“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
We try to give our bodies value with numbers. We’re obsessed with the number on the scale and the circumference of our waist.
We also think our value lies in labels. Words like “obese,” “fat,” and “overweight” are triggers for many, and we abhor them like coffee breath, because we’ve been immersed in pocrescophobia (the fear of getting fat) from before we can remember.
But we are more than a category on a pie chart. We are more than our body shape. Magazines tell us we are shaped like a fruit, but we are shaped by the experiences that have made us the people we are today.
Our bodies may not be light, but inside we are shrouded with light. We may be soft where we’ve been told we ought to be hard and toned, but it’s in our softness that others feel comforted in the midst of their problems. We may not have a thigh gap, but there’s space between our arms for those we love to seek shelter.
We are more than just a body.
Our bodies are amazing. It can do so much, for ourselves and for others. We are each beautiful in our own right.
But that’s not all there is to us. We are the imprint we leave on the planet during our short life on Earth. We are the heart that beats within us for the things we are passionate about.
We are the smile that radiates out of our eyes when we experience a moment of pure joy, and the serenity that pervades us when we are content. We are the words we exchange, the words we write down, the words we guard in our minds at all costs. We are the feelings that pass through us, exhilarate us, drive us, guide us.
We are the thoughts and memories and unique set of DNA that set us apart from everyone else. We are special. We are needed. We are designed for a purpose.
We have value that surpasses everything society and the media wants us to obsess over. We have value apart from how we look. We have value apart from our relationship status.
We have value apart from our income. We have value apart from whether we own a house or not, or have kids or not. We. Have. Value. Unchanging, unequivocal, perfect value.
I regret that I wasted this whole weekend feeling depressed about how much I weigh now compared to how much I weighed in my early twenties (I’m approaching thirty). It seems so silly when you think about it, a stone here or there. But I found myself giving in to that black hole, falling-to-the-floor kind of despair.
I should weigh less. I should look slimmer. I should try harder.
I should be something that isn’t me at this moment in time.
It seems like everyone is dissatisfied with the way they look. We will pay money and give up all our free time to try and achieve the illusion of perfection. Snapchat filters, Instagram filters, even paying for apps that will help us to create the perfect selfie, because heaven forbid we look anything less than perfect online!
This, in turn, feeds into other people’s insecurities, spreading the toxic message that our “just as I am” is not enough.
The thing is, weight is just one small way to measure health. My weight suggests I’m quite overweight for my height. But when you look at my waist-to-hip and waist-to-height measurements, I’m in the “healthy” category for both of them, with little-to-no risk of developing heart disease or obesity.
Things just don’t add up. I’m left feeling like something is wrong with me. Am I in the red, or in the green?
Do I need to lose weight, or can I breathe a sigh or relief?
The thing is, it’s these categories and labels that have got it all wrong. Health can’t always be measured by numbers. It’s how you live your life.
Being obsessive isn’t healthy. Talking negatively (even in your mind) about yourself isn’t healthy. Striving for perfection isn’t healthy.
What is healthy? Loving yourself exactly the way you are. Making good choices for your physical and mental health.
Being balanced in everything.
Some days I feel like I’ve come so far, that I truly do love and accept myself as I am, wobbly bits and all. Other days I feel lost in a sea of self-pity and a strong dislike for what I see in the mirror. I compare myself to other girls.
Why can’t I be naturally skinny? Why has nature been so unkind? Then I remember that nature has been kind.
I’m uniquely myself with my own combination of curves and body fat. Why would I want to look like anyone else?
My thoughts go round and round like this. It can be so tiring.
My parents used to tell me I had a “feminine figure.” My partner loves the way I look and never ceases to remind me, even when I’m in one of my funks and in a loop of obsessing over my supposed flaws. If I could only see myself through the eyes of those who love me, my obsessing and self-loathing would all stop in an instant.
The thing is, we have to see ourselves through the eyes of love. We have to accept. We are craving our own love and acceptance.
We need our own kindness. We need to talk about ourselves like we would talk to our best friend. We need to look in the mirror and say, “You are beautiful, just the way you are.”
See your own value. Yes, your body has value. Yes, it is beautiful, exactly as it is.
Shout it out! Proclaim it to the rooftops!
But you are more than that.
You are so much more than a body.
About Nicola Casey
Nicola Casey is a language teacher living in Kent, England with her partner and cockapoo, Gus. She loves writing and is also currently working on a crime novel. She is passionate about living a balanced life and reaching others through her writing, music and art.