A few days ago, I asked a question in my online community, a group of mostly women and many of whom are also mothers.
“What part of your body do you love the most?”
I knew it might be a loaded and tricky question. After all, women are taught to hate their bodies. We’re frequently bombarded with messages from the media, the diet industry, and the beauty industry that we need to change ourselves to love ourselves.
We’re told to whittle ourselves down to almost nothing in order to be truly valuable.
Our worth is tied up in our beauty or lack there of.
So when I asked this question in my group, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
And to be honest, it was a fairly vulnerable post for me.
It’s taken me years to say that I love any part of my body. I spent far too long hating my body, wishing it could be different, and actively trying to beat it into submission, often making myself physically and emotionally sick in the process.
I answered by saying that I love my legs.
What I didn’t say was that I didn’t always. That I went years without wearing shorts or skirts because I hated how my legs looked. For a long time whenever I thought about my legs, all I could think of was my ballet teacher criticizing me for having thighs that touched at age 8.
Not many women shared but the few who did had similar “I used to hate them but now I love them” stories.
We’ve had to teach ourselves to not only value our bodies and how they look, but to truly love ourselves, too.
One of the women who responded wrote, “I like my stomach. My core is strong and flexible. 3 pregnancies, 2 of them with c sections, and an appendectomy and I can still rock a bikini at 50.”
She added, “It helps that I do yoga daily and teach 2 core classes a week.”
Now whether or not you feel comfortable wearing a bikini is a personal thing, but I love the confidence that my friend shares here, particularly around an area of the body that we, as women, are taught to hate.
The messaging around bellies to women is even more complicated now.
No matter which side you land on, I honestly just wish we’d stop commenting on women’s bodies.
Or using physical appearance to determine health or wellness.
It’s a barometer we learn too young, it’s not always accurate, and it does more harm than good.
A strong, healthy core has little to do with what your stomach looks like and more to do with what it can do.
This was more of a common theme when women spoke about what they loved about their bodies. They all explained the ways their eyes conveyed warmth and love or that their legs could hike high into the mountains or dance or hold them in balancing poses.
One woman said she loved her uterus. She just gave birth, so I totally get it. And I totally agree. My uterus was second on my own list. That amazing organ grew 3 times to hold and support life within me. And then shrunk back down again each time. Everytime I think about my uterus, I’m full of gratitude, pride, and awe.
What felt more important to me in reading the answers to this questions is that every single woman shared all of the reasons they loved what their bodies could do, not just how they looked.
I decided to ask my daughter the same question, “what part of your body do you love the most?”
She thought for about half a second and answered, “my head.”
I was a little caught off guard. I definitely didn’t expect to hear that as an answer, so I asked her why.
She said, “because I use it to think.”
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more proud.
And while I know she won’t necessarily stay in this frame of mind, I hope to remind her as she grows up that her value is not based on her looks but on what she decides is valuable.
And her love for herself should lie less in what other people think of her, but what she can do for herself.
Want to learn more about what it means to have a strong, healthy core? Join me for an online workshop teaching you the ways to measure core strength and how to get stronger without doing a single sit-up. Sign up here.