“We have to be as fearless about our bellies as we are with our hearts.”

I’ve written often about how it is we have to reach hard in the direction of the lives we want, even if it’s difficult to do so. I’ve advised people to set healthy boundaries and communicate mindfully and take risks and work hard on what actually matters and confront contradictory truths and trust the inner voice that speaks with love and shut out the inner voice that speaks with hate. But the thing is—the thing so many of us forget—is that those values and principles don’t only apply to our emotional lives. We’ve got to live them out in our bodies too.

Yours. Mine. Droopy and ugly and fat and thin and marred and wretched as they are. We have to be as fearless about our bellies as we are with our hearts.

There isn’t a short cut around this, sweet pea. The answer to your conundrum isn’t finding a way to make your future lover believe you look like Angelina Jolie. It’s coming to terms with the fact that you don’t and never will (a fact, I’d like to note, that Angelina Jolie herself will also have to come to terms with someday).

Real change happens on the level of the gesture. It’s one person doing one thing differently than he or she did before. It’s the man who opts not to invite his abusive mother to his wedding; the woman who decides to spend her Saturday mornings in a drawing class instead of scrubbing the toilets at home; the writer who won’t allow himself to be devoured by his envy; the parent who takes a deep breath instead of throwing a plate. It’s you and me standing naked before our lovers, even if it makes us feel kind of squirmy in a bad way when we do. The work is there. It’s our task. Doing it will give us strength and clarity. It will bring us closer to who we hope to be.

You don’t have to be young. You don’t have to be thin. You don’t have to be “hot” in a way that some dumbfuckedly narrow mindset has construed that word. You don’t have to have taut flesh or a tight ass or an eternally upright set of tits.

You have to find a way to inhabit your body while enacting your deepest desires. You have to be brave enough to build the intimacy you deserve. You have to take off all of your clothes and say, I’m right here.

There are so many tiny revolutions in a life, a million ways we have to circle around ourselves to grow and change and be okay. And perhaps the body is our final frontier. It’s the one place we can’t leave. We’re there till it goes. Most women and some men spend their lives trying to alter it, hide it, prettify it, make it what it isn’t, or conceal it for what it is. But what if we didn’t do that?

That’s the question you need to answer, Wanting. That’s what will bring your deepest desires into your life. Not: will my old, droopy male contemporaries accept and love the old, droopy me? But rather: what’s on the other side of the tiny gigantic revolution in which I move from loathing to loving my own skin? What fruits would that particular liberation bear?

This is why Sugar is a national treasure, and the best advice columnist on all of the interwebs.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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7 Responses to “We have to be as fearless about our bellies as we are with our hearts.”

  1. Ashley says:

    Great post. Very well written!

  2. Dawn says:

    This reminds me of something I’ve been afraid to write about. For most of my life, I’ve tried to wish away the part of my stomach that is between my belly button and mons. Then one day I decided that it’s there, and sucking it away from my lover’s touch isn’t changing that. Plus, I touch his belly. And I think I discovered a new erogenous zone. I noticed the time I had a bikini wax that the part that hurts the most is what is closest to your belly button, so it made some intuitive sense that it would be sensitive.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I always remind myself every time I’m having issues with my stomach that all of my friends that weigh more than me get laid more than me. It means nothing!

  4. rox says:

    When a woman KNOWS her body is sweet/lovely/sexy/attractive/wonderful and she carries that radiance— I can’t describe– it really ISN’T about specific features. There are women who are large, tiny, lumpy, pale skined, dark skinned, orange fake tan skin, crazy frizzy hair, stringy thin hair— it doesn’t matter. When you just glow, with love for your own self, and love for the awesomeness of having a body and whatever it is you love about it– when you pick whatever kind of clothes you really love and take care of yourself and celebrate yourself and internally (or maybe externally if needed) you say “fuck you!” and give a great big giant finger to all the negative shitty ways people treat human beings they don’t think are “worth anything” because of their appearance or because of whatever else—- just send all of those bullshit idea out the window. And when you yourself are the one having them… don’t get mad at yourself, say “Damn the ideas are shit. All of you meanie ideas about myslef are totally bullshit, wrong and going down the toilet. If you come back, I’m just going to flush you again so piss off!”

    I don’t know after a while the ideas are really threatening any more because you realize they are nonsense and that no one is really bad for being so indoctrinated with bullcrap, but we do have to all do our part to get rid of it, because when you’re walking around judging yourself— it’s really not just about you. Think about what you’re doing.

    You’ve seen other people with those traits, those traits you don’t like in yourself. When you judge yourself you are attacking the worth of all those people. So forgive yourself for doing that to yourself/others, forgive others for doing it to themselves/you— dont think of “people with bullshit hurtful thoughts’ as the enemy. Think of bullshit judgemental cruel rejectful thoughts as the enemy. And then kick their butt.

    Another thing to remember is that appearnce and pheromones do in fact reflect health. Many people feel like it’s ok to reject others if they are not healthy, or their belief systems/behaviors are dangerous.

    When you reject yourself or others because of signs you are unworthy— it can also be a good time to reflect on whether you are seeing something real in yourself/the other that is harmul to people around them. Is the person/yourself really NOT taking good care of their health? Are you eating right (according to what you believe a healthy diet is) and you getting good sleep, are you doing whatever kinds of excercise, social activities you think are healthy for people?

    Is the person/yourself having belief systems that are harmful to others? Is the person hurting inside, too needy, not adequately supported and them becomes clingy, overly rejectful over minor flaws, overly critical in ways that hurt others for no reason– etc etc.

    The reality is, most people develop hurtful belief systems about how to tret others because of how they have been treated and because of genuine illness/dysfunction/abnormal development.

    IT’s really understandable. But if it’s not safe— you are right to listen to your insiticts. You may have been rejected many times for reasons that didn’t make sense, but then again, can you find a place where maybe your belief system/behavior might have made others uncomfortable or feel unsafe? People who are recently sick are more likely to rush to get rid of abnormal looking faces— rats can smell sickness in each others pheromones– and depression, anxiety etc alters our bodies biology in a way that (I believe) humans have adapted to sense it and avoid. Because sick people are dangerous.

    Sadly sick people need love and acceptance to get better. So if you see sickness in yourself, remember wht you need most is the kind of love that heals. And really it’s what all those people you reject in your mind are needing too. (That doesn’t mean you can safely give it to them. We all have to start with ourselves and move on to anyone else we can safely give healing awesome love to)

  5. rox says:

    uh…. speaking of ‘traits’ I need to work on censoring those ridiculously long saturday morning drink coffee and wax philosphical essay length comments.

    Ahem cough…. seemed like a good idea at the time? LOL

  6. andie says:

    Rox if it’s any consolation I thought your comment was as worth reading as the OP

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