Body Imagining

I started taking ballet classes a few weeks ago. The classes are graceful. Pink tights and black leotards, synchronized movement. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. Despite this beauty I watch woman after woman grab and pinch various points on their body between exercises every day as they study themselves in the mirror. I’ve tried to explain how beautiful these women are to them but they don’t seem to see it. How have we gotten to a point where even those working to make themselves stronger and healthier are focused on how well they meet an impossible beauty standard?

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone entirely confident in their own body. Friends in college, high school, and middle school all spent hours poking and prodding. Doesn’t matter the gender, the body mass, the health consequences- everyone finds that bit of doubt somewhere. I do it too although not nearly as intensely and not nearly as much as I used to.

It’s hard to stop until you find a reason. I found mine when I realized that every moment I spent critiquing myself and comparing my body to every one I met was causing me to judge other people and to focus on how they looked rather than what they said. Instead of meeting and learning about people, I was in my own head. Now when I see or meet someone, I try to make my first thought, “You are beautiful.” It’s not a physical thing, it doesn’t mean I’m attracted to them; it’s my way of reminding myself that everyone is beautiful and should be recognized as such.

When you go into every interaction thinking that the person you’re talking to is beautiful they can tell. We talk differently, act differently, award our time differently to people based on what we think of them. The easiest way to see the value of another person is to listen to them, a task made much easier once you aren’t worried about what they look like.

This started out selfishly. I wanted to be a “better” person but it wound up helping me become more confident and happier as a side effect of helping others see their own beauty. The connections I make and interactions I have are no longer shaped as a comparison but as a celebration of those things we can learn from each other.

There is beauty in being unique and funny and happy. I think it’s time that we celebrate that in ourselves and in each of those we meet.

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