“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
I saw this quote by C.S. Lewis years ago. I didn’t quite understand the underlying message at the time but it was something that stuck with me and I thought about it every time I looked in the mirror and hated my body. It reminded me that my body doesn’t define who I am as in my character. Yes, to a certain extent my body defines my abilities in self-care and self-respect but whether I felt fat, soft, skinny or fit, the soul on the inside remained the same.
I can’t say that I’ve ever been overweight or had a clearly defined eating disorder. But like many people, I’ve had my fair share of body struggles. As a 5th grader, I remember feeling like I was chubby and my stomach wasn’t flat enough. I would stand in front of the mirror and push my round stomach in, thinking it would make a difference. By the time I was in middle school, any negative perceptions I had of my body were tucked away in a dark corner. I was athletic, I was skinny, and puberty hit; if you catch my drift. When I started high school the old issues that were hidden away started to resurface. Even though I played basketball and ran track, I made sure to go to the gym regularly and sometimes, I would starve myself before an event. My perception and treatment of my body continued to fluctuate after high school and into my early twenties. I binged, I dieted, I juiced, I starved, I pushed myself to exhaustion with exercise. Anytime I went with girlfriends on a trip to Las Vegas, I would only allow myself to eat protein bars for the weekend knowing I would be in bikinis and tight dresses.
I reached a point where the meticulous calorie counting and complete obsession with the shape and firmness of body was too much. It so consumed me that I wasn’t even enjoying my life. I was miserable and it started to affect my relationships.
I wish that I could give an instant success story of how I changed my perception of my body like those before and after weight loss pictures we see in advertisements. I can’t. I still sometimes look in the mirror finding places that need improvement. I still struggle. The one thing that has changed though, is how I cope with the negative feelings. Instead of starving my body or working out until I feel light-headed, I choose to nourish myself with healthier food, a reasonable exercise regimen, and most importantly positive energy. I’m aware but not obsessed.
Don't get me wrong, if I saw someone looking the way I look in these pictures saying they had body issues I would say “this girl is nuts!” It’s not that I don’t like the way I look, it’s the constant thought that floats to the surface now and then that questions “Is my body skinny enough? Toned enough? Sexy enough? Am I enough?”
You see, the saying “your body is a temple” is not just some hippie, Buddhist, spiritual bull-shit. It’s one of the most important truths to live by. I’ll break it down for you as it was broken down for me. Think of a car. There are all different types out there, right? Big, small, new, dilapidated, Mercedes, Toyota etc. Whatever type of car it is, they all have people driving them and they get that person from one destination to the next. We can spruce up our cars with rims and new paint, but at the end of the day, the car is just a possession.We are not the car, that would be silly. The body is the same; the body belongs to us, we are not the body. The body is the vehicle in which our mind and soul experience life while sitting in the driver’s seat. When we die, our souls will adopt a new body, whether it be a human, an animal or something in nature.
It’s okay to want a beautiful “vehicle” (body). It’s not okay to disrespect the “driver” (soul) in the pursuit of that. Everything is about balance. Enjoy a glass of wine, eat an ice cream sundae with extra sprinkles, enjoy life, but also nourish your body and soul with good health and happy thoughts.
Don’t let your body define who you are and don’t define someone else based on their appearance. The soul is what matters. Whether it’s a human body, a plant body, or an animal body, we are all made from the same inner light and within each form lies a soul. That is what we are; souls. We are not a body; we have a body.