What’s a Body for, Anyway?

Last week I talked about how it’s way too common for women to trash-talk their bodies–and other women’s bodies, too.  It’s one thing to say you want to accept your body instead of complaining about it.  But how to make the leap to actually doing it?

Focus on what your body can do, and not just on what it looks like.

What's a Body For, Anyway? | Modern Mrs DarcyThis is not new advice.  Some of you have been hearing it for years, especially if you’re tuned in to the continuing discussion about how we as a society can help our young girls have a healthy body image.

Parents and other role models are being encouraged more and more to point our daughters this direction.  Lisa McMinn sums it up nicely:

“When parents replace critical comments about themselves or others on the basis of beauty with comments about the strength and wonder of bodies that can run, lift, do intricate tasks, smell, taste, and hear, they redeem a cycle that encourages daughters to identify with the marvelous good of their bodies.”

But really, this advice should apply not just to little girls, but to women of all ages.

Because no matter how much we grown-ups know in our heads we should accept our bodies instead of criticizing them, it’s very hard to just “fix” a negative body image in an instant.  Your mind needs a compelling reason to turn from condemnation to acceptance:

Focus on what your body can do.  This is not the only path, but it’s a good one.

My own experience at the gym helped me with this one.  Form follows function, and strong women often have decidedly non-supermodel-esque muscles. Do you remember these classic 2005 Nike ads?

“My butt is big and round like the letter C and ten thousand lunges have made it rounder but not smaller.  And that’s just fine.” You get the idea.  (Visit this site if you can’t read the text.)

But you don’t have to be a serious athlete to appreciate what your body can do.  Can you “do intricate tasks, smell, taste, and hear?”  That’s what our bodies are for!

My advice?  Take a portfolio approach to your body.  It’s okay to want your body to look nice.  But when you think about your body, focus on function as well as appearance: you’ll be much healthier, happier, and saner.

Our culture desperately needs female role models to show us what it looks like for a women to have a healthy relationship with her body.  (Have you read the news this week?  Airbrushing and retouching and photoshopping, oh my!)

So here’s the challenge:  think about your own body.  Where is your focus?

photo credit: © 2010 Mark Hesseltine, Flickr


Leave A Comment
  1. Mandi says:

    Being pregnant for the first time, I am constantly amazed at what my body can do! I definitely feel so much better about my body now than I ever have.

  2. Emily says:

    Small boobs don’t require bras (unless you purposely choose immodest tops). My “mommy pouch” shows that I have undertaken and survived the world’s greatest task (pregnancy and childbirth). The man I fell in love with and married is one of the most handsome on earth–and he happens to prefer ladies who don’t wear makeup. Being thin and short enables me to fit into places most other people can’t.

    Yep, I appreciate my body. 😉

  3. Michelle says:

    I am very strict on makeup. I never wear any and will not allow my daughter (5) to play dress up with make up either. I do not want her my girls growing up believing that you have to change something about yourself to be beautiful. I try to stay fit not because I want to look a certain way but because our bodies are really amazing, especially when we take care of them! Great post 🙂

  4. Marie says:

    Excellent advice! I am at an age (37) where I have begun appreciating function as much as form and have ironically been moving more because of that, thereby gradually and healthfully improving the form. Your suggestion to actively REPLACE one type of remark for another is SPOT ON. Thanks!

    visiting through WLW

  5. Kimberly says:

    I LOVED this post; thank you so much for sharing. So interesting, my first thought when I saw the first picture was: dang those legs are hot. I wish I had those legs. Then when I saw the second photo of the little girl, and tears welled up in my eyes, heart swollen. I adore your words and am so happy to have found those ads again. I had forgotten how powerful they are. You are inspiring many!

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