What is the purpose of your body? Do you have a body simply to dress up and look good? Do you have a body to run that extra mile and burn extra calories? Do you have a body so you can be tan and adorn your wrists with jewelry?
I’ve recently been reading More Than A Body by the Kite Sisters and WOW, is it good! Perhaps the greatest theme I’ve gotten from the book is that you and I are so much more than just a body, yet we simplify ourselves and other people down into how a body looks when there is so much more to each of us. We are complex humans, with unique thoughts, ideas, experiences, and training, yet we seem to just forget about all of that and focus on how each other’s body looks. The first thing we often say to each other is “I love your hair today!” or “cute shirt” or “wow, you’re so tan!” which all implies that yes – the first thing we see about that person is how they looked that day. However, we are so much more than how we look. The tagline of the book, “your body is an instrument, not an ornament” has really got me thinking about the function of our bodies.
I feel like I’m using my body for its function–as an instrument–when I’m at yoga trying to do a standing inversion (note the strong word, TRYING). Or, when I’m holding my crying baby and rocking her to sleep, whispering “shhh” and stroking her hair. Or, when I’m hiking and laughing with my friends, using my legs to climb mountains, my eyes to know where to step, and my lungs and heart to keep me alive.
I feel as though I’m using my body as an instrument when I’m eating delicious food, savoring the taste and texture of every mouthful, and imagining how it will help my body thrive. I feel as though I’m using my body as an instrument when I meet with my wonderful clients, hold their struggles, and offer empathy and guidance.
When it comes to bodies, we’ve really missed the mark. If the first thing you notice about your own body and other people’s bodies is how they look, we are treating bodies as ornaments. Start to notice your own body as an instrument. Recognize everything your body is doing for you.
Recently, my clients and I have been focusing on the ways in which our bodies are perfect. So many of us have forgotten how perfect our bodies are as we’ve internalized society’s message about how the main focus of our bodies should be on how they look. Now hear me out – there are many ways our bodies are perfect if we focus on their function.
What is the purpose of ears? … To hear.
What is the purpose of eyes? … To see.
What is the purpose of legs? … To get us around!
What is the purpose of hands? … To grip, hold, and perform complex fine and gross motor skills.
What is the purpose of stomachs? … To aid in digestion of food.
Yet do you sometimes simplify each of these body parts into how they look? How objectifying! From your toenails to the tiny hairs on your arms to your taste buds, your body is designed with function in mind. Society has taught us that function doesn’t matter near as much as appearance.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a client (…or really any woman for that matter) say “I love my legs – they are perfect” or “my stomach is really quite perfect” because they’re focusing on how the body looks through the lens of diet culture and self-objectification rather than focusing on the function of that body part.
If your eyes can see, I’d say they’re perfect eyes. If your hands can grab things, I’d say they’re perfect hands. If your body can do all the things you want it to do, I’d say it’s a perfect body. And if one part of your body doesn’t quite work the way you’d hope, let’s extend some compassion to that part of yourself and recognize how hard it’s trying to work, and the things it does do for you (even imperfectly) and move your focus to the parts that are working as you would hope. You’ll be surprised at how perfect your body is when you simply move your focus onto your body’s capacity as an instrument and not as an ornament.