Seeing My Body as Separate

Photo by Richard Sabel
Photo by Richard Sabel

I often talk about my body and me being a team. Often people ask why, and sometimes they let me know that it bothers them because they like to think of themselves as an integrated whole.  First, of course however you view yourself and your body is totally fine The Underpants Rule absolutely applies here.  Thinking of my body as separate is actually the result of a conscious choice for me.

If you are a regular blog reader you may remember that my journey to body love started with my decision that, not matter what it took, I was going to learn to love myself as I was.  At that point I wasn’t able to see that my body was beautiful, and it felt disingenuous to say that I did, so I was looking for ways to shift the way I felt about my body.  As part of that journey, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I treated my body and why.  One day I was sitting in my mechanic’s waiting area as my car got an oil change.  I realized that I treated my car way better than my body. Unlike my body, I always took my car in for preventative maintenance and necessary repairs, and I would never have given it a fraction of the fuel it needed and then become angry when it stopped working.

I also realized that I treated my friends way better than I treated my body.  If I got into an accident and a friend had to do everything for me, I couldn’t even imagine responding to that by spending all of my time berating them for how they look.  But that’s how I was treating my body every day.

So I made a conscious decision to try treating my body at least as well as I treated my car, and preferably like I would treat a close friend – which meant that I would love it regardless of how it looked, take care of it, and defend it from detractors.  I decided to treat my body like a partner in everything that I do, rather than treating it like an adversary.  The first thing that helped me do was take the last steps away from my diet mentality as starving my body by feeding it less food than it needs to survive in the hopes that it would eat itself and become smaller was no longer an acceptable way to treat my body.

That, along with a shift in focus to appreciating all the things that my body did for me, helped me become motivated to take really good care of my body, to appreciate what my body did for me, and to decide that, even if I didn’t love the way it looked, my body was still amazing and deserving of love, respect, and excellent care.  I would later learn to love the way my body looks – actually, it would be more truthful to say that I unlearned the idea that there was something wrong with how my body looked – but for me that was the icing on the self-esteem cake.

I continue to think of my body as an incredible friend and partner because it works for me to think about it like that.  Of course that’s not better or worse than thinking of myself as an integrated whole and, as always, your mileage may vary.  For me, seeing my body as separate helps me to see my body as worthy of love, respect and excellent care.  It helps me remember that my body deserves nothing less than my unconditional love and full-throated support. It helps me respect my bodies boundaries when it comes to sickness or injury. It helps me be in a place of peace and love and joy with my body, a place that – before I started to think of my body this way – seemed like somewhere I could never get, and now is somewhere that I never want to leave.

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21 thoughts on “Seeing My Body as Separate

  1. This is such a profound issue. I used to go through life ignoring my own body, to the point where I literally didn’t notice I was getting deathly sick. Crazy, isn’t it – women are taught to disparage our most precious asset at the same time we’re being judged on it, like nothing else about us matters!

    1. *Crazy, isn’t it – women are taught to disparage our most precious asset at the same time we’re being judged on it, like nothing else about us matters!*

      You hit the nail on the head and summed it up with these words. It’s a shame that we are judged on our bodies while being told we should focus our attention outward, to take care of everyone around us.

    2. I never noticed when I was getting deathly ill either. I didn’t know I had gallstones, so when I got ill from them all I was thinking was “Hey at least I’m not gaining any weight! I’m losing it instead!”

      Fast forward five months and I couldn’t keep anything but Chinese food down, had no color at all in my face and could barely get outta bed in the morning. But that didn’t matter because I was losing weight. Was admitted to the hospital and was told the day after I was admitted, either my gallbladder that was causing a deadly form of pancreatitis came out soon or I die.

      In that moment I decided that if I lived, I would forget about losing weight and love my body and treat it with respect, and I have everyday for the last three years.

  2. Your timing on this post is amazing. This weekend, my therapist and I were discussing my body and my journey to body acceptance. We discussed the concept that my body was part of who I was, but it was not the sum of me. It was the house for my essence, my soul, which was ME. She and I have talked about treating my body as a house or a temple and that taking care of my body is like maintaining that temple. It has helped me to think in those terms. Thanks again, as always, for the inspiration!

  3. Your body/car analogy is amazing and parallels my philosphy of treating my body at least as well as my cat. As in, I take my cat to the vet, feed her properly, keep her clean and healthy and love her deeply.

  4. I”m going to have to re-read this post when I’m in less pain or at least when my meds kick in. I can tell there are profound messages here about things I can do to start caring for myself much better. Right now I’m allowing myself to be ‘stuck’ in pain and discomfort becuase it is distractiong me from the self-hatred and body abuse that I would be doing becuase my poor health (caused by my own choices and idiocy) ended up keeping me from seeing my beloved daughter cross the stage and recieve her diploma. I can tell the tears are there, just behind my anger at my body and the determination not to let my pain keep me from work (I have no more sick leave)

    1. Please don’t talk to yourself that way; when you re-read, you’ll see that’s exactly the point Ragen’s making. Your daughter wouldn’t want you berating yourself. By the way, congrats to her on graduating – and to you for seeing her through school, even if you missed the ceremony.

      1. “Please don’t talk to yourself that way; when you re-read, you’ll see that’s exactly the point Ragen’s making. Your daughter wouldn’t want you berating yourself.”

        No. Please don’t censure and value-judge someone else’s lived experience on how you think that person should feel when they’re living with pain and discomfort. Susan stated “Right now I’m allowing myself to be ‘stuck’ in pain and discomfort”. Respect that. Don’t filter it through your validity prism and guilt the person by telling them not to “talk to yourself that way”. That’s not helpful and it’s a silencing tactic.

        You’re also making value-judgments on that person’s family relationships. Not everyone has supportive family/friends. Also, please don’t insult a person’s intelligence by implying they just need to reread the post to get the point. And I realize you were trying to be comforting and supportive, but what you said was actually playing into hurtful narratives that further the othering of marginalized people. There are a lot of unhelpful things people say to those living in chronic-pain, and while it may not have been your intent… intent is not magic.

          1. I’m under the impression Kris only mentioned Susan re-reading the post because Susan herself said she planned to do so, not because she was insulting Susan’s intelligence or was trying to silence her. I am moved to say something to Susan, too, because I find myself wishing she wouldn’t be so hard on herself emotionally, especially since she is also suffering physically. When someone writes something like, “my poor health (caused by my own choices and idiocy),” I want to urge them to stop rubbing salt in their own wounds! I’m sure neither I nor Kris would want Susan to stop talking about or even experiencing her own pain, but flagellating herself for her situation has only got to make it worse. Very few instances of poor health are a result of our own “idiocy.” For instance, even if I were in poor health because I had decided to bungee jump off a bridge without a bungee, I don’t think it would help soothe the pain from my broken bones if I continued to dwell on what an “idiot” I was. Blaming yourself for your poor health sounds a lot like what the bigots do when they try to pin any ailment a fat person has on that person’s eating habits.

    2. {{{{{HUGS}}}}} I know where you’re at. I’ve got multiple severe chronic pain conditions, and quite a few of my own actions worsened or accelerated them. More than once, I’ve missed major life events I wanted to attend more than anything, just because I was in so much pain I couldn’t see six inches in front of my eyes. As for sick leave, heh, all my sick leave and vacation time went to sick days, surgeries, my doctors ordering me to take time off because I was literally going insane from juggling work and pain. I’m disabled now at 36, but honestly, it does get better. It’s a trial to keep up with my health issues because they keep trying to leap ahead of me, but now that I pay attention to my body, I’m learning tricks to keep ahead of *them*.

      With luck, I’ll be able to go back to school on scholarship maybe next fall–dealing with a nasty divorce right now, alas–and eventually, I might even be able to go back to work in a field I love. Not full time, but even ten hours a week would be something. I know that probably sounds pathetic, but it would give me time to write and have a real life. After years of actively wishing I was dead, I’m happy. So it does get better, even if it can be a rough road getting there.

      Oh, my pain levels are fairly well controlled right now. I’m on quite a few meds, and I have to take an upper to counter their sedative effects, but it’s SO OMG worth it.

  5. This is pretty much what I do to my friends if they start insulting themselves for their looks. “Hey, don’t talk to my friend like that; them’s fightin’ words!”

      1. Yeah, me too. As much progress as I’ve made toward body acceptance, I still have days where I look in the mirror, and the hatred come flooding back. It ruins my day, and it happens anywhere, anytime.

  6. All told, I needed this reminder today. I’m on day five of an asthma attack that’s very quickly turning into a lung infection, and I’m starting to get annoyed with myself from the inside out again. (I’d go to the ER, but there’s not much more they could do than I can at home.)

  7. I know that abuse survivors often will disconnect from their bodies as a way of coping. Perhaps that is where the concern about seeing your body as separate comes from.

    I think the key point is that you are not disconnected from your body even when you see it as separate.

    I think feeling connected to yourself, in whatever way that works for you, is very important and often forgotten.

  8. Ragen,

    You don’t know how much I needed that car analogy today. I needed it at least as much as you did when it hit you. Thank you for painting that picture today. *hugs*


  9. Thank you for sharing that post. It’s a topic I am struggling with right now. I’m figuring out how to make peace with myself, to love and accept my body, no matter what.

  10. This is a great reminder for me…I’ve never treated my body properly…Been working so hard, less rest and less eating. This is the way I treated my body… instead my body treat me well by not falling sick and always responded promptly when in need… This is a great post!!! Kudos…

  11. It’s very sad that we live in a society where women are praised for damaging and almost killing their bodies in order to achieve the “society-approved” look. Sickening!! Susan, glad you’re getting better, and hugs right back!

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