Learning to love your body for what it can do, not how it looks

I remember running back to the bleachers after a particularly exhilarating high school track race. My female teammates and I stood around, excitedly discussing the race results between long gulps of water and adjusting our ponytails. Can you believe I beat so-and-so from the other team? You just beat your best time by HOW much?!

As soon as we sat back down and the post-race adrenaline began wearing off, the mood took a turn for the negative. My teammates, close friends of mine, would fervently begin reapplying makeup, commenting on how “gross” they looked after the race, or how their legs looked “fat” when they sat down. I would sputter out reassurances to them, though they often seemed to go unnoticed. What happened to the race we had just won? To the pride and sense of accomplishment and independence we had just felt? Were feelings so timeless able to be so easily overshadowed by how the girls looked right now?

I approach matters of self-esteem, such as appearance, in the same way I approach a math problem: I break it down into little parts at a time, and I ultimately use logic to prevail.

When I’m insecure about how my legs look, I think of how fast they have helped me move in races. About the interesting places they have taken me in my journey so far.

When I’m having a bad hair day, I think about the point of having hair at all. Will I allow a few particularly frizzy curls to affect the outcome of my day?

When all I can see in the mirror is my “chicken arms”, I think of the creative words they have allowed me to write, the hugs they have given and received, and their ability to, you know, help me do about 90% of my daily tasks.

On the days when my smile is not my favorite, I think of the words it has spoken to uplift people’s days, the apologies they have given when it has not, and how a smile given to a passerby has visibly planted a smile on their face, too.

When you think about the wonderful things our bodies can do, doesn’t fretting over something like their mere appearance seem rather silly? Our bodies are beautiful, capable, strong units that help us achieve our dreams and reach our goals — they should not be a target of ridicule from yourself or others, and they should not cater to anyone else’s expectations but our own. Your appearance most likely will not affect the duties of your day, but your mood will.

Kyleigh McPhillips is a curly-haired college student who is still searching her long list of passions for “the one.” She is a poet, barista, and middle sister. She is anxiously waiting to explore the world – or at least leave her small hometown.

(Image by Marjainez, via Rookiemag.)

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