Body Appreciation: It's Like a Nissan Altima
I want you to think of the first car you ever owned.
Sometimes there’s an affinity for the first car you ever owned. They have sentimental value. They hold memories and are nostalgic in the way that they kind of transport you back to simpler times, maybe high school or college.
Maybe that car was with you through a lot of years, and throughout those years, a lot probably happened to the appearance of that car.
My first car was a black 2002 Nissan Altima. I had scratches all over the thing. I accidentally backed into a pole in high school, leaving a dent in the bumper. A car sideswiped mine when it was parked on the street one night, leaving damage on the entire driver side. My hubcaps would constantly fall off. The headlights became dim and there were small cracks in the windshield from all the drive time on the highway.
But you know what?
Regardless of what my car looked like, I was proud to call it mine.
That car got me where I needed to go – back and forth to school, practices, and friends’ houses. It gave me the independence that I sought for so long and also the responsibility that I inevitably had to learn.
That car held many secrets, whether they were mine or my friends'.
It would take my friends and me on the curvy roads on our college campus, filled with laughter (or shrieks of fear).
It’s where I fell in love with Lil Wayne.
It was my private space when I needed to cry over my normal teenage problems instead of talking to my parents.
It was the confidential hub where I would ponder my life decisions, gain insight, and problem-solve.
I always trusted it and, really, it felt like home.
The appreciation and love I had for that car had nothing to do with what it looked like. It was the inner workings, the mechanisms, and the entity that housed so many stories that formed me as a person that made me so grateful for it and proud of it.
I wonder what it would be like to view our bodies the same way.
Really, though: what would it be like to look at the inner workings of our bodies - the complex processes within the ultimate temple of our souls - to foster appreciation, trust, and comfort?
You’ve got so much to thank your body for.
Those legs of yours get you out of bed each morning to start a new day.
Those hands prepare the food you eat to nourish your body.
And how about those eyes – the eyes that allow you to see life happening all around you every single second.
And those organs of yours, seemingly with minds of their own, working non-stop to continue your literal life without you even having to ask them to.
Here's the kicker: You get all of these things regardless of what society has deemed as "imperfections". The blemishes on your face. The fat on your stomach. The loose skin after your weight loss. The cellulite on your thighs. The curvature on your nose. Your "post-baby body". Those gray hairs.
You probably have things you dislike about your appearance, and that’s totally okay and totally normal. I'm not here to pressure you to love your body at all times. (I'm more of a "body neutrality" fan, but that's another blog for another day.)
Try viewing and treating your physical body with the same appreciation as your first car. Recognize the safe space it gives you, regardless of what it looks like. Acknowledge the vast capabilities it has that allows you to live a life full of experiences.
When you're old and gray, you won't be thinking about all your physical imperfections. You'll be thinking about your experiences, lessons learned, and who you loved most. And guess what? Your body did all that.
"Thank your body."
I say this to my friends all the time when they talk poorly about their appearance in front of me. It usually gives us some good laughs because 1) it's the therapist coming out in me, and 2) my delivery keeps it lighthearted. Truthfully, sometimes they say it back to me when I complain about my own body - and I'm thankful for that.
If you take anything away from this blog, it's that I want you to take a moment and just thank your body, even just for one thing.
I tried this exercise out myself, and this is what came to me first:
I thank my legs that allow me to do highkicks when I'm excited, or for helping me out-swim everyone on our honeymoon excursion in Mexico just so I could see some damn sea turtles.
I thank my hands that have allowed me to make music with pianos and clarinets since I was 6 years old, and for allowing me to cut tomatoes (my fave) before I pour balsamic glaze all over them.
I thank my arms for the ability to give big hugs to all my favorite people, especially my short friends.
I thank my "Aronson nose" that I got from my dad, that allows me to smell old recipes my mom used to make and helps me revisit old memories.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Now, my current car? Those headlights are getting dim, too. I have scratches on the back door from the time my mom accidentally got too close to the mailbox, and there are Taco Bell sauce stains on the seats and floorboards from all those nights I worked until 9pm and had nothing to eat at home.
Experiences, stories, and lessons will always layer upon one another. You'll continue to go through changes and get some scars here and there - whether it's your car or your body. Either way, the vessel has a much bigger story to tell than just what it looks like on the outside.
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Greta Aronson, Licensed Professional Counselor
Greta manages her own private practice in Blue Springs, MO providing therapy to women who struggle with anxiety and perfectionism.
When she's not working, you can find Greta watching Big Brother with her husband or cuddling with their golden retriever.