You’re not just a body.
You are a body, a heart, and a mind, and soul, all bound up into one remarkable person. Our world constantly seeks to divide – heart from mind, body from soul – dicing us up into little pieces to take and use whichever part is most appealing at the time.
Just ask Essena O’Neill. She was making money off her personal Instagram, lots of it, by modeling bikinis and dresses. She would spend hours posing to get the perfect shot, and while she acknowledged that her natural beauty could get her far, she’d constantly obsess about diet, exercise, makeup, and styling. Go read her edited captions. They’re stunning.
But social media likes don’t feed a weary soul. And, as a woman who has struggled (real talk: still struggles) with body image, you may find it hard to believe that my favorite photo was of her in a bikini – caption edited, below.
“Face away because obviously my body is my most likeable asset.”
Hear this: your body is good. Whether it looks like Essena’s in a bikini or not (and again, let’s be real: hers doesn’t either), your body is good. But your body is not your most likeable asset.
Separating the body from the rest of the person turns the person into an object. While I applaud the world for embracing the ‘body-positive’ movement, recognizing the goodness in all our bodies, putting a ‘plus-size’ girl on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue doesn’t advance feminism. What a lie, disguised as a message of liberation: “No matter your shape or size, you can now be something to be used, rather than someone to be loved!”
Since we were all created for love, there’s a part of us that winces when we see our bodies reduced to window displays – whether the product we’re selling is a bikini, a cheeseburger, or sex itself. But the part of us that protests is quickly shut up, because successfully selling those products can make us feel powerful, captivating, valuable… even loved. That’s what love is, right? Power?
We settle for less, all the time. We believe the lie that our bodies are simply the objects we must use to get the love we’re starving for. We start thinking that our bodies are obviously our most likeable asset. If they look like Essena’s, we’re worthy of love – and if they look like anything else… well, then, we’ve got some work to do.
Enough. Turn your face back around. Show us the heart, and mind, and soul that live within that body. Make yourself whole again.
I’ve divided myself up into a million pieces: I am my intelligence. I am my sense of humor. I am my talent with a pen or a keyboard. I am my fashion choices. I am my job. I am my relationships. Fill in the blank, and at one time or another, I’ve believed that it was my most valuable asset. I’ve believed that x-thing would make me feel whole.
So I’ve tried to stop looking at my body; or rather, looking solely at my body, or my intelligence, or my humor. When I catch sight of my body, I look for what’s good, and appreciate what I can. But it doesn’t stop there, because I’m so much more than just a body. I’m a body, a heart, a mind, and a soul. I won’t let the world divide me into pieces.
I hope you won’t, either.’