Does it sound strange to say that something good has come out of my mental illness? It’s a wonderful thing, really, to be able to look back over the horrible dark tangled mess my life became and be able to see good things have emerged with me. I’m stronger now than I was a few months ago, much more resilient, but there’s something else as well. A much more unexpected side effect.
I have never felt better about my body.
There’s always been things I haven’t liked about my body. There still are things I don’t like about my body. But recently I’m finding it much easier to look past the things I don’t like about my body and focus on the bits that are fabulous.
Not that they’re very fabulous especially. Nothing about my body has changed, as far as I can see. My posture is still terrible. My hair looks a mess roughly 87% of the time, because I’ve never quite mastered the art of not making it look like a bird’s nest. My proportions never feel right, especially when I’m standing in front of my mirror after a shower, critically examining myself.
Maybe the difference is that I’ve stopped doing that.
Instead of watching myself, looking for the flaws I know are there, I take time to look at the body parts that I am proud of. My smile may not be beautiful, but it comes easily nowadays and I’m happy to offer it someone who I think might need a smile. I might not shave my legs, occasionally leading to twinges of self-consciousness when I’m in leggings or shorts at dancing, but the minimum four hours of dance classes a week mean that my legs are strong. There may be spots on my forehead, and my hair might be tangled, but under these things hide my clever, filthy mind.
But there are parts of me that I genuinely quite like. Such as my boobs. If I stand in front of the mirror stripped down to jeans and a bra, they look fabulous. I can shimmy in front of the mirror, do a sexy dance for my reflection, grinning as I watch myself have fun. Then I unhook the clasps of my bra and turn away from the mirror. I don’t watch myself as I play with my boobs, instead keeping the image of me in my new blue-lace bra in my head as I trace circles lightly before squeezing my nipples hard. I love my boobs, not just for how they look, but for the sensations they give me.
I suppose it’s not just individual parts of my body that I like: looking at it holistically I’m happy with how I look. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel powerful. I am in control of my body, no longer afraid of it. I feel healthy. I maybe can’t run 5k like I could two years ago; but I also actually eat nowadays, which is a big improvement on 18 months ago.
I also feel sexy.
It isn’t a feeling which stays there all the time, but I feel flashes of it. It’s in the confidence which makes me feel comfortable moving to the front of a dance class – even if it is a style I have no experience in – and throwing myself into the movement without a care for how good I might be. It’s in the confidence that means I can speak out in a group when someone says something sexist. It’s in the confidence with which I ask the stupid question in a lecture – sometimes finding out that it isn’t so stupid at all, and sometimes blushing with embarrassment because I’ve made a fool out of myself in front of about two hundred and fifty people.
It’s in the confidence which empowers me to walk up to a guy who is lounging on the sofa, push his book aside, and swing one leg over his and straddle him, grinding my hips into his crotch as I whisper filthy things into his ear.
I suppose it isn’t just how I feel about my body – other things contribute to that confidence as well – but how I feel about how I look is important. Most of the last year or so has been terrible, but all through that I’ve clung to a surprisingly unchanging positive constant: I like my body. It’s strong and flexible and sexy. These days I care more about changing what’s inside and becoming a better person than worrying about how I look. No matter how I look, I feel good.
Look in the mirror for me tonight, and find something about yourself that you like. There are parts of your body which do fabulous things for you, every day. Be nice to them. Loving our bodies is sometimes really fucking hard: sometimes you have to start small.
Sometimes it comes easily when everything else is falling apart.
Image sourced through Pixabay.