Love, Honor and Appreciate Your Body

This post is part of the National Organization for Women’s 2011 Love Your Body Day blog carnival. For 14 years, NOW has celebrated Love Your Body Day – a day when women of all sizes, colors ages and abilities come together to celebrate self-acceptance and to promote positive body image.

Since high school and college, I’ve appreciated more my own beauty despite the daily bombardment of sexualized, objectified media messages I receive daily telling me that I’m not ___ enough (fill in the blank). I refuse to straighten my curly hair on a daily basis, go to tanning salons or wear a lot of makeup. I don’t follow any weight loss diets and I think my body is naturally comfortable being a size 12. And there’s nothing I can do about being petite, which is okay with me.

My relationship with my body is a work in progress and how I relate to it has a lot to do with age, ability and race. (Not to mention emotion and mental well-being). My body in all of its descriptions – white, 28 years old, able-bodied – is what our culture unfairly upholds as “normal” and ideal for feminine beauty standards. There’s no shortage of images of white, young, able-bodied women in our culture, although most of these images are ornamental, passive and objectified. There are few images of real women of any color, size, race and range of able-bodiedness that actively demonstrate their bodies and what they can do. Of course, there are a few women celebrity athletes, but how many of us fit into that category?

What I’m interested in celebrating on Love Your Body Day is appreciating a few moments this year when my I pushed my body beyond what I thought I could do and when I strengthened my relationship with my body. After all, I won’t be young and able-bodied forever. Here are two moments that stand out to me the most:

Hiking theĀ Billy Goat Trail – a 4.7 mile hiking trail that follows the path of the C&O Canal and the Potomac River near Great Falls, MD. My experienced hiker-friend Angie and I (a beginner) completed Trail A on Bear Island, where we scrambled over rocks, cliffs and boulders high above the river. It was windy, cold and I didn’t know what I was getting into until I had a few inches to tip toe around a huge gash in the rock several hundred feet above the river. With no injuries and just a sore body the next day, I felt amazingly strong after that hike!

Seeing my cervix for the first time – during my last well-woman exam, I asked my doctor if she could show me my cervix when she had it in sight. If she’s going to find it anyway, why not show me with a hand mirror and a light? It’s my body that I’m allowing her to examine! I had read about the early women’s health movement and cervical self-examinations, but I had no desire to try to find my cervix on my own. My doctor was surprised that I had asked, a little nervous at first, but then excited that I wanted to see it since very few women ask. Seeing my round, pink and dimpled cervix in the mirror was not a revolutionary act for me as it was for women in the early 1970s. And that’s fine with me. The act was more like a quiet, subtle shift in consciousness having made visible something that was previously hidden and unseen in my body. Thinking about what my cervix can do is pretty amazing.

Happy Love Your Body Day!

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