Be An Unapologetic, Badass Body-Love Warrior.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.” ~ Mary Oliver
We need more body-love warriors.
It’s no secret why: think airbrushing (more aptly named airbutchering), Photoshopping (Photochopping), size-ism, body shaming, and the far and wide ramifications of body image issues, from subtle yet deep to acutely life-threatening.
Radical body-love is desperately needed. Now.
I’m not talking about the lip service paid to body-love… the I’ll love my body when blahblahblah or the I love my body now that it’s blahblahblah.
I’m talking right here, right now. As is.
What if we engaged in body-love down to the potent power of our words?
What if we extended body-love from truly loving the skin we’re in to respecting all bodies?
What if we simply stopped commenting on the appearance of bodies?
Our own body.
What’s so radical about this? It’s a far cry from where we are now and how we’re conditioned to perceive, evaluate, judge and speak about bodies. It flies in the face of industries working to keep us small and starve our self-esteem.
It’s radical in its simplicity and realness. It’s Rebelle-ious in its creative adaptation to maladjusted societal norms around bodies, women’s bodies in particular.
It’s radical, and it’s time.
The perfect storm of external influences washed clarity ashore on standing as an unapologetic, badass body-love Warrior. Ride the tides from a curious compliment about my body into softness.
A Curious Compliment
As a Nia movement instructor and trainer, my body and her changes are very visible. A beautifully-intentioned student once commented to me, “You look great! You’ve lost weight!”
She was correct. I had lost weight. How much, I had no idea. My scale is dusty. I know my body, and sensed she had shed weight.
Why was this compliment so poignant? I had just had the flu.
While feeling yucky in my post-flu recovery, I was perceived as looking great. Except for my Rudolph-esque nose, I was drained of color. Bags dragged my eyes down.
How I felt and what I saw in the mirror told a very different story from looking great. Having lost weight to flu translated into a curious compliment.
Am I grateful for this lovely woman’s well-meaning intentions? Yes. I am always grateful for good intentions.
Could my body remain where she was right then and there (weight-wise) and be healthy? Yes.
Could my body lose some weight and be healthy? Yes.
Could my body gain some weight and be healthy? Yes.
Could my body recover from the flu and return to a state that feels healthier? Yes. Thankfully, she has.
My body is healthy. I am so deeply grateful for her and for Nia’s invitation into loving my body by teaching me to live inside my body. Inhabiting one’s body helps shift the focus from externally judging to sensing from within.
Experiencing my body through her sensations teaches me to be comfortable in my skin, and to appreciate and delight in my body’s wisdom and magnificence of design.
Perceiving my body as the miracle she is doesn’t leave much room for hyper-focusing on a few pounds here and there. Number of pounds becomes more insignificant as I become more at home and alive in my body.
My body knows when she is healthy and feeling prime. When my bony knees don’t rest comfortably stacked atop one another while falling asleep, a bit more padding is desired.
When my body is more ample to the point of getting in the way of dancing as I desire, a little less ampleness would feel better. My body knows.
Even in this place of enjoying a healthy relationship with my body, a wave of responses to this student’s comment still leaked in:
“She thinks I look great after losing weight. Is the implication that I didn’t look so great before?”
“When that weight returns (which I knew it would when radiantly healthy again), will she think I don’t look great? Do I care?”
“How would I have felt hearing this if I had lost weight due to a serious illness?”
“How does it feel to have someone (literally) sizing up my body?”
My body is my most personal, private, sacred space. My temple. I was left wondering: why are any of us commenting on others’ bodies, the most private and sacred of spaces? I cannot say that I had never done so. I don’t any longer.
A Lightbulb Conversation
A lightbulb moment occurred for me when an enlightened friend shared that she never comments on another’s weight unless the other person broaches the topic.
Upon noticing that someone has lost weight, she holds the awareness that she has no idea why. It could be illness. Stress. An eating disorder. An unhealthy diet.
Not knowing if it was intentional or desired, healthy or not, she chooses not to comment. Even when she knows that weight loss was desired, she avoids this topic.
She is free-flowing with compliments that aren’t about body shape or size. She compliments something else. “You look radiant!” “Your skin is glowing.” “You are beautiful.”
Especially after hearing the compliment about my flu-induced weight loss, I follow suit, sharing compliments unrelated to body shape or size.
Red Carpet Wrap-Up
While folding laundry with the remote control on the other side of the room, one show ended and a gossip-type show began. Internal fireworks sparked upon hearing red-carpet commentary:
“While sporting that post-baby belly, I call that either a courageous or clueless choice in dresses!”
“This designer’s revealing necklines are better suited to a woman three decades her junior.”
Even the supposedly complimentary comments saddened me:
“She rocks the gown, proving that real women have curves!”
And the real women who are not as curvy as others?
This panel of women and men ripping apart women’s bodies felt violent to me. I’m disgusted that personalities are paid to make such statements, dismayed that there’s an audience for it.
Fresh eyes offer fresh insights. A beautifully simple yet powerfully striking aha moment came to me through the eyes of a child and the mouth of a babe.
A few years back, my days took a sedentary turn while healing a broken bone. Complications kept me off of the dance floor for several months. My body is used to dancing regularly. Without that outlet, I gained 16 pounds.
This non-scale gal had this reference point after being weighed before each of my two orthopedic surgeries. Dancing Nia brings me pure delight. Without it, I was relying more on chocolate, cheese and other non-dancing delights.
During this window, my then seven-year-old son curled up with me, his hand and head resting on my belly. Looking up at me with the sweetest expression and such love and adoration in his eyes, he said, “Mama, you’re so soft!”
Preciousness! I laughed, wondering: why would I not want to be soft for my little guy to snuggle?
From Rubenesque roundness… to athletic edges… to models close to the bone… what’s considered fashionable always shifts.
The arbitrary nature of the current body-type fixation at any given moment sunk in deeply in this soft, sweet moment.
Days later, my son weighed himself for a school math project. Upon seeing the number on the scale, he burst out: “Cool! I earned four pounds!”
“Earned!” Phenomenal! I, too, earned my pounds of softness.
Truth reframed. Ever since, I have been dancing with those adoring words celebrating softness in this culture which pushes the hard body image and mentality.
In so many ways, the world needs more softness.
Call to unapologetic, badass body-love warriorship
Let’s stir up a tsunami, body-love warriors.
Let’s stop using words to judge bodies, and begin using words to affirm the gifts that our bodies are.
Let’s shift from counting numbers sizing up our bodies to counting on our bodies… to be strong, fit, flexible, capable and healthy.
My body is miraculous. So is yours. This is cause for celebration. Radical body-love celebration.
Tracy Stamper is a dancer at heart, in mind, of body, and with words. She is blessed and blissed to call dancing her profession, thanks to the transformational conscious movement form of Nia. She teaches Nia classes and offers Nia White Belt Trainings for fellow dancers at heart, in mind, and of body. Tracy lives in St. Louis in a home on a little hill, with a whimsical wind sculpture out front, and two crazy rescue beagle boy dogs and the two human loves of her life inside. Her current favorite colors are purple, orange and glitter. She likes her chocolate dark, her little bubble of a world Personalitics-free, her inspiration flowing, and her car dances to be uninhibited. You can connect with her on her website, Nia website, and Facebook.