You know what’s gross? Racism is gross. Homophobia, xenophobia, sexism—gross. Oppression and discrimination are gross. Telling people what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies? Gross. Convincing people there is something inherently wrong with them in order to turn a profit? Gross.
Ketchup is gross. (Don’t argue.)
But you? Your body? Your body fat, cellulite, and wrinkles? NOT GROSS.
I got into this conversation with my dear friend recently, because she was trying on clothes in front of me and kept calling her body gross. It pained me to hear this coming from someone I love so dearly, someone whom I think is a both a goddess and a queen.
Now, I get it. I get that she’s not thrilled about her body fat or cellulite situations. I get that she’s frustrated and wants to change her body—and all of that is okay.
It’s okay to be displeased with aspects of yourself and want to change them in some way; what’s not okay is the belief that we are obligated to in order to fit into boxes that were created by societal constructs—boxes that very few of us fit into comfortably.
As a body image consultant and fitness coach, I think we do the term “body positivity” a grave disservice when we assume it means that loving ourselves precludes us from ever wanting to change.
We, as leaders, can often do harm by insinuating that self-love means you’re completely in love with the appearance of cellulite or stretch marks.
The truth is, you can love yourself as a whole person without necessarily loving every part of your body.
In fact, during the beginning stages of learning to step into a space of self-love, the idea that you have to love everything can feel really intimidating. It feels too big, too impossible—especially if you’ve spent years hating yourself and feeling never good enough.
But if you can learn to meet your perceived “flaws” without judgment and attached meaning, this will go a long way towards standing in your power.
As we embark on a journey to feel powerful and at home in our bodies, it’s important that we learn to reframe this language and see our features for what they are—without a negative connotation.
The leap from body hatred to body love is pretty far for many of us, especially when those body image issues run deep. Therefore the intention isn’t necessarily to love at first—rather to not hate.
We must affirm that the idea that our body fat, cellulite, wrinkles, and stretch marks are “bad” or “gross” isn’t part of our inherent nature. We didn’t decide that, nor did we create the unattainable standards of perfect with which we’re constantly inundated.
It isn’t our birthright to demean and disrespect ourselves with hurtful language, to strive forever on end to meet an arbitrary standard of beauty that constantly changes and varies.
You weren’t born to regard yourself as gross, to look in the mirror and hate what you see—you were born with radiance and magic.
But the first step towards manifesting that magic and stepping into a space of self-love and worthiness might not actually be love itself; for many of us, the first step is truth—a recognition of reality without added bias and learned labels.
Can we look in the mirror and learn to see ourselves with presence and truth, rather than disgust? I’ll tell you honestly that I don’t love my cellulite. It doesn’t define me or keep me from living in my fulness; I’m not obsessed with getting rid of it and I don’t think that doing so would make me more lovable or desirable.
I don’t look at my cellulite and think, “Gross,” but I also don’t look at it and think, “You are so beautiful, Cellulite; I love you so dearly.”
I accept that it’s a part of my body, and I love myself as a whole person. I love my body as a whole unit—but I don’t gaze upon the dimples in my but with fondness and reverence.
I’m just not there. And that has to be okay.
Rather than beating myself up for not loving my cellulite (hello—another way we make ourselves feel inadequate!), I understand that sometimes love isn’t the goal. Sometimes simply detaching from a narrative that steals from us is all we need to do in order to take back our power and feel alive in our bodies.
So instead of pinching your belly fat and saying “gross,” or looking at your cellulite in the mirror and thinking “gross,” try just calling it what it is. Touch those stretch marks and just say “stretch marks.”
Pinch that fat and literally just say, “fat.” Do this with as much openness, awareness, and curiosity that you can muster.
It doesn’t have to be good or bad—it can just be what it is. If we can do this, we can start to tap into the vibrant aliveness of our bodies; we can begin to see how miraculously interwoven our physical and emotional bodies are, and we can step onto the path of awakening that teaches us to love ourselves as whole, multidimensional beings.
And none of that is gross.