What If Your Body is Cause for Celebration?

Photo by Loren Joseph.

I am currently reading Emily Nagoski's brilliant book about the science of female sexuality, Come As You Are. I have many bookmarked pages, but there is one quote I had to stop and write down:

"What if your body is cause for celebration?"

That. Just that one sentence. No qualifiers or context or anything else to soften or diminish the concept that your body, and mine, could be cause for celebration. All on its own.

The combination of excitement and discomfort I feel from that statement tells me a lot. It's similar to how I felt when I started to confront my self-loathing and wondered what it might be like to like myself. Again, the idea of saying "I am awesome" without any fumbles or additions to diminish the scope of awesomeness was a terrifying and kind of enthralling idea. (I wrote a book about it! Feeling Better: A Field Guide to Liking Yourself!)

So what if my body (and yours, and that random person on the bus') actually was cause for celebration? What would that mean?

First of all, it would mean that our bodies are worth something, all on their own. That they are awesome, exciting, fun, cool things with some eye-popping features. Conversely, it wouldn't mean that they are perfect, whatever that would even be, which is fine. Something doesn't have to be perfect to be worth an entire awards show being thrown in its favour--in fact, it never is.

So how do we celebrate our bodies? Do we throw parties for them? Give them awards? Walk up to everyone we see and say, "HEY! ISN'T MY BODY COOL??? SO IS YOURS!!!"

Here is an idea:

When I get a compliment on something that I genuinely love, like say, an item of clothing or some delicious cookies I baked, I don't get awkward or try to brush it off. I celebrate the thing with the person and may point out more cool things they may not have noticed.

Sample dialogue:

Other Person: "These cookies are so good!"

Me: "Thanks, I love them too! They are really easy to make! Also, if you like to eat cookie dough, these are the best because they don't have eggs!"

Other Person: "Oooh, will you share the recipe?"

Me: "OF COURSE! Also, your jacket is really nice!"

Other Person: "Thank you! I just got it and I LOVE it! It's waterproof and the hood is so roomie and it has many pockets!"

So that's one thing that might change if we thought our bodies were cause for celebration: we might just get excited right along with someone else if they gave us a compliment instead of awkwardly shrinking away.

Celebrating our bodies could also mean that instead of wishing our bodies looked or functioned differently, we might just let them be what they are and focused instead on the things that make them look and feel great. (And that is great for us--the people living inside the bodies--not some lame social standard or what-have-you.)

Photo by Benjamin Balazs.

There is something interesting going on for me as I write this: I have huge alarm bells going off in my mind. Something in my brain is afraid that prioritizing pleasure for my body means a full-on descent into hedonism where I do nothing but gorge myself on rich chocolate cake, fancy wine, sex on silky sheets, and other bawdy indulgences, selfishly flaking on anything that doesn't feel good in that moment and never flossing my teeth again.

This is ridiculous for several reasons, one being that this picture of hedonism does not sound very pleasant to me. The notion of a life of prioritizing feeling good in my body sending me down a path that doesn't actually feel good is not exactly logical. It points to something sneaking in from the Puritanical Fears Hotline where pleasure equals sex and sex equals bad.

Or maybe this fear is a visitor from "If I Eat One Chip, I'll Eat the Whole Bag" Slippery Slope Town, which also makes no sense. Shoving a bunch of chips in your face stops feeling good at some point and after that moment, it is certainly not a celebration of anything.

Here are some other ideas of ways to prioritize feeling good in a body that actually do seem celebratory to me:

We could wear pyjamas made out of silk because we like the way the silk feels against our skin and our skin deserves to feel nice.

We could move our bodies in a way that feels invigorating and fun and leaves us feeling alive instead of to punish ourselves for liking doughnuts.

We could eat those doughnuts when we want to taste that incredible sweetness and feel the satisfaction of a puff of dough smushing into our mouths.

We could give ourselves medicine when we need it, not when the discomfort becomes unbearable, and enjoy the freedom that modern medicine can provide.

We could get massages, just because they feel good.

We could go outside in the sunshine in the middle of the workday to feel the warmth on our exposed skin.

We could only wear underwear that feels wonderful to put on and wear all day, instead of stuff that pinches or chafes or rides up or has holes in it, because that stuff hangs out next to our bits all day and our bits matter.

We could dance with wild abandon, moving however the heck feels great in that moment.

We could lie down in bed and feel the sweet moment when our muscles realize they get to relax now.

We could stick our hands into a pool of water, just to feel it move between our fingers.

We could do things that are physically challenging and make us feel so strong.

We could enjoy the things our bodies do and feel and when we make choices that affect our bodies, we could ask ourselves if this choice celebrates our bodies or not.

That sounds nice.

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