These days I’m in a generally happy relationship with my body. But like any relationship, it goes up and down. In the past week or so, I’ve had a few negative incidents. One was when I came home from teaching 5 Pure Barre classes; feeling rather confident and tight all-over, I showed off my abs to my boyfriend, who said, “well now you can work on getting your six pack.”
Now, to be fair we lift up our shirts to each other all the time and say, “how do I look?” We’re both very health-conscious, and our love started with runs over the Williamsburg Bridge where I delightedly beat him with running and he beat me with push-ups. I get very jolly when I best him in one of our outdoor sessions. But when my boyfriend shows off I coo, “Woow you look amaazing!” Never do I say, “now you can work on getting your six pack.”
“Would you even want a girlfriend who has a six pack? I like the way I look.” I said. Even though I asked, it was clear that he wouldn’t exactly mind seeing me with abs you couldn’t pinch: abs I’ve admired on one of my Facebook friends, who is a fitness model and highly sought-out NYC trainer. I don’t even think about the possibility of a six-pack until it’s staring at me in the face on my newsfeed. I’m not going to lie–when I see her professionally shot photos in a sports bra and hot shorts, for a magazine shoot or an ad campaign, and dozens of comments with heart-eyes emoji, I wonder if I’m not pushing myself hard enough. I ask: would my boyfriend find me more attractive? Would Peaceful Dumpling readers find me more inspiring?? [insert here sad emoji]
It’s difficult to come back to feeling secure and calm once these doubts start creeping up. Here are a few reminders that help me feel beautiful and confident.
1. Your body doesn’t have to look like someone else’s in order to be beautiful.
Sure, some people have bodies so stunning it’s hard to process (looking at you, Miranda Kerr). But does that mean you have to have that same body to be beautiful? That’s as silly (and creepy) as saying you have to have Audrey Hepburn’s face in order to be beautiful. Would you give up your unique face just to become more “perfect”? Your body is as completely unique to you as your face is. And that’s really quite amazing, and poignant, to think about. There is poetry in the very uniqueness of your form–so appreciate it.
2. You don’t need someone else’s approval to feel beautiful.
It’s always nice to hear compliments about your appearance. Having said that, you don’t need anyone’s note of approval to feel beautiful. Would you wait for permission to feel smart, worthy, capable, happy? If you feel pretty, no one else has the right to take that away from you.
3. You don’t even have to have your perfect body to feel beautiful.
These days the popular refrain is that you don’t need *the* perfect body, as long as you have your perfect body. Oh my god, the immense pressure! That’s about as forgiving as saying, “you don’t have to have *the* perfect job, as long as you have your perfect job.” That pretty much sounds like the same thing since you were shooting for your perfect ___ anyway. And if you wait until you achieve your perfect ___ to be satisfied with yourself, you might be striving a long time without finding a place of appreciation and peace.
I decided some time ago that I don’t need to have my perfect body to feel good about myself. In Paris last fall, I felt great even though I was eating a lot and obviously not working out as much. And I even took a midriff selfie (which I never do! I swear!) because I was impressed by how well my core was holding up against the daily baguettes and jam.
The truth is, it’s totally okay to not have your perfect body. You are not lazy or uninspired if you don’t have your perfect body and feel content and beautiful. God knows, you try hard in all manner of living life–so should you beat yourself up if you are not at the extreme physical peak? Despite the cultural paradigm, obtaining your top physique is not a moral imperative, so you don’t owe it even to yourself, let alone other people. A moral imperative is being a good human being…not the most gorgeous person you can be.
These were more philosophical ways to feel beautiful. What makes you feel beautiful on a daily basis? Please share! For me it’s: putting on makeup, doing yoga, taking modern dance or ballet classes, wearing heels…and also when I laugh out loud because something really funny/great/heart-warming just happened. 🙂
Also in self-love: 3 Practices to Love Your Body
Photo: Camilla Soares via Flickr; Peaceful Dumpling