When my son was little, he loved to ice skate with his preschool friend, Emily, at the local rink. I loved watching the two of them swerve around the rink in their puffy coats. One afternoon after preschool, while I waited for my son to finish up, Emily's dad came in and waited for her beside me. He said, "You won't believe what Emily said to me last night."
"She said, 'My body is my best friend.'"
"Whoa," I said. "That's wonderful."
My body is my best friend. Emily's words got stuck in my head. For so long I had thought of my body as more of an enemy or a stranger. I could hardly look at my body without wishing that it didn't eat so much. Wishing that it was thinner. Wishing it would go away. I wondered, what if I could treat MY body like my best friend?
It took only a moment to realize that I would pretty much have to change everything about how I treated myself.
First, if my body were my best friend, I wouldn't nitpick at it and give it a hard time for how it looks. I certainly wouldn't walk up to my best friend and say, "You look like crap! What were you thinking when you put on those pants this morning?" In fact, if someone said something like that to my best friend, I'd tell them to back off and leave her alone, and then I'd take her aside, tell her what an idiot that person is, and go out with her for a hike or a yoga class or anything to help her to remember how awesome she is.
Also, when my best friend is tired, I don't yell at her for being lazy. I tell her to take a nap, put her feet up, and reschedule our walk. When she's injured or sick, I don't rant about how it's all her fault or say, "Look what you've done to yourself." Instead, I sympathize and sit with her on the couch to binge-watch her favorite shows until she feels better. We're best friends even when things aren't going well, especially when life is giving us bad luck and worse news.
Why shouldn't we treat our bodies with love and friendliness?
Relating to my body like a best friend changed everything. For so long, my mind was a loud, critical, bossy perfectionist who treated my body like a disobedient servant. My mind had to shift to seeing my body as an equal, a peer, a wise being with needs and longings and a tender language all its own. I had to learn to be quiet and listen to it, take it seriously, and respond to its needs with gentle attention.
Friendships have ups and downs -- even best friends have painful misunderstandings.
Sometimes I get mad at my body, and sometimes my body gets annoyed with me, especially when I haven't moved off the couch in a long time, or when I've been sitting too long in front of the computer. When my body wants to move, I listen for what kind of movement it wants --dancing, sounds good? -- and then I get up and do it. When I've sniped at my body or lobbed an insult at it, I apologize, promise to do better, and go on. When my body is exhausted or injured or begging for rest, I hear it saying to me, "I'm sorry. I wanted to go on a big adventure, too. Can we reschedule?"
Nowadays when I'm having a bad day, and end up blaming my body or fantasizing about extreme diets, I ask myself, "What would my best friend do?"
My best friend would say, "What can you do right now that would genuinely help you feel better? Get some fresh air? Take a few deeps breaths? Sit down with a cup of tea?"
And slowly, by treating my body like it's my best friend, it has become the best friend I longed for, one I trust and love and feel so much gratitude towards. I never knew it was possible until Emily said it out loud. And now I'm telling you.
Photo credit to In Her Image Photography