I want to write about being fat but I’m not sure yet what I’m going to say. Except that I am more comfortable in this fat-plumped skin of mine today than I have been at pretty much any other time of my life, fat or thin. I like and appreciate and treat my body with more affection and respect than I have in a long time. And for those who say actions speak louder than words, the fact that I spend time and money feeding it properly and exercising it and dressing it in clothes that it feels good in, seems like evidence to me.
That said, I would like to be thinner. I would also like to be taller, longer-legged, with with more hair. And smarter, wittier, deeper, better-read and more financially secure, less awkward in groups, more assertive, less self-centred, cooler, less conservative, more joyful, less apt to believe people don’t like me before I give them a chance, more brave at all kinds of thing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, we probably all have things we’d like to change about ourselves, and the physical things are in there with the intellectual, emotional, spiritual things. I do not think it is necessarily unhealthy or ill-headed to have physical aspirations, any more than it is to have the other kinds. It’s when a person or society or culture makes an extremist or fundamentalist religion out of them that I see as a problem.
In our time and place in the world, we talk about valuing diversity, and inclusion. These too are aspirations, and we cannot be expected to shed our prejudices, stereotypes, misconceptions, and limitations right away in order to embrace diversity and inclusion perfectly. But if we really value those things, we can ask ourselves at every turn to question our desire for them, and whether they are really in the service of our happiness and that of humanity.
If i want to be smarter, is there something wrong with being less smart? People have different brands and sizes of smartness, and when i say i want to be smarter, what do i mean exactly? It might be nice to have more mechanical or business smarts, and some people strive for those… good thing they do or we’d all be sitting around with broken typewriters. But What I mean, I think, is to be better able to think deeply about a subject, make distinctions and formulate an argument. These are not things that are a matter of increasing intellectual capacity necessarily, but they are a matter of practice, interest and care. I think it is praiseworthy to want to apply myself to things I am interested in and care about. I don’t think it would be worthy of me, or realistic or productive, to wish I had a different brain.
The same goes for bodies. I think it is fine to want to be physically healthier and more attractive. “Healthy” seems to be universally accepted as something that contributes to increased happiness, and, it could be argued, we have a biological as well as a cultural drive to be attractive as it presumably leads to more sexual, social and professional “success”. Those things, a well as “feeling better about ourselves”, may well contribute to greater personal happiness.
However, if we equate extreme forms of physical characteristics with physical perfection we are missing the boat. They are mostly arbitrary fashions, and impossible for the vast majority of people to achieve without cosmetic surgery, which is an extreme measure.
I can’t help but think that when we are accepting and appreciative of our own bodies, their own peculiar loveliness and individuality, we can begin to appreciate the diversity of other bodies around us. It is a cliche to say, wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same, but it is as true of human bodies as well as of garden flowers. It is easier to befriend your body when it feels good and works the way you want and looks the way you want, but when your idea of how you want it to work and look is rigidly prescribed by someone else and impossible to achieve, it becomes a problem- for you, and for everyone you are in contact with. and for society at large.
I don’t always like my body, when I compare it to other bodies and to the Photoshopped, barbie-fetishized images of models and movie stars. But the spiritual advice that I subscribe to says not to compare ourselves to others. It is a hard lesson to learn and practice but a worthwhile one, I have come to believe, if i want to be happy… and it means i need to feed myself less visual junk, just as i need to feed myself less junk food, if i want a body that i feel good and attractive in. In our way we are all working toward happiness, and having tried other ways that don’t work well for long, I am now trying this one.
It is not possible to be attractive to everyone, just as it is not possible to like everyone. But a person can work on seeing the positive in themselves and their bodies and resisting the urge to compare themselves to others, and hopefully that will lead to wider acceptance of a wider variety of individual styles and shapes and sizes, body-wise and mental, emotional and spirit-wise. And vice versa. Personal happiness and the good of humanity flow from one to the other. So do us all a favour and accept yourself. And do me a favour and accept me and help me accept myself. But no pressure. we’re all just working on it together.