about being eating disordered. I know that full recoveries are rare, but I’m one of them. Still, body image, self-love, and even food are things that I encounter every day, especially since I’m raising two girls.
It’s generally widely accepted that the concept and standard of beauty changes, and contorts generationally with time. With this in mind, it’s important to consider that having a stable, steady self-perception is likely not easy, or even normal. In other words, particularly as a woman, how can we embrace and love ourselves, when society is regularly switching up how we’re “supposed” to behave, and what we’re “supposed” to look like?
It’s arguable that we as women help to shape these morphing expectations, and I’m sure that in some part we do. Yet in a clearly patriarchal society, many of the displays of ideal femininity and appearance are not dictated by women at all.
So how do we do it?
How do we love ourselves in a world that benefits from telling us we’re too fat, and we need to buy this to lose the weight, or that these pants will make us look better, or that this goddess on the magazine cover is who we should try to emulate this week, and then let’s be her the next?
We do this:
1. We embrace change.
My body has changed so much over these years that I’ve lived inside of this skin.
Aside from growing into a woman from a girl, I’ve given birth twice. My body has shown me again and again that change is inevitable, and it’s fundamental that I embrace these changes rather than fight them. Even more, life doesn’t stand still, and life has its phases. It’s all temporary.
2. We embrace differences.
When I was younger, I was easily envious of other women’s beauty—until I learned that I can admire beauty without comparing myself to it. This mindset has made me, first and foremost, a more supportive woman to others, and it’s also made me a much happier human being. More than this, beauty has many forms, and it’s absolutely true that real beauty lies within.
3. We stay strong.
Sometimes the world will tell us we aren’t beautiful.
We will be too loud. Or too this. Or too that.
I’ve said that I’m raising two daughters, but I’ll say this as well: they are not the same because they’re both female. Their personalities are already gloriously unique, and gloriously different from each other. It’s a reminder to me, as a mother and as a person, that I want myself and my children to move through life with enough grace to care about how we impact these people around us, but without losing our innate individuality along the way.
4. We cry.
Okay, to be fair, I don’t like crying, and I rarely do it. This said, I believe in experiencing life and its difficulties rather than glossing over them. It’s been a powerful experience for me to acknowledge how I feel, and to sometimes acknowledge that I don’t like feeling this way, and to remember that just because I’m angry, or sad, or overwhelmed in this moment right here, this doesn’t mean that it’s permanent either. It’s just another sensation of being alive.
5. We dance.
This is so damn cheesy that I almost want to apologize for this suggestion, but I can’t and I won’t.
There are two kinds of people in life: those who dance at weddings and have a really great fucking time, and those that sit on the sidelines wishing they “could” dance.
We all can dance. We don’t need lessons. We just need to listen to the rhythm of our hearts.