Monday, March 7, 2011

FFB: My Body Entirely

The start of a cross-country race.

Hello, all!

So the FFB topic for today is really just to discuss one of the topics that have been addressed in the discussions on the group page. One of our discussions was about body image and plastic surgery, and since I've been doing track, I've been thinking a lot about body image.

I am a runner, and I have been for the last four years; running has completely changed how I see my body and I will not allow myself to hate my body. I might not like all the features of my body, but every imperfect bit of it is part of me. Running has given me the ability to look at myself not in terms of beauty but in terms of function-- I am healthy. I'm strong and capable of movement.

My elbows are bony and my calves are too big, my thighs are impossible to fit into pants, and I am not built to be a runner. Yet I am, despite that... My elbows allow my arms to move, pulling me forward faster; my calves stretch and contract with each step, carrying me up and down hills; my thighs are mostly muscle, propelling my runs. I am not these pieces of myself; I'm a whole. Every part of me has a function. My body is a beautiful, efficient, running MACHINE.

My body carries me on journeys-- across the globe (mostly in a plane, but STILL), up a mountain, around a track, down a street, up a hill, across a stream; distances farther than I used to believe I could run. I am not the fastest, but I can move fast, every part of me screaming for oxygen and straining. And at the end, I may be hunched over and struggling to breathe, but I survived, despite the pain. My body allows that. It enables my adventures, and it endures ridiculous amounts of pain as I push myself to some new limit.

That's why I don't understand plastic surgery. Not fully, anyway. I can understand wanting to perfect your body, but for myself, it would never be an option. I could never forsake the body that is healthy and strong. I understand feeling like you're not good enough or not pretty enough, but can you not see, when you look at yourself, how beautiful you are? In function, if nothing else?

I mean, obviously, there are exceptions. Maybe it isn't about body image, but a medical thing. If it is necessary, then yes, go for it. But I think that plastic surgery and our negative views of our bodies are feminist issues.

Everywhere around us, we are compelled to think that our bodies are flawed. That we are flawed. That our hips are too wide, our bellies too fat, our arms too flabby... the list goes on and on. If you told me to name 10 imperfections about my body, I could probably make a list in 10 seconds flat, but that isn't how I want to live. I don't want to be critical of my HEALTHY body, to allow myself to submit to these insane rules of how my body should look when I know that the way my body looks isn't the most important thing about it. I can't allow myself to be brainwashed into thinking that I am not good enough and that my body is not up to the standards of society.

What if my standards of beauty are different? What if all I want from my body is the ability to run and to feel free?

Can you look at your body and appreciate it for what it is; it's strengths and weaknesses? That's you. All of it. Everything. Your body, your terms. Improve upon it if you must, but it is better to be healthy and accepting of your body than hate yourself. And maybe it's just the runner in me, but when you move, feel it fully. Sink into every joint and jiggle and take a deep breath-- feel how your body flies over the ground or stumbles along, how your lungs expand and sweat covers your skin. Embrace it, how alive your body is-- how it is nothing fake. You are fully real. You are fully yourself.

Run. Breathe. Dance. Sing. Hug. Do something, move. Your body doesn't have to be anything else. It can do everything you need it-- or want it-- to, and you don't have to feel bad about it.

That's all I guess. Just what I've been thinking about, and my view on it.

-Aly