Think you have a body? Think again.
We’re really in a bad place with the collective attitude towards the body. We accept that the brain or, more precisely, the mind has intrinsic value, right? You’re not (generally) allowed to criticise my thoughts, my beliefs, my personality. The attributes of the mind are considered interesting and important in and of themselves. In contrast, the body is not considered to have intrinsic worth. We treat the body as if its value is exclusively extrinsic – the body is valuable only for how it looks. A body that does not look ‘right’ is less valuable. Maybe even completely worthless.
‘I hate my body’.
It’s a common enough statement, people say it all the time, but there’s a little bit of mental contortion that we have to go through to sustain this position.
We talk about ‘my body’ as if it really is an object that we possess. But if that is that case, exactly what part of us is doing the possessing? The mind? What is the mind if not the emergent property of the brain, that is to say, a function of the body? And what about the other psychological functions?
Your emotions? An interaction between the peripheral body and the brain.
Your personality? As likely to be shaped by what is going on in your gut as in your genes.
Everything that you understand about the world intellectually, was and is derived from the interaction of the body in the world. The body/mind and the body are utterly inseparable. And that means that when you say, ‘I hate my body’ you are saying you hate almost all of who you are, everything that has shaped your personality and the means through which you exist in the world.
The truth is that you don’t have a body, you are a body.
What if the next time you were tempted to say ‘I hate my body/thighs/stomach/etc’ you replaced that with ‘I hate myself’. Would you then see how aggressive that phrase is? Do you see how every time you say something like that you erode your self-esteem? You undermine yourself entirely.
The moment you realise that your body is you (and you are not simply reluctantly living in it), you will have a much easier time connecting with the intrinsic, unconditional value of the body, and how it deserves care, compassion, investment and perhaps (eventually) love.