By Kelly McNelis, Founder of Women For One
Remember the old cliché about your body being a temple? Well, it’s true.
At the age of 47, I truly love my body. By no means is this because I believe I am perfect. It is because I have learned to own and value my imperfections. Every roll of flesh. Every stretch mark. Every hint of crow’s feet.
Twenty years ago, I thought that in order to be truly happy, I’d have to lose 20 pounds. Today, my body is aged and harbors visible signs of wear and tear. In no conceivable way do I live up to the perceptions I had about my “ideal body” 20 years ago. In fact, my 27-year-old self would probably look at me in the mirror with tears of disappointment in her eyes.
But today, my vision is too clear and my love too strong to let self-judgment set me back.
Today, I can work it in a sexy dress and a pair of heels, even though I don’t have perky breasts or the perfect six-pack… even though I live in a society that has fallen prey to the idea that a woman of a certain age should cover up and kiss the very notion of her sex appeal goodbye. Today, I can smile and say “to hell with those false perceptions.” I am choosing to be happy, not in spite of my fat, but because of it.
It wasn’t always this way. But 10 years ago, when I was having a conversation with my dear friend Jules, I had an important epiphany. Jules was dying of cancer and was practically skin and bones. I, on the other hand, was heavier than I’d ever been. In a moment of casual self-hatred, I found myself complaining about my body. As I observed myself in a mirror and sucked in my belly, I lamented, “Oh my god, I’m so disgusting.”
I’ll never forget the compassion in Jules’s voice as she looked at me and said, “Honey, you are so powerful and so beautiful. Look at your body; it’s gorgeous and healthy. For once, see yourself the way I see you.”
Aside from being stung with a momentary recognition of my ingratitude (after all, here I was, blessed with good health while my friend was terminally ill), I was touched by another realization. I had always blamed my poor self-image on one thing or another. On being a victim of incest. On society’s unrealistic beauty standards. On women’s magazines. On everyone who had ever made me feel “less than” with a backhanded compliment or rude remark.
Never had it occurred to me that I didn’t actually have to be a victim.
It is freaking ludicrous that we women — the creatrixes of our world — have let our preoccupation with being perfect overshadow the fact that we are so much more than perfect!
A divine order presides over us, from our breasts to our wombs, our necks to our ankles. Our bodies, which are inherently perfect by nature’s design, are these gorgeous, intricate, finely tuned systems that are capable of bringing forth life. When we throw self-hatred at ourselves, our true natures remain veiled to us.
When we waste our precious energy bellyaching over the 5, 10, or 20 pounds we have yet to lose, we are unable to fully reap the gifts of our feminine wisdom. I don’t know about you, but I’m damn tired of that attitude. It has exhausted my spirit and my patience. It has absorbed more of my attention and energy than I care to admit.
How many times have you told yourself that you hate your body? How often have you flung insults at your thighs, your hips, your breasts, or your butt…perhaps without even stopping to consider why? I’m not here to give you more platitudes on how much you need to love each dimple, muffin top, and stretch mark you find. But I am here to tell you this:
You cannot experience the power that comes from knowing and loving yourself to your very core until you are willing to sit with who you are without flinching at your reflection in the mirror or wishing things were different.
Try it now. Strip down to your naked self and stand in front of a full-length mirror. Notice the thoughts and emotions that arise. What is it like to look straight into the mirror and to see yourself, just as you are? Own these perceptions out loud, even if they sound silly or embarrassing. Get super clear about the soundtrack that is constantly playing in the background every time you think about your body.
Consider for a moment that the lenses through which you look at yourself are often about as accurate as a fun house mirror. They are based on the crap you’ve internalized about what you’re supposed to look like according to some arbitrary standard of beauty. That stops today.
Reality is here. It’s in your body. It’s in how willing you are, right now, to love your body. It’s in the amount of responsibility you are choosing to take for your happiness.
This is going to require stepping outside of your comfort zone, being your own cheerleader, and looking at yourself the way my friend Jules looked at me all those years ago. More than anything, it’s going to require that you actually mean it.
The old cliché about your body being a temple? It’s truer than any of the stuff you’ve internalized about how your waistline directly corresponds to your worth. It’s truer than all the minutes, hours, days, months, and years you’ve spent viewing yourself as anything less than a goddess.
That’s why I’ve become shameless in how much I allow myself to shine and how profusely I shower my body with love… no matter what it looks like to anyone else, and no matter if that toxic voice in the back of my head might be telling me otherwise.
You don’t have to fake it until you make it. You simply have to do it. Embrace your uniqueness. Run your hands over your cellulite, love handles, or any other part of you that you’ve grown to abhor. This time, do something different: love it. Honor it. Let yourself shine.
Our beautiful bodies — which stretch, grow, bleed, age, love, and create new life — are our homes. The more we own and honour them, in all their glory, messiness, and craziness, the more we succeed in reclaiming the splintered pieces of our soul and restoring ourselves to wholeness… the way we were always meant to be.
Kelly is the founder of Women For One. Her first book will The Messy Truth, which will be published by Hierophant Publishing in the fall of 2017.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body – Cameron Diaz.