“You are not required to pursue health to be deemed worthy of love, respect or belonging.”
I’m sorry. Say wha?
When I first read* this bold assertion that I could basically just take a break and still be loved, I made some room inside myself to allow the mounting tally of ways in which I believe, live and uphold its opposite. I need this from you and I need this from me. Show me that you’re doing everything you can to be and look as healthy as possible. I’ll do it, too and we can both feel good and normal.
The dirty secret is that I don’t really want that for either of us.
Talk about “baked in.” I have been learning my whole life that I’m not quite there, wherever “there” is.
Spoiler alert: So have you.
It’s so deeply ingrained that I actually believe this is my idea! “You can always be better,” I tell myself. That’s not just true. It’s imperative! Now go! Go and…be better.
When I’m being honest, which I try to do as often as possible, the truth is that I “workout” and “drink less” because I want to be loved and to belong, inside and outside.
I have been hooked up to an IV drip of “not quite good enough” since I was old enough to detect disapproval. You have, too. We all have.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have looked at my body and agreed that it was meeting the standard I had set for it. And every time it did, I just scooted the standard a bit.
“Back to work!”
I always thought it was because I was a female shopping in the men’s department, but I have always despised the experience of shopping for clothes.
Oh. You, too? Knock me over with a feather.
Everything I put on is just not “me.” Pouchy here. Stretched there. Too long, “but maybe I can hem it.”
When it comes to billboards and magazines, there’s an additional disconnect. From as long ago as I can remember, when I saw a model, I never thought, “I’m supposed to look like that.” I thought, “Wow. I wonder if I can look good enough for a woman like that to want me?” and then, I would see male models and have the experience that many women describe when they see female models. Envy. Striving. Not enoughness.
In my 20’s, I used to read Men’s Health, GQ and all sorts of magazines about how to be a sexy, fit, desirable man. I knew I wasn’t a man, but the advice in those magazines was much more in line with the goals of my relentless self-improvement project. I ate the things, I wore the things, I read the things. All the things. Despite my dedication and what I now recognize as full-blown aggression toward myself, I never even got close to looking like Daniel Craig. Not. One. Time.
Turns out I spend a good bit of time in performative allyship with my body. My brain knows I should not judge my body. I should just love and appreciate it. If I just keep saying it, thinking it, acting like it’s true, I’m bound to start actually feeling it, right?
The project of betterment that I call my life is perpetuated by outward approval. Our society loves people who are “ambitious.” We admire people who are “fit.” People who are “successful” are our inspiration.
I call bullshit, my friends.
Maybe you’ll join me in agreeing to be exhausted by constantly hustling for your self-worth? Let’s make ours a world in which we don’t have to pursue anything to be worthy of love, respect and belonging.
* This statement about health and its contractual relationship to our likelihood of being loved is borrowed from some truly incredible women. The founders of Be Nourished, Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC and Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD have spent the last 15 years supporting people in the process of putting down the Kool-Aid of conventional beauty and health. Those are my words, not theirs, but that’s what it is.
Check out the Saturday, November 7th episode of Massage Therapy Without Borders to hear more about and from the Be Nourished women. They’re showing us how to do it.