I appreciate that you look good naked.
Actually, I appreciate that you look good in clothes, too. Sometimes I people-watch (thank you, NYC) and I think things to myself like “Damn that girl knows how to rock some short-shorts!” or “I hope that girl feels as hot naked as she looks in that tribal-print maxi dress.” I know I’m verging on creeper here, but I love to see a woman who looks like she feels good in her body. In short, I love seeing healthy bodies, I love seeing tribal print, and I love seeing confidence. But I digress.
While I do appreciate that you look good naked, I’m actually here to talk about how we should stop putting so much emphasis on our bodies’ exterior. The link between self-confidence and physical appearance is WAY TOO STRONG in our society, particularly among us woman-folk, and I’d like to start changing that.
The thing is, girls are taught while growing up that the way we look is of maximum importance. We are taught that our physical appearance is tantamount to our value in society. We’re taught this by the mainstream media, by the fashion and retail industries, by our mothers and fathers, by old-fashioned ladies, by boys and men both sweet and terrible, and even the by health and fitness industry. If you don’t agree with me, I can send you about 1000 examples in which this is the case, but my guess is if you read my blog you already know this.
(Note: Rarely is a little boy taught to value his looks, his complexion, his hair, or his figure in the same way. But don’t get me wrong, boys have their own cross to bear. For example, I can’t imagine being told that crying equals weakness…. I mean come on. I can bang out some chinups, but I cry a lot.)
So this link between our physical appearance and our value is well established. But I think it sucks. Not just because I believe it distracts women from fully developing our potential in all other fields of life, but also because our bodies are literally the most infinitely miraculous thing I can imagine.
My amazing mom (who I will distill down for the purposes of this article as an atheist and a midwife) taught me as a kid to appreciate the complexity of the human body with the same awe and humility with which many people appreciate religion. And I do.
The human body’s mystery, complexity, ability, and untapped potential is surpassed by LITERALLY NOTHING THAT WE KNOW OF.
The body is, and always has been, a miracle. We follow the calls of nature to mate, we grow life inside us, we know when we need to fuel and when we need to release, we can mirror and bond with each other intuitively, and our brains can heal our bodies with placebos. We are incredible, but we forget all of that awesome stuff when we place our value and focus on our “exteriors” (aka physiques).
If I had focused on how the exterior of my favorite book looked on the shelf, I would have never gotten to dive into the world of magic and heroinism that has helped me to better understand myself and the nature of being truly alive. That would have been a travesty, and my life would have been far less rich.
The same can be said of our bodies. If we focus solely on how they look from the outside, we are missing out on the opportunity to love and grateful for the magic and joy of our insides. (After all, when you start a fitness routine, your physique might improve, but so too might your bone density, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, and your resting heart rate, right?)
I think appreciating your body for all of its complex internal magic and awesomeness is a great way to re-shape the dialogue you have with yourself. So, without further ado, here are a bunch of things that I think are utterly miraculous that your body may (or may not) be able to do. Let’s take a moment to switch the focus away from our mirrors and onto our own miracles. Please leave your own in the comments!
10 AWESOME THINGS OUR BODIES CAN DO
1. Adapt. Our bodies are prepared to adapt physically to whatever we need, from being able to run for a really long time to being able to lift a giant boulder. This Principle of Adaptation is the foundation of all progressive fitness programs, and it’s what we’re using when we increase weights, reps, duration, or otherwise to get fitter. It has allowed us to survive. Boo-yah.
2. Fight-or-flight. This is our body’s response to a perceived threat to survival. It shuts down blood flow to the digestive system and redirects it where you need it- your muscles, heart, and lungs. It can give us super-strength (like that urban legend of the mother who lifts a car off her baby) and it makes us more likely to survive an attack because our body is primed to either flee or defend itself.
3. Dilate. Our eyes get all Puss-In-Boots when we see something we like. Our pupils know to dilate when it’s dark out… but also when we’re looking at something of interest, such as a loved one, a chocolate mousse cake, a video of kittens, or someone we find sexy. I guess what I’m saying is, our eyes really want us to see Channing Tatum’s abs better. So… thanks eyes.
4. Give birth. Holy bajeezus. We can grow a baby (some of us). This will never seem less crazy to me. The pelvic bones are designed to move out of the way while you push a tiny person you’ve been growing for 3/4 of a year out of an (evidently) flexible birthing canal. Ay yi yi. Personal life choices aside, it’s pretty rad that this is a thing, and that throughout history we’ve always just sort of… known… how to do it.
5. Run Fevers. Our body literally tries to boils the pathogens (viruses/bacteria) that are sensitive to temperature and are making us sick. And it sometimes works. Eff yeah, fevers.
6. Sweat. Our body has a built-in air conditioner. We sweat when our body temp gets too high, and the sweat evaporates off the skin to cool us down. Brilliant.
7. Hurt. Pain serves as a warning (heart attack) or a sign of something happening internally (infection) that you might not be able to see. It can distract you from things happening emotionally (tension headache, peptic ulcer) or even disappear completely in fight-or-flight situations (wounded in war) until you’re in a better position to handle it. It is the dialogue our body has with us about things we should avoid in the future (touching a hot dish) as well as what it needs us to address (splinter). Without it we wouldn’t live very long.
8. Smell. One of my all-time favorite studies found that women who blindly smelled sweaty men’s Tshirts (yup.) were always attracted to the scent of the men whose immune system gene (major histocompatibility locus) was different than their own. The biological purpose of this is that 2 people with opposite immune system genes have the best chance of having a child who is healthy/survives. OMG GUYS. This means your body has already decided who you’ll be attracted to, and it has nothing to do with any of the stuff we think we want. *mind blown*
9. Cry. Our emotional tears are a scientific mystery, though it’s theorized that we cry as a social signal of distress, which may have been especially important for infant survival. Those of us who continue to cry often into our adult lives can testify to the fact that there is a great deal of emotional relief that is expressed through tears- both positive and negative. Aka: it feels good to cry sometimes. (Also, with the possible exception of elephants, we seem to be the only species who produce tears for emotional reasons. Yay elephants!)
10. Atoms. To give you an appreciation for how much insane magic is going on inside you at every moment, consider for a moment how many atoms you are made up of. An average adult is made up of around 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s 7 octillion) atoms. How. Crazy. Is that. Seriously. SRSLY.