Remember when you were a kid, that feeling you’d get after learning how to do a cartwheel? And you’d do 20 cartwheels in a row until you fell over onto the ground, head spinning?
Or remember running with all your might, as fast as you possibly could?
Or remember finally nailing a backwards flip in the bounce house at your best friend’s birthday party?
You felt incredible. You’d get this high from the amazing things your arms and legs could do when coordinated together correctly.
Your body was simply a vehicle of action and fun.
I miss that mindset. I miss that “kid body” mindset.
When does that mindset fade? When did the thing that was a source of fun and wonderment (our bodies) become a source of shame, agony, sexual objectification and self-ridicule?
When does the shift occur from viewing our bodies by what they can do for us, to how they look for others?
It’s not a simple answer – although I wish it was. In fact, there are books, college courses and doctorates being built upon these very questions with the answers being a complex mix of decades of patriarchy, harmful media, the sexualizing of women’s bodies, the list goes on. That’s a topic for another day.
But I guess a better question would be, “how do we get back to that ‘kid body’ mindset?” How do we say “to hell with societal female body norms” and rebel against every falsity we’ve ever been taught?
We have to view our bodies as our kid self once did.
As with any form of counter culture self-acceptance, it’s easier said than done. But here’s a start:
Appreciate your body for what it can do for you, not for how it looks
Valuing our bodies only for how they look is probably one of the biggest insults we’re giving ourselves without even noticing it. It’s like not eating a grapefruit because you like the color of the peel too much – a total waste of the juicy, nutritional, sweet fruit on the inside.
When we value our bodies based on how they look, we’re undermining the incredible things our bodies do for us – you know, like keep us alive and stuff. Next time you start to pick and prod at what you think are your outward imperfections, think about these things instead:
Your heart pumps blood without you even knowing it’s happening.
Your strong legs move you from one place to the next so you can see the world.
Your nose let’s you smell freshly ground coffee and coconut-scented sunscreen.
Your mind allows you to process information and dream up ideas that don’t even exist yet.
Your stomach digests your favorite foods so you can enjoy more tomorrow.
Your sweat cools your body when you’re in your favorite hot yoga class.
Our bodies are freaking amazing.
Move your body without inhibition
Remember the episode of Friends when Rachel and Phoebe go running and Rachel gets embarrassed because Phoebe runs with her arms and legs flailing around everywhere? (If you haven’t, get out from the rock you’re living under). But Phoebe’s explanation as to why she does it is spot on – it’s more fun and it just feels better to run that way.
Although they don’t quite fully have control over them yet, kids are much more in tune with their bodies because they listen to them and just do what feels best. Which is why they sit funny, or just all of a sudden start jumping up and down or running in circles, and they scream bloody murder when they scrape their knee. They do what their bodies want to do.
Am I telling you to cartwheel to class? Not necessarily, but I won’t stop you if that’s what you want to do. In fact let me know if you do so I can personally come and high-five you on your route. But start listening to your body and don’t be afraid to move it in the way it wants – whether that’s an awkward stretch at the gym or dancing in the dorm bathrooms because your favorite song came on and you just want to move.
Sure you might feel stupid, and other people may stare and make you feel stupid, but once you get over those few seconds of feeling weird, you’ll feel amazing and even kind of rebellious that you’re doing exactly what you want in that moment.
When your body needs it, rest
Another thing kids are great at that adults suck at – rest. Kids move when they want, and they stop when they’re tired. And because they actually move, when they rest, they rest hard.
Remember that feeling after a long day at the pool in the summer and you’d finally get home with damp hair and hot skin and just PTFO? It’s the best feeling ever because you’re letting your body rest at the exact moment it needs it most.
Now not all schedules are conducive to midday naps, but we often fight the urge to just shut our eyes and shut down our computers for fear of falling behind on our to-do lists.
If we’re looking at the bigger picture here, the half hour you’ll spend catching some quick Zs will in the long run barely effect the things you need to get done over the course of the week. But allowing your body time to shut off and reset can actually make all the difference in your productivity level as well as your happiness. #bringbacknaptime
Forget “flaws” because they don’t exist
Sadly, it seems that girls younger and younger are already dealing with body image issues. But it’s pretty safe to say that you won’t find a 6 year-old complaining about her thighs. As a kid you’re too mesmerized still learning about the incredible things your body can do to even notice anything wrong with it.
Sure, kids recognize differences in people’s bodies. Anyone whose ever hung out with a chatty 5 year-old has probably had an insecurity pointed out to them by that child – your broad shoulders, bags under your eyes, giant zit in the middle of your forehead. But the thing is, the child notices it as something unique, but we internalize it as a flaw. They see it as a funny quirk that makes them ask questions about its uniqueness.
Why not be the ultimate rebel and love the quirks that we’re told to hate?
Small breasts = saving money on bras, a life void of under wires and jump roping without the fear of a wardrobe malfunction-style nip slip (hallelujah)
Stretch marks = memory lines of a changing body whether you’re growing a baby or just hips – growth is a beautiful thing
Crows feet = a life that’s been full of laughs and smiles now all permanently molded into your face
Love handles = more squeezable and fun for someone to wrap their arms around you
Crooked nose = a quirky trait that runs in your family and illustrates your rich ancestry
If we view our “flaws” with a sense of humor and wonderment, or give each one a backstory like a character in the book that is our life, then we won’t get so hung up on them. In fact, we’d start to cherish them and actually become thankful for them because they make us who we are.
Now what are you waiting for? Go do a cartwheel.