Do you remember the discomfort of puberty? It wasn’t just getting my first bra, or starting menstruation, or the onset of acne that caused me the most discomfort. Rather, it was the sudden feeling that my body was no longer something I recognized that distressed me the most.
I recall the clumsiness, my legs and arms feeling out of sync with the rest of my body. Requiring a new extra layer under my uniform blouse to ensure modesty. The new fear that one day I would stand up from my chair to see a tiny pool of blood on my seat. My body felt foreign, almost uninhabitable.
As I completed the transition from girl to woman, however, I did eventually find peace with my new adult body. But when I experience unexpected physical changes now, that nagging sense of discomfort pokes itself back up.
I’ve felt this discomfort more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic. The sudden switch to a more sedentary lifestyle has caused me to gain a bit of weight. I understand this is normal, and that once my regular life eventually resumes, I’ll shed some of those kilos. Yet when I put on a pair of jeans that fit me perfectly three months ago to discover they are a bit too tight now, I feel disgust towards my body, frustration that I don’t feel the way I want to. I feel anger with myself too–I’ve read the self-help books, I’ve done the work, shouldn’t I be past this? Shouldn’t my self love be completely unconditional by now?
I just keep reminding myself that bodies are not static, and healing isn’t linear. Bodies change–they grow, they expand and contract. Likewise, the kindness I exhibit towards myself may ebb and flow, too. My life is very different than it was pre-Covid. Nothing around me is like it was before, and I can’t expect myself to be unchanged, either. My mind and heart have had to adapt, and my body does too, even if that means having a slightly different shape than the one I’ve grown accustomed to.
My body is my number one ally. It is my closest friend, the first responder to all my crises, my strongest protector. It has gotten me through every single change, trauma, and challenge so far. Why am I upset with my body for changing to help me through this one, a completely unprecedented time of global calamity? Full acceptance can be hard, but empathy doesn’t have to be. I’m doing the best I can, and so is my body.