What does body love look like? Day 923 of Quarantine – or it might as well be – and I have become best friends (and worst enemies) with my bedroom mirror. We have long conversations, and like all best friends, we don’t hold back.
“Looking good today!”
“YES REALLY YOU LOOK LIKE BEYONCE, BODACIOUS AND BEAUTIFUL!”
“Aw shucks thanks. I think feel great today!”
“Duh, ‘cause you look great”
“Huh, you’re right, I do!”
“… though what?”
“Well… that top…
“But I love this top!”
“Yeah, but it does make you look a little….”
“A little what?”
“You just look a little gempal.”
“I mean, not bad gempal…”
“What is bad gempal? What’s wrong with looking gempal? This is how I always look.”
“Exactly! Maybe it’s time to change? Maybe lose a bit of weight? Think of how much prettier you’ll be.”
“You know what, forget I said anything.”
“No, seriously, forget it. You look fine.”
“I mean, great! You look great.”
“I… I think I’m gonna change now.”
This is like every other conversation we have. My mirror starts by celebrating how I look and how I feel and I’m really just #FeelingTheFantasy gitu. And then my mirror starts to cross the line, and instead of being a best friend who lifts me up, they channel that nosy aunt who picks on me every Chinese New Year.
Sometimes, my mirror fights with my self-esteem and just straight up calls me a cow. They tell me my hair is frizzy, my thighs thunderous, my arms gross, and that I shouldn’t smile again because my teeth would scare the birds away. They tell me this body is wrong and that body love is a just myth made up by fat girls to feel beautiful.
And when we fight, the mirror always seems to win.
Finding body love
Finding body love means acknowledging that looks can be deceiving.
I’ve been a fat or fat-ish girl my whole life, so I’d be lying if I said these conversations around body and body love are something that just came up during quarantine.
Like many girls (and boys) who are reading this, I also grew up believing the mirror knew best – how I looked determined everything. How I felt that day, how worthy I was of praise, whether or not people would like me.
And when it comes to mirrors, it’s not just the one in my bedroom. I go on IG and what I see reflected in that digital mirror are all the expectations my body has to live up to – curves lah, cheekbones lah, abs, fair skin, hairless bodies and just sooooo much more. Like don’t get me wrong – I love that women feel comfortable in their bodies – I just wish I could feel the same.
But it is hard when society (on social media and IRL) really sanjung certain body types so those of us who don’t look like that just end up feeling not enough.
In my all-girl school, friends poked and prodded at even the slightest lump – not just with their fingers, but their words too. Family members would comment on any weight gained or lost without mercy – mostly without meaning to make me feel bad but still, I’d stand in front of my mirror and obsess over the parts of my body I could change to make them happy. I’d compare it to the pretty bodies that get so many likes on social media and just feel so small.
So sebenarnya: all this insecurity and constantly feeling macam ada yang tak betul with my body really boils down to caring too much about looks. We end up focusing so much on what we see in the mirror because we’re obsessed with how other people will view our bodies.
And that’s really the wrong way to go about it. You know it and I know it. Our bodies are more than just what meets the eye. Body love shouldn’t be about looks at all – it’s about health. Loving something means embracing it and taking care of it.
So here’s what body love ACTUALLY looks like:
Body love doesn’t look like starving yourself to have a flatter tummy: body love is eating regularly and healthily so you stay fit.
Body love doesn’t look like diet pills: body love is regular exercise.
Body love doesn’t look like what tabloid magazines show you: body love is rejecting unrealistic expectations.
Body love doesn’t look like obsessing over KGs and inches: body love is realising your value cannot be summed in figures and BMI.
Body love doesn’t look effortless: body love is giving your body all the love and care it needs. It’s giving your body the best nutrition, it’s drinking enough water, it’s keeping your body active, it’s doing what’s best for your body regardless of the voices in your head and what you’ve heard others say.
Body love meets body purpose
My conversations with my mirror (and I’m betting yours too) are usually really surface level – my mirror sees lumps, bumps and scars and all these superficial things. But my mirror doesn’t look deeper – my body is made up of so much more than shapes.
Our bodies play such a huge role in our enjoyment of life – they are literally the vessels that allow us to live, breathe, play and do all sorts of things. They’re waaaay more than just aesthetics, and I think I sometimes forget that my body has a purpose – that purpose has noooooothing to do with how it looks.
My legs take me wherever I need to go. My arms let me give my loved ones the best hugs and squishes. My stubby fingers allow me to type this very blog post! The fact that they don’t look like kononnya the ideal female figure doesn’t stop them from being able to do any of these.
So the next time you struggle with body love, the next time you have a conversation with your mirror, I hope you’ll remember and appreciate all the things your body does for you instead. Tell the body you see in the mirror that you love them and that you’ll continue doing better for them, no matter their shape or size.