Chances are, if you have a body, you have body image issues. Whether it be your body shape, size, weight, height, muscles, hair, eyes, complexion… I could go on. I won’t. This is a universal experience. This topic is a sensitive one and one not to be taken lightly. No one likes everything about their body. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m discounting any of these issues. Everyone has a right to their feelings.
People often discount putting any stock in your appearance. Saying it’s just vanity.
Excuse my language… but: MALARKY.
Your body image is a piece of you. The piece you present to the world. The piece you often can’t hide. I’m not saying it’s the most important piece of you. In my opinion, it most certainly is NOT. But it’s the piece that people judge first. Before you open your mouth. Before the conversation even begins people have an impression of you. It’s impossible to get away from or ignore that this is true. They say don’t judge a book by its cover… but the cover is still part of the book. And in a society like ours… the cover matters more than some of us would like.
And one thing I will point out is that when you have a chronic illness… it comes with a whole new set of body image issues.
When you have a chronic illness, it’s so much harder to maintain your body and appearance. In almost every way. Chronic illnesses can affect your weight, your muscles, your skin, your hair… everything that is involved your appearance. It can also affect what clothes you can wear comfortably. What products you can use without it affecting you or your illness. It’s not enough that you’re in pain and sick but it can affect your vision of yourself. I’m going to be straight forward: it SUCKS.
The worst part of this, is that it often leads to issues beyond just your appearance like causing you to feel that you’ve been betrayed by your body. The only thing that is literally supposed to be with you through everything (at least in this life), can let you down in so many ways. And when those ways start to show it only deepens those emotional pains.
I’m not going to sit here and preach about how you should love yourself no matter what. I mean, it’s a great idea. But I can’t tell you to do something I can’t do myself. I wish I could tell you that I love myself no matter what. That I embrace my body because of all of the positive things it does for me instead of hating it for how it’s let me down. I would be lying. I wish I was that self-evolved. On my best day I can at least try to balance the things I appreciate about my body against the things that I feel disappointed in.
Here are the things I remind myself of what I’m having one of those days:
First: My illness is not my fault.
I don’t just mean physically, but also emotionally.
There is nothing that I did to deserve this. It is not because I did not take proper care of myself. This is not because I was a bad person. This is not my fault.
And it’s not yours either.
Next: I am more than my body.
I know that my body is the first thing people see. I know that our society is predisposed to judge based on appearance. I know that most people will judge me. I also know that good people will get to know me. They will wait to see who I am as a person. Those good people are the ones I want in my life.
Also: I am more than my illness.
And so is my body. It’s easy to only identify your body with the illness that plagues it. But your body is so much more. Your body keeps going despite the illness. Remember that.
Last: I am a soul with a body, not a body with a soul.
This is a rephrasing of a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis. I personally prefer it phrased like this. I repeat this to myself over and over again. It has become like a mantra to me. I often mediate on this phrase and let the rhythm and words wash over me. In the end, I may feel like my body has betrayed me. But it’s more important to take care of my soul, than to get mad at my body. And I will continue to strive to keep my priorities in that order.