Shifting the Focus of Body Image: Form vs. Function

This message on body image is coming to you exactly halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas during a pandemic. So, some of you are probably thinking, “Hey lady, the middle of the holidays during a pandemic is literally the last time I want to think about body image.” I know, I get it. But, that kind of resistance is exactly why right now is a great time to talk about it. Hang with me. Let’s see if we can get some perspective — and some freedom.

When we hear the term “body image”, many people think about overall body size. But, body image is not just about being petite or plus, apple or pear, hour-glass or average. Body image is also about all the parts of your body and how you feel about them.

The inspiration for this post actually came from this moment with my daughter a few weeks ago. We were sitting at the doctor’s office, waiting for her well-check, when she rested her feet on my foot. Both of her feet, on my one foot, with plenty of room for at least one more foot if she’d had it. Because my feet are huge. Size 13. I’m not kidding.

These size 13’s have been a source of frustration over the years, particularly when I’m trying to find shoes. They just don’t make many women’s shoes my size, and certainly, not many cute ones. But, amidst my frustrations, my Mom consistently said things like, “They are healthy feet, honey. Healthy, strong feet that have done you a lot of good.” I’ve taken that perspective and run (literally) with it for a long time.

Simply said, there is great relief and self-compassion that comes from evaluating your body from the perspective of what it does (function), rather than how it appears (form). Here’s some examples:

  • “I don’t like the size/look of my legs” vs. “I am thankful for the walk I was able to take today.”
  • “My breasts are too small” vs. “they fed my kids or I can wear button-up shirts” (bigger-busted gals, you know what I mean 😉 )
  • “My nose is too big” vs. “I am grateful the dinner I can smell.”
  • “I’m self-conscious about my arms” vs. “look at what my arms allowed me to do today.”

Don’t roll your eyes at me. I know this might sound like an insufficient way to attack the overwhelming messages we hear about the ideal body, but this works. And, the reason it works is not just because it shifts your focus from form to function, but because the shift from form to function moves you from judgment to GRATITUDE. And, gratitude makes stuff better. Sometimes, it even heals things.

You, precious child of God, were not born disliking your body, or parts of your body. That’s learned. We absorb it when the world lies to us about what is valuable. Whoever you are today (in the middle of the holidays in the middle of a pandemic) is just as valuable as you were last year. Ten years ago. Ten pounds ago. When your body was 18, and when it turns 80.

Yes, these bodies of ours are temples to be cared for. But, they are also temples that will look different from time to time, and certainly look different from one another. And so, if we are going to be good caretakers of that changing temple, we need the right mindset to do so.

This year, may we really lean into what it means to appreciate our bodies from a position of gratitude. And, especially this year, may we be grateful to simply have air in our lungs and our feet on the ground (no matter how big they are).

Blessings on your form of beautiful.

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