This is a phrase a massage therapist I know uses to describe the human body: a very cool piece of equipment. When I first heard it, I was skeptical. My body felt more like a site of small disasters. Tight hips, bad balance, a non-negotiable need for eight hours of sleep every night, and a propensity towards sinus infections — these all made me feel a bit like a failure, physically. Like my body was not up to snuff in its capabilities.
Then I read this beautiful piece, in which a father highlights for his young daughter all the things her little body is capable of doing — running, thinking, hugging, smelling flowers. The piece itself is wonderfully written and touching, worth reading on its own merits. But the concept inside it signaled to me a simple, yet massive shift in thought. I was so used to thinking about what my body couldn’t do that I had long stopped being grateful for what it can.
Once you start thinking about what your body can do, it starts getting pretty miraculous pretty fast. Remember the wonder you felt when you were a kid and learned that it only takes one minute for your blood to pump all the way through your body and back up to your heart? And that, along the way, it takes oxygen from your lungs and distributes it to all your parts? Guess what? It still does that! Automatically. Without you even thinking about it. Seriously, click on that link and watch the short video about the circulatory system and tell me if you don’t feel awe.
Thinking about your physical capabilities takes physical appearance out of the equation for a while, which can be a welcome relief. It’s harder to worry about how your feet are looking if you’re focused on what a neat trick they’re accomplishing by taking you from place to place (on 26 bones apiece!). It’s harder to care about your hair if you’re absorbed in pleasure just because your nose gave your brain some information about the lovely smell of the flowering tree outside your house.
As I started to feel grateful to my body for the many miracles it performs automatically, I also started wanting to give back to it. Sorry you’re feeling stuffy, sinus, could you use some extra sleep and some hot broth? Hey there, hips, would you benefit from a little stretching and self-massage? Oh my, dry skin! We can’t go to Spa Castle every day, but would you like a good scrub-down with those exfoliating mitts? Spoiler alert: the answer was always yes. A new sense of agency emerged. Far from feeling like I was at war with my body and the many things about it that I didn’t like, I started to feel that we were a team, in it together, both giving it our best. As you can imagine, that felt a lot better
If you read my two other posts, you know what I’m getting at. This is about perspective. These are thought hacks, ways of thinking positively about yourself and your body, ways to feel grateful for the miraculous being you are. Ways to jailbreak yourself out of some nasty cultural programming.
This shit ain’t easy. I saw a girl walking along the park the other day and literally thought to myself, “I like that girl’s dress, but ugh, why the stripper heels?” Which is to say I thought the exact words that I instructed myself (and you) not to do in a previous post! Staying positive when our upbringings and surroundings have so many negative messages is hard work! Sometimes you just do not have the energy for it.
And maybe these hacks won’t work for you. But I encourage you to find your own. Or borrow a page from someone else’s book. Allison at The Body Pacifist has a great piece with a lot of similar thoughts, but her own unique take. It is awesome. And so, as she points out, are you.
And that’s the truth.
Super thanks to Josh Ellingson for permission to use his awesome illustration!
Georgia Lowe works in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn with her husband. She always pronounces "husband" with a southern accent because she hasn't gotten used to saying it yet. She is from Minnesota.
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