Self-Love: Learning through Bodily Experience

self-love found in the women's change room at the AC copy

I am big believer in our bodily experiences producing our knowledge.

Okay, this could open up some philosophical debate about the mind-body problem, but even if you disagree, grant me this for the purpose of this piece (and if you do want to discuss philosophy, I am always interested!)

So, admittedly, I was not creative in my 2014 resolutions: eat better and exercise more often. Regardless of gender, we are bombarded with images of perceived beauty, sexiness and how we should dress in order to embody confidence. It’s been discussed ad nauseum that these are unrealistic expectations. However, I still made this goal for myself for 2014.

I am experiencing inner turmoil though. I am faced with a moral conundrum: on one hand, being a gender studies student, attempting to strive for value beyond virtue of appearance and spreading this message to my friends and peers, and on the other, wanting to significantly change my own body. I tell my 20-something lady friends who’re having a “frumpy” day that we are more than how we appear, that our being is not determined by our love handles. Yet here I am, vowing to eat fewer bags of chips.

Am I being hypocritical? How can I love my body but still decide I need to make this change?

Okay, probably the amount of junk food I ate was bad for my body. And probably my sporadic gym attendance was not enough to make a huge difference to my health. I don’t think I’ve lost a single pound or inch off my waist since I’ve been working out more often or consuming more salad.

However, I did start to notice changes. Apparently, working out can be good for you? I am not sleeping in anymore and I am more energetic, so I can spend more time in the library thoroughly preparing for and writing my paper. The lethargy that often consumed me during the winter months has, dare I say, dissipated. In fact, exercise is often prescribed for people experiencing depression.

Evidently, we all have different bodies that shape our own experiences. Thus, this new change was particular to me. Perhaps it came about because of a lapse in my true beliefs, but that hasn’t diminished the results. I have taken care of my body and I have loved how it’s made me feel.

This may or may not be the case for you. But, as we all have different bodies, we have different needs to fulfill so we can love our bodies. For instance, my mom is disabled and not able to work out in the way that I am. To show her body love, though, she could probably use a day of relaxation.

So, perhaps to love your body, you need to go to bed earlier. Maybe you need to enrich your brain by spending more time studying. Maybe you need to drink less coffee. Maybe you need to go out less, or starting going out more!

Our bodies are our vehicles for living—they need to relax and experience pleasure. We need to care for them, whatever that may look like.

This bodily experience of mine has created new knowledge and awareness of myself. I realize that I’m no longer concerned if I shed off the pounds like the infomercial tells me I need to. I need to make my body happy, in whatever way that may be.

In fact, I realize that I’m unlikely to have the shape of a magazine cover girl. I love my occasional beer and wings nights too much to give them up. Besides, these nights also make my body happy! And when my body is happy, I am happy.