A big part of my intentional life is how I treat and interact with my body.
If we want to be intentional about our lives we need to be intentional about the vehicle we live and experience it in. And during periods of particular body scrutiny and anxiety like in the midst of a fertility struggle, taking time to examine how you relate to your body is even more important.
My own body story involves dieting as an adolescent, heavy restriction, binge eating disorder, recovery, feminism, deconstructing beauty standards, getting in touch with my intuition and the magic of my body, connecting with the earth, connecting with what womanhood means to me, and so much more.
Recently, I’ve been re-evaluating my relationship to the body positivity movement.
Body positivity has been a lifesaver for many, including myself, in that it challenges the messages women are taught from a young age about scrutinizing and hating their bodies and encourages them, instead, to send their body love and admiration.
Despite it’s important role in deconstructing beauty ideals and the positive impact it’s had on my life, I’ve come to see a major shortcoming of the body positivity movement:
Just like “thinking positively” doesn’t really stop you from thinking negative thoughts, body positivity doesn’t really stop you from obsessing about your body.
And it kind of misses the point.
The more you dwell on something the more of a presence it has in your life. Spending all of your time trying to love your body still means a) you are evaluating your worth based on your body and b) you are using up your energy thinking about it. I would go so far as to say that trying to be body positive all the time can be almost as draining as hating your body all the time. Not as damaging, of course, but almost as exhausting.
What, then, is the key to a healthier relationship to your body, if not body positivity?
For me, the answer is what I call Body Equanimity. Not positivity, not negativity, but neutrality and balance.
It is normal and okay to have moments of unhappiness with your body. I’m convinced that the ideal is allowing in those moments (just like we do with our negative thoughts), experiencing them, and allowing them to pass so that we can continue to simply exist in our lives without a hyperfocus on the vehicle that carries us. In fact, just as with negative and positive emotions, if we automatically tamp down our negative body moments, we may also be limiting our ability to experience the full effect of positive body moments
So ideally, we let in all parts of our body experience, we allow intense emotions (both good and bad) to flow through and past us, and we continue living our life.
Notice the emphasis on “ideally”. There are many things that get in the way of body equanimity. Trauma you have experienced in your body, the harder it is to bounce back to simply living if you are triggered in some way. The more your body demands of you now, the more effort it takes for you to take care of it, the harder it is to let those difficult experiences pass through you to return to neutral. This certainly applies to medical needs that require extra attention on the body, such as fertility treatments.
So what does this mean, practically?
How do you strive for body equanimity if you feel distracted by your body’s needs or simply by its presence in space?
First, you pay attention to your body. You give it what it needs. You respect it and honor it. You do what you can to feel as healthy as possible.
Then, you allow for negativity. You allow for positivity.
And in between, whenever you are able…
You allow yourself to just live in your body, rather than for or about your body.
You evaluate your worth on what you do and who you are instead of how your body does or doesn’t fit in the world.
And you use your body as the magnificent tool it is to help you live your fullest life.
For now, all you need to do is to sit with this idea of body equanimity. What does it feel like to allow in the good and the bad and to focus on living?