NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
It has taken me over 44 years to truly appreciate and accept you. I am writing this letter as a way to express my appreciation and ask for your forgiveness for my past indiscretions.
For most of my life, I have waged a war against you because you didn’t look the way I wanted you to. I’d look in the mirror and lament what was wrong and missing; that was all I could see. I was upset that I didn’t have the body of a supermodel and didn’t possess many of the attributes deemed desirable in our society. I didn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes, and my hips and thighs weren’t slim and narrow. I cursed my natural curves and did whatever I could to completely obliterate them.
I also didn’t like my Roman nose or my thick and wavy hair, and I did everything within my power to fight those attributes as well. I actually felt fortunate when a bicycle accident necessitated the plastic surgery that gave me a slimmer nose, but I continued to loathe my profile.
As for my hair, I have battled its natural texture for as long as I can remember. While this has mostly been a frustrating and time-consuming pursuit, it crossed the line into dangerous territory late last year. The “keratin smoothing treatment” I got gave me the straight, smooth hair I so coveted, but the formaldehyde in the product also brought on serious breathing difficulties and significant hair loss. I learned the hard way that smooth hair is not worth the risk to my health!
My lack of acceptance for the body I was given led me to engage in a multitude of other destructive actions. Beginning at the young age of thirteen, I starved myself to a dangerously low weight, exercised to the point of exhaustion, and vomited and abused laxatives and diuretics in order to purge unwanted calories from my system. No matter how thin I got, it wasn’t good enough, so I endangered my health further and brought myself close to death’s door on many occasions.
Body, you did your best to sustain yourself and my life in the midst of my relentless abuse, but it was impossible to escape some inevitable damage. I lost the feeling in my legs for a long stretch of time, experienced continuous dizzy spells and blackouts, completely lost the memory of several years of my life, and my digestive tract was damaged in multiple ways from my eating disordered behavior. Although I didn’t think much of the future during my steadfast pursuit of impossible thinness, I did not escape anorexia without some extreme physical effects. However, I did escape with my life, all thanks to my amazing and resilient body.
In recent months, I have been faced with a difficult and painful new digestive ailment. While the genesis of this illness has not yet been determined, I know that the brutal starvation and vomiting of years past took their toll. While I didn’t worry about my health or feel gratitude for the blessings of my body back then, things have changed. I now realize that my relationship with you, Body, is a reciprocal one. As such, I am now willing to honor you and do what I need to do to make you well again. I realize that we are partners on this life journey.
I used to only worry about what you looked like and I showed little concern or regard for your functions. I was completely oblivious to all of the miracles that take place inside my body each and every day. Yet, despite my abuse and disregard, you continued to work and carry me through life. Although I provided little nutritional sustenance for you, your functions persisted. My heart continued to beat, my lungs continued to take in air, my limbs still moved, and my brain still worked. I didn’t appreciate these marvels for most of my life, but I do now.
Body, I want to thank you for all you do for me today and every day. You allow me to experience the world through my five senses and to move about freely by means of my working limbs. Because of you, I can hug my husband, pet my cats, see a sunset, hear a beautiful song, and taste my favorite foods. For these and many other blessings, I thank you. I also thank you for never giving up on me, although I frequently gave up on you.
I finally appreciate you and all you do for me. I understand that I need to do my part and make sure that I eat well, get enough rest, and have a positive attitude about both you and my life. I need to be present to the abundant gratitude I feel for all you do in order to allow me to have a wonderful and beautiful life.
Although I realize there are bound to be times when I experience judgment for certain body parts, my hope is that I will focus more on the positive than the negative. I will strive to be the best that I can be in terms of both my health and appearance, but I also vow to no longer reach for things that are unrealistic or unattainable. I will endeavor to appreciate my unique attributes and embrace my individual beauty. I will adopt an attitude of gratitude for how well you work, Body, and I will do all I can to support the vibrant good health that is mine for the taking.
With this letter, I wave the white flag and end my lifelong war with you. From now on, we will be partners instead of adversaries. When I look in the mirror, I will focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong. When I make decisions about what to eat, when to rest, and how to take care of myself, I will honor your needs and be a responsible steward for you.
Body, please forgive me for the abuses of the past and my continuous disparagement of you over the years. I was misguided and depressed and was acting from a place of fear and despair rather than a place of love and acceptance. I know I damaged you greatly through my actions and I am truly sorry. I cannot change the past, but I can and will act differently moving forward.
I can honestly write that I love and appreciate you, Body, and know that I am being completely truthful in this assertion. Full self-acceptance and body acceptance are not far away, and inner peace will soon be mine. Once again, I thank you for all that you do for me. Words cannot express the gratitude I now feel for you. It took a long time for me to get to this point, but as the old saying goes, better late than never.
With love, gratitude, and appreciation,