To my dear body,
I’m sorry that I’ve spent so much time hating you and picking out all of your supposed flaws. I’m sorry that I poked and prodded at you because you didn’t fit into those expensive skinny jeans. You know the ones, the faded blue Levi’s that looked so slim and flattering on the model. I was so disappointed in you. I felt like you’d failed me.
And you did it over and over again.
When I was 14, I compared you to the other girls’ bodies – they were far better looking than you would ever be. That’s why they were so confident, after all; so comfortable with what they’d been given. More often than not I called you unattractive, unworthy, shameful. I told you that I hated you and blamed you for how I have felt. You made me feel hopeless. I knew that you would never be enough.
I reasoned with you often; I told you that if you looked the way Miranda Kerr’s body looked, then things would fall into place. My confidence would sky-rocket. I would feel good about myself.
The magazines did a good job of telling me that you weren’t normal; that you weren’t right. They told me that you were unattractive, because if you had been, then surely I would have seen bodies that looked the same as you on the cover of some glossy publication? If a body like you was unworthy of a magazine cover, then it must have meant that you were unworthy in real life as well.
Why were you intent on bringing me so much shame? Didn’t you realise that no-one would want me because of you?
I’m sorry, dear body, that I used to think this way. That sometimes, somedays, I still do. I’m sorry that I wanted to be in control of something and sadly, that something became you. I’m sorry that I stopped you from doing what you were supposed to do, that I somehow thought I knew better.
But most of all?
Most of all, I’m sorry that I gave you so much unnecessary attention… and always the wrong kind. Instead of enjoying the world around me, I set my mind on criticising you. What a waste of energy. I know your wellbeing is important, don’t get me wrong, but you aren’t the most important thing. I’m sorry that I put so much pressure on you to become that. I put you up on a pedestal – not one of adoration, but of disgust. I was relentlessly judgemental of you for looking so “wrong”. I gave you so much attention, scrutinised you for the way that you looked because I thought that other people must be doing the same. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to like myself. In order for that to happen, I told myself that you had to look “right”. The magazines told me the same thing. My friends told their bodies the same thing. Family members told their bodies the same thing. I’m sorry that I believed those lies.
It’s taken me so long to realise how unique you are; that you are a God-given gift. Sometimes, like today, I forget these things and that’s why I’m writing you this letter. I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to realise that you are allowed to occupy space, no matter what the world says. I’m sorry that I cheapened you so much; that I belittled your worth until you were a mere sexual commodity, to be judged by the size of your hips. I cared more about the way that you looked than the way that you felt. I judged you based on the size of the clothes that fit you – or didn’t. I never acknowledged your incredible complexity, your intricate web of bones and veins and cells and organs and the way they all seem to work together so seamlessly.
But that’s enough with the apologies and the negativity for now. I want to remind myself of what a blessing you are.
I want to thank you for fighting to keep me alive, every single day. I want to thank you for carrying me from place to place, even when my mind is weary and my legs are tired. I want to thank you for functioning without my conscious effort. How do you manage to make me keep my balance? How do you know how to repair all my cells? I never to need remind you to keep my breaths regular, or to use the food I give you to grow my hair. I never need to program you to wake me up or to make my cheeks blush. With my arms I can hug my family. With my fingers I can write these words. With my hands I can wave “hello” and with my mouth I can smile at strangers. I don’t understand you, or how you work, but I’m slowly learning to appreciate that fact that you work at all.
I know now that you’ll never live up to those impossible magazine standards. And I accept that you’ll never be considered “perfect” in terms of your shape or your height or your weight. And I admit that for a long time to come, you and so many other bodies around the world will be told that you just don’t measure up. But that’s ok, because you know what? You are God’s masterpiece. And that is enough.