Bodies — sometimes we are proud of them, say one aspect of them (hair, nails, muscles, teeth, arms), sometimes we are embarrassed by them, (shape, size, strength level, parts broken, parts in pain, areas sick or even missing), sometimes we are even shamed by them. This can happen when other people make comments, or we look in the mirror and criticize what we see.

And yet it is best to simply love our bodies.

Through it all our bodies are our gentle beasts, our friends, even when they are flawed, or when they change, tire, weaken, wear out. Many times they have served us well, carried us around, given us wonderful sensations, allowed us to experience and connect with our world and its many people.

We do well to love our bodies for what they have done for us.

Our eyes have shown us the colors, green trees, blue skies, yellow flowers, others’s bright eyes; our mouths have treated us to sweet chocolate ice cream and savory meats, delicate fruits and vegetables; our ears have heard the stream running over stones, the mockingbird bird chirping, our favorite classic or rock song. Our toes have mattered too; they have carried around our brains. Each part has counted.

Love your body’s parts. We do, and sometimes we don’t.

One of the difficulties that we all live with are the societal standards of what a perfect body should look like or be able to do. TV, movies, magazines, online images, advertisements don’t help. Here we see the freakishly beautiful, the perfectly toned, the carefully photoshopped. Thin, young, muscled and smooth-skinned is the dominant motif.

But we can have a different perspective. Many of us are working on this. Many of us understand that these pictures are not reality. Many of us are coming back to reality, to the value of self-acceptance.

Those TV images don’t reflect humanity well. No one is perfect. No one has the perfect body. And even if they approach that, it doesn’t last long. Norms and standards warp our perspectives, even lie to us. All age. All change. Work, mood, level of wealth, pregnancy, geography, genetics, weather, responsibilities, time, illness, aging, difficulty and more – all change the body.

And when our bodies change, then is the time to be oh so gentle with them and to love them even more.

Girls who are happy with their genes rule girls airbrushed for our screens.

Men happy with themselves are happier with others.

Children who are told they are wonderful, who are honestly complimented for their features, who are given explanations about everyone being different, who are never criticized concerning their bodies will struggle less with body image.

A few other ideas may help.

All have bodies. All bodies are similar in many ways. All need sleep and food. All smell good, don’t smell good, tire, glow, pale, shrink, restrengthen, age, sag, expand.

Self hatred, self denial, self-punishment, self criticism, body shaming — none of this is healthy or helpful in changing us or our bodies.

When we speak with ourselves it may help us to think what we would tell someone else, a friend or family member if they confessed some unhappiness or shame over their changing body. We would probably say something very affirming. We can also do this for ourselves, being kind, being sensitive, being affirmative with ourselves.

And we can ground ourselves in reality. I’m working in this too.

There are no perfect bodies, only perfectly gentle responses them.

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