Did you know that your body is not the enemy?
I know how difficult this concept can be when we feel as though we have been at war with our bodies for our entire existence, but this is a case of friendly fire, folks, and we are usually the shooters. Think back to your last cold or flu. Chills, fever, scratchy throat, fatigue, that crusty stuff that builds around your—you get the picture. Awful, right? And it is our mean old body’s fault! After all, the body is working overtime to disperse those white blood cells to the site of the virus, attempting to squash its insidious attack on our immune system! Awful, mean old body, right? Wrong. Feeling crappy when we’re sick is not a sign of a body that is mutiny-ing; it is the unfortunate byproduct of a body working exceedingly hard to return us to wellness. Our body is fighting on our behalf even as we curse it as though it were a cheating lover.
When we are struggling to see our bodies as a sacred friend on this journey through life, it might mean it is time for a radical reframe. Much like the example given above, at any moment we can adjust how we are perceiving our body and our relationship to it. This not always an easy task, but it can be a transformative one. We often relate to our bodies as if it were a mortal enemy we must battle until our death. That is an emotionally and physically exhausting way to move through life. Often, what we see as a fight against our bodies is an opportunity to be in a more loving relationship with our bodies. And sometimes, a simple mindset shift can get us there. That shift is a radical reframe.Practicing radical reframe can sound impossible for those of us navigating chronic illness, trans identity, or gender nonconformity. Feeling trapped in a body that does not feel like it has your best interest at heart assuredly makes sense. It is hard to love a vessel that appears to be the author of significant pain. What a terrifying experience to wake up in constant pain or in a body that does not feel in alignment with who you know yourself to be. It may very well feel like your body is against you.
Remember that this is a thinking, doing, being journey, and we will need to try on new beliefs and actions in the service of radical self-love. We are invited to ask ourselves, “What peace, power, or joy can be gained by deciding that this body I am inextricably tied to for the rest of my life is my enemy?” If there is no access to peace, power, or joy in your current framework, then it simply doesn’t serve you.
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Radical self-love asks us to try on new ways of thinking and doing that give us access to new ways of being. Trying on a new framework is like trying on a new coat. It may or may not fit. The coat isn’t wrong for not fitting. You are not wrong for not fitting in the coat. It just doesn’t fit. Far too many of us have been walking around the world wearing our “my body is the enemy” coat, wondering why we feel trapped and miserable. We tried on a thinking that doesn’t fit our pursuit of radical self-love. Deciding our body is the enemy leaves us fighting an unwinnable battle on our own soil. It all comes down to a simple question: If you decide to be at war with your body, how will you ever have peace?
Identify friendly fire
Friendly fire describes the times when we have blamed our poor bodies for issues that are not our bodies’ fault. Maybe we blamed our bodies for not fitting into those jeans in the store, rather than the designer for not making them with more inclusive sizing. Perhaps we blamed our bodies for an illness when our bodies were trying to fight off the bug the whole time. Maybe we decided that the doctor’s bigotry, society’s narrow beliefs, and systemic inequality were not about those things at all but instead about our bad, wrong bodies. By identifying the moments when we are scapegoating our bodies, we become better able to turn all that body blame into accountability for people, systems, and structures that fail to treat all bodies with compassion, equity, and justice!
List two examples of times when you aimed friendly fire at your body.
In the examples you gave above, consider the systems, structures, or circumstances that may have been at play in the times you blamed your body. Can you identify the systems that may have been operating— for example, fatphobia, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, or some other oppression? Include any personal beliefs you have that may have been impacted or shaped by those systems. What systems have responsibility?
Lay down your weapons
Don’t think of your body as the enemy but as an ally working in solidarity with you to help you live your best life. Ask yourself, “If I think of my body as an exceptional ally, doing its very best to support me, how would I reframe the two friendly-fire examples I gave above?”
If your body is your ally, then it is time to return the sentiment. What are three pieces of advice or offers of care you could give to your body when it is not feeling well?
What might you suggest to help your body compassionately manage stress?
Pen a peace treaty
Write a letter of radical reconciliation to your body. Share why you are surrendering in the war with your body and how you would like to be in solidarity with your body today. How would you like to invite it back into a relationship with you? What can you commit to in your allyship with it? Be specific, being sure to incorporate all the insights and observations from the above exercises.
Reprinted from Your Body Is Not an Apology Workbook: Tools for Living Radical Self-Love with permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Copyright © 2020 by Sonya Renee Taylor.