We all do it… criticise our bodies. We find them too big here, too small there, too round here and maybe even too flat there. When you’re a patient the criticism levels can rise even further… the heart that won’t beat like it ‘should’, the body that won’t deliver enough energy to meet your life demands, and so on and so on…
But hang on. Isn’t this the same body that has survived so much, the heart breaks of old, the meanness of the ‘cool’ girls at school, those times of feeling the pain of loneliness? Isn’t this the body that no matter how much it ached in the past, or how sick it got, still dug deep to keep you going, released the healing chemicals, kept breathing and functioning to the best of its ability every day, even healed some of the pain?
I have been as guilty as anyone else of under appreciating the massive achievement that is my body. It has survived the physical onslaught of illness and lots of emotional rollercoasters over the years, given birth to three children, carried me through many life stages, and yet I have complained that it’s not doing enough, be it producing enough energy, or giving enough of a return for my health driven endeavours, or God knows how many other things…
I have heard others at the same thing, criticising their bodies and diminishing their beings, based on the perceived ‘fault’ their bodies house and how it limits them… the waist that’s the ‘problem’, the thighs they ‘hate’, the hips that are ‘too big’ for skinny jeans, or ‘too small’ for birthing a baby, the hearts that they are ‘fighting’ to stay alive.
I had a teacher in secondary school who used to say, “Our needs are few, our wants are infinite”. I think this is very true when it comes to our bodies. We need to breathe to stay alive; we need functioning body systems to perform, and we need fuel to run the show. But pretty much any other physical requirements are what we ‘want’ based on what we think we’re entitled to from our bodies, which can be anything from producing children, to performing 16-hour working days, to running marathons, to processing lots of alcohol and sugar and caffeine, to surviving on too little sleep as a matter of course, to always expecting to be healthy. And if we can’t achieve all these, we often begin a tirade of negative self-talk in relation to why our bodies haven’t pulled it off… from “What’s wrong with me?”, to “I’m awful at that” “God I’m useless!” etc. etc.
Now I don’t want to seem heartless to the fact that there is a real grief, sadness, and much emotional scaring over the years that our bodies endure from life itself and/or that we don’t have the right to voice all that. Of course, we have the right to voice our struggles and that is healthy. But a tirade of negative self-talk in our heads, when our body is not delivering, can often be plain old mean, and particularly unfair if your expectations of that same body were above its natural ability in the first place.
When we take a step back, we know each human is a precious, one in a hundred million (or thereabouts), ‘chance’, by way of its very creation. The fact that that same body then goes on to have so many amazing systems… cognitive, digestive, nervous, sensory, circulatory all working in synergy, is I think we all agree, awesome.
Now the reality is that being imperfect creatures, humans are bound to have parts of some of those systems that mightn’t work at max potential human output, but instead of accepting this, often we spend a lot of time either obsessing about it, or being determined to make it work, or abusing ourselves if it still won’t. Shouldn’t the fact that so much is still delivered by that same body mean that we cut it some slack? And what about the compassion and appreciation and respect we’d advise someone else give to their body if they were in the same boat? Instead, it seems when it comes to ourselves, we adopt a more zero-tolerance lambasting approach than a compassionate one.
It’s like wanting a three-legged horse to compete like a racehorse but being angry and disappointed with it when it doesn’t win the Champion Hurdle. If we actually did that to a three-legged horse, we’d probably be reported to animal welfare for cruelty.
So let the cruelty to our own beings stops here. Perhaps its time for those of us who might identify with what is being said here to appreciate the fact that we are here, that our bodies work, despite the adversity we may face. Let’s recognise the magic that it does offer, instead of over focusing on that one area where it can’t.
And next time that your body doesn’t deliver, perhaps instead of treating it like a naughty child that has misbehaved and deserves a punishment, it might be time to exercise a bit of compassion and understanding and appreciation for the fact that at least it was trying. If you need some help learning how to do this, I suggest looking into the works and books of the great Louise Hay, who went from being her own biggest critic, to becoming a master at positive self-talk and self-appreciation.
And for starters, maybe we can get into the habit each night, as we lay our tired and weary body down to sleep, of whispering a simple “thank you”.
To read Pauline’s other blogs click here
To have Pauline’s blog emailed to you, you can subscribe here