Categories: FeminismSkepticism

Don’t tell me to love my body

I want to talk to you about how you talk to me about how I talk about my body, and how I talk about how I feel about my body, and what’s wrong with everything you have to say about what I have to say.

In short, fuck you.

I don’t love my body. My body is awful. I will never love my body. I never have. And I’m 35 and maybe you think that’s too old to have real hang ups about my body. But I do. And I always will. And maybe you think that because I’ve lost a bunch of weight I should feel great about my body. But I don’t. And I won’t.

And maybe you think that because it’s my body I should love it and that I should think I’m beautiful. That I should somehow ignore all the standards the world imposes on me every single day, standards that make up “beautiful.” That I should make my own standards, and tell myself that I can just create my own reality. That I should pretend that I can never be judged by the standards of others. Maybe if I just love myself enough, other people will be able to climb into my head and begin adopting my standard of beauty and the world will follow and my formula will be the new standard and I will become The Most Beautiful.

Or maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe the fact that I don’t love my body isn’t really an issue. Maybe the problem is that everyone thinks I should love my body. That loving my body is some kind of standard of womanly goodness in and of itself.

But we’re told we will love our bodies once they’re good enough to be loved. Once we free them of imperfections… all of them. Once I erase my freckles and age lines and sagging skin and thigh flab and become faster and stronger and a better mom and a better wife and a better career woman and keep it all together and prove that I’m doing it all by looking amazing, then I will truly love my body.

Or maybe loving our bodies means casting aside the imperfections that make us who we are, while embracing only the things we want people to see about us, and the things other people would like to see. Loving my body means not exposing you to my armpit stubble but showcasing my bad-ass legs. That’s not really love… that’s what everyone always does, as much as they can, all the time.

Or maybe loving our bodies means loving all the things that bother us about it. Which is kind of fucked up because I don’t love everything about all the other people I love, and I certainly don’t embrace the really annoying things.

Or maybe me loving my body is about you. And how you feel about how I feel about my body. If I tell you that “I love my body. I love my freckles. I even love my sagging ass because it’s on my body.” You’ll pat me on the back and tell me that I’m getting it. And I’m not making anyone uncomfortable by complaining about how much I dislike being held up to fucked up beauty standards and how it fucks with my head.

But, let’s be honest, if I love my body, I’m not declaring it with apologetic disclaimers. Loving your body doesn’t include demanding other people understand that your appendectomy scar is gorgeous.

The problem isn’t about women not loving our bodies. It’s not about how I feel about myself. It’s not about how my body looks.

The problem is someone else telling me how to feel. The problem is being told that there is a standard of beauty, and I should ignore it. I should ignore it despite the fact that everyone is still holding me to it. I should ignore it and create my own. As long as it makes me feel pseudo-good, and makes other people feel okay with how I pretend to feel about me. But while we’re pretending the real-world standards don’t exist, the real world continues judging us—It’s okay to be more critical of a woman who’s accepted herself. She’s strong and can take it… In fact, wow, what a conceited bitch she must be to think she’s so great when she’s clearly not. Maybe someone needs to take her down. She really has no business acting like she’s as good as other people.

But here’s the thing… It’s okay to not love my body. It’s okay to not even like my body. They’re my feelings and it’s my body and I will use those feelings to feel however I want to about my body. I don’t need you to tell me how to feel.

We don’t have to find ourselves beautiful. Beauty is not the one thing that makes us and our bodies worth loving. We don’t have to distort an already fucked-up definition of beauty, and pretend we fit into it, just to feel like we are people worthy of being loved.

Stop telling women that we should find ourselves beautiful and that we should love ourselves when you are standing right there, judging us on how our knees look in short skirts and how prominent our boobs are in a sweater and how much makeup we are or are not wearing.

Instead of us working harder on “love your body” and “find your inner beauty”, the rest of the world should be working harder on “stop telling women their bodies are a shameful place to live but that if they’re strong enough, they will learn to embrace that shame.”

This is my body. It’s not “beautiful”. I don’t “love it”. I don’t have to. I don’t have to have any strong feelings about my body. And whatever feelings I do have are not somehow invalid if they’re not glowing reviews.


What’s weird is that you think I should care about how I look as much as you do.

I should probably note that most of the things I hate about my body are the result of me losing 100+ lbs in 8 months. The parts of my body I hated when I was fat are still the same parts of my body I hate… but now I just hate them for different reasons. Even if today those flaws represent an incredible accomplishment and are the marks of an amazing journey, I don’t have to love them.

My face though?

I don’t hate that. But I’ve spent years getting comfortable enough with it to show it to you without make up.

Elyse :Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

View Comments (82)

  • This post rocks so hard. I registered just to say that, and I have been reading this blog for years.

  • Like trilobyte, I registered just to tell you how awesome this post is. You said so eloquently what I have been feeling inside for years but couldn't verbalise. Thank you so, so much.

  • Elyse: Thank you for writing this. I have felt this way my ENTIRE LIFE. I have battled my weight since I was a child, was picked on incessantly in school and told I needed to lose weight by my own family. Nobody EVER told me I was beautiful just the way I was. Quite the opposite. NOTHING GOOD seemed to matter about me because I was overweight. I try not to look at myself in the mirror anymore than I have to. I am 47 years old and single. I am going through menopause and gaining weight. I stress/obsess about it every single day. I am so tired of trying to "embrace all my imperfections" or "sexy comes from the inside." It's bullshit. It's not reality. I don't consider myself hideous but I am average. I am so tired of fighting my body. The other part of this is being a single lady. Try finding a desirable mate when you are a 47 year old woman with wrinkles and the Michelin Man tire around your middle, cellulite and "bat wings" for underarms. . Men all want 20 somethings or, at the very least, someone with good enough genes to not LOOK 47. Most couldn't give a shit what is on the inside. This is just my experience. I guess I should have been shot when I turned 40 since I am no longer the "picture of perfect beauty" (but never really was anyway). I don't feel desirable anymore even though I know I have accomplished much against the odds and have a TON to offer the right man. I am a giving, caring person but have become somewhat hardened in spirit. I have accepted the fact that I will probably be alone the rest of my life. I know that sounds negative but it is how I feel. But this goes beyond that. This has been a lifelong body image battle. Then when I can't seem to do what society tells me I should do (embrace my body flaws and all, love my body, tell myself I am beautiful and sexy blah blah blahity blah blah blah ad nauseum) I feel like there is something ever more wrong with me because I can't seem to get with the program. Society tells you that it all comes from the inside meanwhile doing EVERYTHING in its power to PROVE that is NOT TRUE. Thank you so much for uttering this OUT LOUD. It's refreshing and liberating to actually read HONESTY!!!

  • Are we not overanalyzing what is essentially a straightforward issue of the attractiveness of the female during a certain young age, and its rapidly diminishing aesthetic appeal to the male sense after a certain age, notably 35? It seems to me that a spinster would roundly reject any notion that her body does not possess the same vitality (namely child bearing fertility, which is a basic requirement for most males in mating), and thereby question her fundamental relationship with a vehicle that is so crucial to the survival of the species. Some things only make sense when we accept them for what they are: women will always attract men for specific reasons and vice versa. The last 50 years cannot undo thousands of years of evolution which somehow ensured our ability to have this conversation.

  • Really, any time I hear "you SHOULD ..." in regards to anything -- body image, career expectations, choices around motherhood, politics, family, vacations -- I mean ANYTHING -- I visualize (audialize?) the sound of a shotgun cocking. Then it goes BOOM. For non-violence points, I make it explode in big colorful fireworks. Nobody gets to tell anybody else what they should or shouldn't do about their personal choices, so long as it doesn't affect anyone else. Your body? Hate it, love it, or ignore it. You've got my support. It's YOUR body. Personally, I'm grateful to my body for carrying me on my journey, but I don't feel the need to spend large amounts of emotional commitment on it either.

  • rejecting 'beauty' and societal pressure about womens' bodies is not pretending those things don't exist, though. you can acknowledge they exist while not considering your body the enemy and while refusing to hold yourself to those standards, even if everyone else does. i am 'morbidly obese' (among other things that aren't considered 'beautiful'- 'too' hairy, small boobs, etc.) and i refuse to think that the way my body looks is the wrong way for a body to look, that it's ugly, or that it's unacceptable. that doesn't mean i'm not keenly aware of the common culture, it just means that i refuse to internalize it and carry around the figurative weight of everyone else's toxicity and hangups.

    i think the main reason people don't want you to talk about how you hate your body around them is that you aren't criticizing your body in a vacuum- when you criticize your freckles/fat/saggy skin/wrinkles, you aren't just criticizing yourself- you are perpetuating the same toxic environment you are griping about, and making other women feel like shit about their bodies. there's no 'oh, i just think wrinkles are ugly on ME' or 'oh, it's okay for YOU to be fat, i just would NEVER want to be fat and HATE fat on my body'- these things hurt other women and reinforce the status quo.

    also, it's sad when our friends hate themselves. you are not your body, but you obviously care a great deal about it and this causes you a lot of pain and anguish, and people who care about you probably don't want you to feel miserable. of course you have the RIGHT to feel miserable and hate yourself, but if you have connections with other people and let other people care about you, they might challenge that right.

  • I'm a little confused about some statements, namely:
    "embrace shame" and the sentiment, 'i don't need to find myself beautiful/I don't need to love my body'
    I think, correct me as I may be misunderstanding, this is a reversal of the 'love your body' fad right? I don't NEED to love my body when its not beautiful to me. You also go on to say something to the effect, there are other things that I can value and love myself for. (I think) which this I agree with.
    It just kind of scares me to think, or imagine, If I could never 'love my body' in the sense of NEVER finding anything beautiful about myself. Is this specifically what you were discussing? I'm just asking for clarification. I find it a little unsettling. Is it that, you don't necessarily need to view yourself as beautiful with regards to socialized standards? or you simply are ok with never finding beauty in anything of your appearance(I wouldn't stretch this to say of who/what you are)?
    I dunno, that just seems very painful and saddening. I agree there are other aspects of a human being to value. But really? You don't find ANYTHING beautiful? Now I'm stepping on boundaries but I was wondering, is it that you also participate in the paradigms of socialized beauty and with that cannot see beauty in yourself? Or refuse to buy into the fad?(this I can understand). But buying into the love yourself fad is different from finding some aesthetic in your appearance isn't it?
    Of course, I haven't lived as you so I am attempting to bridge an understanding so I can better understand your sentiment. Please do not reject me and say you could never understand. I want to know/understand the message here but I'm getting confused between the argument: to reject the standards that dictate women SHOULD love their bodies and advocating or accepting that perhaps a woman will never be beautiful in her own eyes and she should just accept that and give up. or is that embracing shame?(which is probably different from giving up)
    Embracing shame is a concept I have just encountered and would like some more discussion on because I would like to know what its about.
    I agree there are many more things to a person than just 'beauty' but I still see beauty aesthetically and I'm not bullshitting. maybe its the artist in me, maybe I'm participating into the socialized ideals of beauty and forcing an image. I could explore this further. I somehow am very afraid to accept that one is simply ugly and never can be beautiful. (I'm not sure if this is what you meant, so please correct me)

  • I know this is an old blog entry, but: thank you.

    I hate my body too. I've tried to accept it and I guess I have learned to tolerate it, but I still hate it. Like you, I lost a lot of weight. It's successfully messed up whatever proportions I had. My belly is okay-ish, or maybe I should say my torso is mostly acceptable, but my arms and legs are horribly disfigured. And loving them doesn't make them any less repulsive to me or other people.

    I have a good enough face. Nice skin, not unattractive features. And then there's my lazy eye. I hate my lazy eye. People call me a freak because of it. I'll be 36 in 3 weeks and I don't think I'll ever find a man who loves all of me. Men like my face, my ginger hair and my eyes (on a good day, when they're straight-ish), but why would they love my body?

    Anyway, it's refreshing to hear someone say the things I feel. Because with all the body-positive speeches out there (funnily enough, it's usually people with hot bodies giving those speeches) are making me feel I am doing something wrong because I can't love my body. Well, I can't. So there.

  • I've been struggling constantly ever since i'm old enough to care about my body image between "accepting my flaws" or "changing my body", and everytime i mention something i don't like about my body or how uncomfortable i am sometimes seeing my body, EVERY fuckin time people go "well if you can't accept yourself then change your body, i mean you just have to work out for a while and you'll be alright", like excuse me??? no no, when i say i don't like my body i'm not asking you for a solution, i'm stating a fact. YOU have the right to like my body, YOU have the right to think i'm wrong and find me attractive, but you have absolutely NO right to tell me how i should feel about it.

    Anyhow, girl you are a rock, you are a queen. I'm so happy with that i've just read. Thank you SO much.