Why We Abandon Our Bodies
Women and people from other marginalized communities learn early on to distrust our bodies. Immersed as we are in our cultural power structures, we view our bodies through the lenses of racism, misogyny and homophobia that elevate the thin, Eurocentric, cisgendered body.
As children we watch the women around us curse their bodies for not matching the cultural ideal. We absorb the marketing promises of love and belonging if only we can get our bodies under control.
We learn that our bodies are things to be managed and punished and shamed into a presentation most of us can never achieve.
Because the messaging we receive is about worthiness and belonging, the stakes are high. We learn to reject and abandon our bodies. We punish ourselves for eating. We restrict, we binge. We learn to attach morality to food, eating, movement and bodies, our own and those around us.
Instead of being embodied, securely settled in and attuned to our body’s cues: hunger, satiety, desire for touch, comfort, nourishment and pleasure, we spectate our bodies. We become consumed with how our bodies appear versus how they feel.
Re-parenting can help us create a loving, nourishing, protective relationship with ourselves. It requires a commitment to lovingly and compassionately guiding ourselves toward what’s best for us.
Re-parenting tools for healing your relationship with your body include:
- Taking note of the diverse bodies around you, looking for beauty in the people you spend time with. There is so much beauty in the human beings on this earth and most of it does not fit within our rigid cultural standards.
- Working to dismantle the systems that caused the trauma in the first place. Curate the information you take in. Look for people who are challenging cultural norms around bodies and beauty and the diet industry.
- Regularly checking in on how your body is feeling, feeding yourself when you’re hungry, listening to your body when it tells you what it wants and what foods in particular will provide satiety. (This can be particularly challenging when struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating. For more information on the difference between the two and help for both visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/eating-disorders-versus-disordered-eating.)
- Making a list of things that feel good for your body: curling up under a soft fluffy blanket with a warm beverage, soaking in a hot bath, taking a walk in the woods, snuggling with your pups. Commit to doing something each day that is purely for your physical pleasure.
- Social experiences with larger crowds or people you don’t know may provoke more self-spectating than others. Before entering into this kind of situation, set your intention for what you want the experience to feel like for you. I like to set my intention to have as much fun as possible at social gatherings that kick up my spectating anxiety. This keeps me focused on a goal that centers me and my experience instead of centering others and what I imagine their experience of me might be.
- Take note of the times when you feel most at home in your body, when you’re least likely to spectate yourself. It’s often when you’re in the moment with people you love or engrossed in an experience. Having an awareness of where you’re already doing this well can help you create more similar experiences.
- Most importantly, hold on loosely to your expectations and give yourself lots of grace and compassion.